Make-Ahead Appetizers for Entertaining (or Hoop Skirts)


Regina Charboneau

To try Regina's recipe for cream cheese torta stuffed with fig jam or pepper jelly, click here, or click here for a jalapeño tartar sauce recipe to accompany fried fish or shrimp.

Some days it is very hard to put my life into words, or words most people would understand. For example, yesterday I spent four hours in a hoop skirt. Does that register with any of you? Trust me, those words seem surreal to me. Let me see if I can break it down for you.

I have a home that was built in 1832, and once a year it is on tour during Fall Pilgrimage in Natchez, Mississippi. A very big part of Natchez tradition is to help "receive" our visitors into the historic homes during Fall or Spring Pilgrimage in period costume. As I more than often have stated, I spent 23 years trying to get away from Natchez and 23 years trying to get home again. I did vow to never put on a hoop skirt, but coming home at whatever age, there are people who dictate what you will and won't do, and often in my life those people are the ladies of the garden club. The invention that revolutionized women's fashion in the mid-1800's is the caged crinoline. The caged crinoline was also known as the hoop skirt because of the series of concentric hoops found in its earlier version.

Yesterday I had around 150 visitors come through our home to hear the history of the architecture and the people who have lived here in the past 160 years. An important aspect of the tour is to see the way we live with history. Immediately following the tour, I hosted Jazz and Juleps for the visitors who wanted to have a more personal experience and feel of our home.

So, how do you cook in a hoop skirt? The simple answer is, "You don't."

People often ask me how I do it all. There is an easy answer: "Not always very well, but
I try."

When you have 150 guests coming to see your home, there is endless dusting, fluffing, gardening, rearranging, and other preparations. Keep in mind that my home is just one aspect of my life: I write for the Atlantic Food Channel every week, I do eight weddings a year, I am working on a new book, and I have children, a husband, Thursday-night poker, bridge when I can fit it in, my daily coffee group, and Tuesday Trivia at Bowie's Tavern with my husband and my son Martin (we need him for a lot of the answers). And in Natchez at least 30 percent of your time is called on for volunteer efforts. I also have five sisters and three brothers that I try to stay connected to and many other friends I like to spend time with.

Somehow, by the end of the day, it all gets done. This is something you all understand—we all spend our days juggling all that we have to do. People often ask me how I do it all. There is an easy answer: "Not always very well, but I try." With all of this going on, it was my idea to offer Jazz and Juleps here following the four-hour tour so I could trade my hoops in for an apron. Knowing it was going to be five days and knowing what my schedule was going to be like, I had to come up with a couple of easy but impressive foods that I could put in the freezer.

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Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of Regina's Table at Twin Oaks. More

Regina Charboneau is the owner of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi. She is the author of two cookbooks: A Collection of Seasonal Menus & Recipes from Regina's Kitchen and Regina's Table at Twin Oaks.

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