For some reason this delicate oldie makes me think of garden parties and pretty women in floppy hats. Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs. Dalloway would be Exhibit A, followed by any number of Masterpiece Theater duchesses and flappers of your choosing.
Or how about Mrs. Woolf’s “laughing girls in their transparent muslins who, even now, after dancing all night, were taking their absurd woolly dogs for a run.”
. . . And floppy mousses and Glyndebourney vinaigrettes summon for me that humid, nostalgic waltz in Prokofieff’s third symphony that conjures billowing skirts and aches with a mysterious something that’s almost excruciatingly erotic . . .
The recipe here — once you’ve dodged the ravings above — is a bit of a chore but you could toss off a near-novelette while you’re waiting for this-that-and-the-other ingredient to chill, and the end result is exquisite.
In a bowl soak 1 short tablespoon of gelatin in 1/4 cup of water for 5 minutes, then add 1/2 cup of boiling water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Now add 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/2 tablespoon of grated onion, and a smidgen of paprika; chill this mixture for perhaps 15 minutes, until it begins to thicken. Next, whip 1/3 cup of cream and fold it in; now chill the mixture again, very briefly, until it’s about to set.
In water to cover with some dry vermouth gently poach about 2 cups of halibut (buy a pound of fish at the market), then flake and pound it into shreds — fine ones! — being sure to get rid of all bones and skin.
After this hazardous waste is dealt with, fold the fish-bits into the gelatin/cream/mayonnaise, place your mousse-to-be in a lightly oiled mold and chill for several hours. Now, several tennis matches or a couple of Donizetti operas after you started, unmold your dainty mousse and serve it with a vinaigrette of 2-plus parts olive oil, 1 part red wine vinegar and a good dotting of chopped cucumber.