I have been bested by squab. After calling 4-5 restaurants who would be likely to serve such a dish, both in Austin and Fort Worth, plus a specialty grocery store, PLUS a local farm who provides local restaurants with pigeons, no luck. I guess it’s not the season for squab. For now, then, that Friday Night Dinner is officially shelved until the squab find me. Moving on to S1:E14, That Damn Donna Reed. This episode contains not one, but two Friday Night Dinners! What luck! Unfortunately, Emily and Richard are far too concerned with procuring a summer home on Martha’s Vineyard to care much about the food. The only things mentioned are the wine (a Bordeaux that Lorelai states tastes like the Italians’ feet, in a good way) and potatoes. Good, ‘ol boring potatoes. Even the visuals don’t help filling in the blanks of these meals.
Lucky for us, there is a far more interesting meal in this episode. Cut to Babette’s house, where Rory is kittensitting, and picture her in a 50s-style dress, complete with crinoline, apron, pearls, and high heels. Yes, Donna Reed has usurped our Friday Night Dinner. This episode has always baffled me. Here is the backstory: on one of their nights in with pizza and TV, the mother/daughter duo mock Dean mercilessly for his approval of the 50s housewife model in the form of the Donna Reed Show. Later, he and Rory get into an argument over the same subject. Lorelai has obviously raised Rory with feminist views, and Rory spouts these off, defending the women of the day who had no choice but to cook, clean, and serve. Rory feels terrible about the argument; the next time we see them, she has invited Dean over for dinner and meets him at the door in the full regalia described above.
In thinking on it more, I think that this is a mini coming-of-age episode for Rory. She’s 16 years old, has her first boyfriend, and really for the first time in her life is being exposed to different viewpoints from a person who is important to her. Up until now, she has been a carbon copy of her mom’s opinions; now she feels the need to please both her and Dean. What is Rory’s opinion on the subject? That’s what she plans to find out. Perhaps first hatching the Donna Reed Night plan to smooth things over with Dean and try to see things from his perspective, Rory (as Rory does) also does her own research on Donna Reed and discovers that she did some uncredited directing and producing of the show, making her a forerunner of women TV executives. Rory is impressed with this merging of feminism and tradition and concedes that the whole cooking thing might not be so bad after all, at least some of the time. Dean, however, continues to come off as hopelessly chauvinistic. What’s funny to see is the tension Rory feels to please both mother and boyfriend. It’s highlighted by Rory’s embarrassment when Lorelai catches her in her pearls. Forgive a bit of dialogue, but it’s just too good not to share!
LORELAI: Uh, what the hell are you two doing?
DEAN: Nothing. She, uh — well we ate dinner. You know, steak and beans —
RORY: Not fresh.
DEAN: And potatoes.
RORY: From a box.
DEAN: But they were still good.
RORY: Thank you.
DEAN: You’re welcome.
And, there’s your menu, folks! Steak, beans (canned) and potatoes (from a box). Because I was feeling particularly lazy last week (very unlike Donna Reed), I opted to make Salisbury Steak. Goes along well with the 50s theme, dontcha think? Roughly following this recipe, I made double the gravy, because we really love mushrooms. Caramelizing the onions took the most prep time, but oh, so worth it. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but Salisbury Steak is really just a fancy name for hamburgers and gravy. We used to buy the frozen family-sized dinner when I was young and I always relished it. This was even better. Add some quick canned green beans and instant baby red mashed potatoes with sour cream and garlic, and it was a simple weeknight meal. And so delicious! True, we didn’t have a chauvinistic male’s opinion on it, but I think that even Dean would approve.
Oh, there was a dessert! Lime Fantasy Supreme. I skipped that. Reason #1, not a fan of either lime Jello or Cool Whip. Reason #2, if you can’t figure out how to make a parfait with Jello and Cool Whip, I’m afraid this blog can’t help you. We’ll leave it up to imagination. And the burning question: did I serve this meal in full-skirted dress, pearls, and high heels? Ummm… sure! But I forgot to take pictures, dang it, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. It would make a good Halloween costume, though… I’ll complete the look by dressing my son as a spit-shined schoolboy with a perpetual smile and perfect manners.
Though the feministic theme persists throughout the series, perhaps this experience stuck with Rory, for we do see her becoming somewhat domesticated in future years, to her mother’s shock and awe. The beginnings of something else appear in this episode as well. For the first time, Lorelai admits– to her mother, of all people– that she may have feelings for Luke. And it’s only Season One! Eeek! So much more to come. We’ll see it all unfold through the eyes of the weekly Friday Night Dinner.