When I first arrived, I was greeted by a neighbor who said, "We have cocktails every day at 5:00 pm at Ms. Verone's. You have a standing invitation to join us." Ms. Verone was the widow of the lieutenant governor under Earl K. Long. She was in her mid-80s and owing to a bum knee, she was virtually confined to her apartment (except when she ventured out in her indestructible Lincoln Town Car). Her social life was the cocktail hour, and she entertained us with stories of Louisiana politics, and fed us appetizers like olive cheese balls* and shrimp salad. On LSU game day, there was always a crowd at Ms. Verone's.
Carolyn, Dottie, Frances, Jerry, Sue, Nancy, Fred
For every Whiskey Widow there's a story: Ms. Frances was the daughter of a publisher and taught in the Baton Rouge schools even though she didn't need the money. She owned half a condo on the corner of Esplanade and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. She was very generous with the key, and I stayed there at least twice. Ms. Doris was the secretary for five Louisiana governors, including Jimmie Davis (who wrote "You are my Sunshine"). Sue B. also worked for the Baton Rouge schools trying to make a difference. There are two Ms. Margarets and a BeBe, and a number of us who just like to be inspired by these phenomenal women.
Because of their advanced age, the Whiskey Widows are becoming rarer and rarer. Verone died in 2005, the weekend of Hurricane Rita. Sue B. and I crashed her funeral (a long, sad story, best saved for another time). Ms. Frances died this past summer. And now Dottie... with the Body.
Contrary to their moniker, the Whiskey Widows prefer vodka martinis with a green cocktail tomato. Drink one this weekend in their honor, and to the health of those remaining!
Joey and Dottie
* Verone's Olive Cheese Balls:
½ lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 stick butter, chilled and shredded
1 ½ cups flour
Jar of pimiento-stuffed olives
Combine the shredded cheddar cheese, the cold shredded butter, flour and cayenne pepper to taste. Prepare as for a pastry dough/pie crust, adding just enough worcestershire sauce to hold the mixture together. Wrap individual olives in the dough about an 1/8 of an inch thick. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. TIP: These freeze well and can be reheated!