Sugar Magnolias


Recently, my best friend and I hosted a cocktail party which was great fun thanks to proper planning and the perfect guest list. As I flitted about during our fête humming along to "Bennie and the Jets", I made several satisfying observations: cocktails were being habitually refreshed, laughter effortlessly flooded the living room and patio, the charcuterie platter was (as expected) a total hit, and the punch bowl I inherited finally made its debut since its journey out to San Francisco. Life was grand.

The silver punch bowl, now providing our guests with a lethal dose of "Pink Panty Punch" (thank you, Camilla!) had at one time aided my Grandmother and Great Grandmother while entertaining at their plantation home just seventy miles west of New Orleans. Glenwood Plantation (pictured above), was a large Queen-Anne-style house just off Highway 29 that functioned as a sugar cane plantation my Great Grandfather Edward Preston Munson owned and operated. The home, described as "an atmosphere of romantic charm and beauty" on a vintage postcard, was surrounded by magnolia trees and mossy oaks. After the war, the cane-growing business took a hit and the mosaic disease destroyed many of the crops. Slowly, many of the grand plantations fell in ruin. Being the "betwitching" and "tiny heroic woman" (as described below) that was my Great Grandmother Gertrude, she essentially saved the plantation by taking in guests at Glenwood. She was a true southern bell who was known by all for her entertaining. Among the many tales, it is said that she baked 300 angel-food cakes for one party at Glenwood and would lure her guests into the drawing room for her infamous café brûlot after a southern meal around her carved walnut table.

My Great Grandmother Gertrude was profiled in the May 1955 installment of Reader's Digest's "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Ever Met" series. For those that know me well, I too, love entertaining. I never had the pleasure of meeting my Great Grandmother, however I can only surmise that she would truly be one of "the most unforgettable characters I've met". Time to plan my next gathering.

Read on below.

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