I had never heard of Bunco until I moved to Horseshoe Bay. Occasionally, some of my golfing buddies here would mention that they were playing Bunco, but they all seemed to have well established groups to which newcomers were seldom, if ever, invited. I began to think it might be a kind of Southern sorority which required mysterious initiation rites.
I was flattered—and, I have to admit, a bit relieved—when I finally received an invitation to substitute in a group one evening. I wondered if I would be required to swear on a Confederate flag? Was chanting involved? Would I have to take an oath? Was there a complicated code of rules and intricate strategies?
None of the above, I found out—unless you count the occasional oath, of course. Swearing is not only permitted, it is almost de rigueur in some groups—as long as it is directed at the dice. The rules of the game are shockingly simple. True, some groups try to make it a little more complicated, but this is not a game that takes years of study and practice to learn. The game itself, I concluded, is scarcely more than a pretext for 12 friends to get together on a regular basis and engage in some convivial and noisy outbursts of elation and despair over the roll of the dice. It is cathartic and, even better, it is socially acceptable.
There is one other important element in a Bunco session and that is—ta da!—food! There are several Bunco groups in Horseshoe Bay. In some groups the hostess provides a full dinner, but in most of the groups I am familiar with the evening starts with hors d’oeuvres and wine and/or other adult beverages, there are bowls of candies and nuts or other irresistible snacks at each of the game tables, and the evening concludes with what is usually a highly caloric dessert. Since Bunco calories clearly don’t count, the game is another sanctioned opportunity to engage in activities you would not permit yourself in other circumstances. Winning at Bunco is fun, but it is really about the camaraderie—and the food.
I was invited to substitute in a group a few evenings ago. Shirley Spence and Doodle Bretscher formed the Bunco Babes in 1999. Seven of the original members of the group are still playing together, and their traditions go back even further. They are playing with dice that Doodle played with in her group in San Antonio in the 1970’s.
All of these women are great cooks so I asked if they would be willing to share some of their recipes. They generously supplied me with so many I had a tough time deciding which ones to include in the limited space here. (I’ll just save some for another time.)
Bunco evenings start with some celebratory beverages, usually wine and sometimes margaritas or other treats. Here’s something a little different that sounds especially refreshing for these hot summer days. Make the basic mixture well in advance to make sure it is cold.
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WHITE SANGRIA WITH PEACHES AND FROZEN GRAPES (Donia Bath)
2 bottles dry white wine (such as white Rioja)
4 cups purchased fresh orange juice
1 ½ cups orange liqueur
2 large ripe peaches, peeled and cut into thin slices
2 lemons, cut into very thin rounds
4 cups seedless green grapes, frozen
2 (11-ounce) cans chilled grapefruit soda
Combine wine, orange juice, liqueur, peach slices and lemon rounds in large jar. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. Before serving, mix in grapes and soda. Serve cold.
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Before the first dice are rolled, there is some serious snacking. This week’s hostess, Doodle Bretscher, served a delicious salsa that makes another summertime treat. Serve with your favorite corn chips or as a side dish.
SUMMER SALSA (Doodle Bretscher)
3 mangos, cut in cubes
3 green onions (with tops), chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
kernels from 2-3 ears of fresh corn
juice of 2 limes (or more, to taste)
1 can black beans, drained
1 heaping tablespoon picante sauce
1 avocado, diced (optional)
salt, to taste
Mix all the ingredients together. Add the avocado just before serving.
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Here’s another easy appetizer. Barbara suggests serving this dip with Pepperidge Farm sesame sticks or with bagel chips.
CHEESE-BACON DIP (Barbara Stephenson)
1 package (10- ounce) processed cheddar cheese food
1 package (3-ounce) cream cheese
¼ cup minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
Blend all ingredients until well mixed.
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Easy is the name of the game when it is time for the hostess to prepare for an evening of Bunco. Here are two recipes that require very little time and yield great results.
SEAFOOD SPREAD (Laurel Mohun)
1 package (8-ounce) Louis Kemp Fat Free Crab Delights Flakes
2 packages (8-ounce each) light cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4-5 drops hot pepper sauce
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Beat cream cheese 1-2 minutes with electric mixer until creamy. Blend in remaining ingredients except walnuts and paprika. Spread mixture in 9-inch pie plate and top with nuts and a sprinkle of paprika. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 3 cups.
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ASPARAGUS ROLL-UPS (Doodle Bretscher)
1 can asparagus spears, well drained
thin-sliced sandwich bread
1 large jar Cheese Wiz, room temperature
1 stick margarine, melted
Cut crusts from bread and roll flat. Spread bread with Cheese Wiz (spread to edges of bread), place spear on bread and roll up tightly. Roll in melted butter, then in Parmesan cheese. Cut each roll in half. These can be frozen at this stage, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
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After the final roll of the dice and the tallying of the winners and the also-rans, it is time for dessert—the richer, the better. Over the years, I have enjoyed some truly wonderful desserts on Bunco nights. It was hard to pick just one recipe, so here are a couple of easy ones to add to your repertoire. Both of them are great no-cook summertime choices.
BANANA SPLIT CAKE (Doodle Bretscher)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick margarine (melted)
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large can crushed pineapple, well drained
1 large tub Cool Whip
Blend crumbs and margarine. Press into 9x13 pan. Blend cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla and spread over crumbs. Slice bananas lengthwise and place over cheese. Spread well drained pineapple over bananas. Spread container of Cool Whip on top. Sprinkle with nuts and cherries and drizzle with chocolate syrup. Refrigerate; serve cold.
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Finally, here’s an easy classic that makes a cool and refreshing dessert at any time of year.
BRANDY ICE (Joan Stanton)
1 ½ jigger brandy, or to taste
1 ½ jigger creme de cocoa
blender jar of vanilla ice cream
Blend and pour into glasses. Top with chocolate shavings. This can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer until read to serve. Great accompanied with chocolate wafers.
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Many thanks to the members of Bunco Babes!
June 16, 2011 page 4