Back in the days when evening television was interactive family entertainment, when Ed Sullivan and “College Bowl” were on, my family used to gather in the TV room. In our house, that was the bar. It had a Fleetwood television built into the wall, with the controls built in next to the silk-covered sofa on which my mother would always lie, on her back, her head propped up by four pillows. Next to her, on the coffee table, was a Dewars-and-soda on ice and a pack of Kent filters. My sisters and I would lie on the floor, my father would sit in his teak rocking chair, and we would watch television and eat TV snacks—clam dip baked on toasted Pepperidge Farm white bread; Beluga caviar, whenever anyone sent it over; a really disgusting (but great) dip made out of cottage cheese, mayonnaise, chives, and Worcestershire sauce, with ruffled potato chips; and Mommy’s favorite, blanched and toasted almonds.
“Oh, goody,” she would say, ” ‘College Bowl’ is on tonight. Let’s make blanched almonds.” We would trek across the white shag carpet in the hallway, across the finely polished wood floor in the dining room, through the swinging door, and across the red linoleum of the butler’s pantry into the kitchen. Mommy pulled out a bag of almonds and dropped them in boiling water. She then drained them in a colander and placed them in front of me and my sisters for us to do our “job”: squirt the almonds out of their skins.
Mommy meanwhile melted butter in an orange enameled saucepan, because she insisted that we drizzle clarified butter on the almonds before we roasted them. We served them in a Wedgwood bowl, just in time for our show. The whole operation took about a half an hour, which was just how long “College Bowl” lasted, so I guess we were one for one—although I think we scored higher for style than content.