Mmm, Mmm, Mummers Parade Spreads

Posted: December 23, 1993

What are you doing New Year's Day? If you're a Philadelphian, it's likely you'll be doing one of two things: going to the Mummers Parade or watching at least some of it on TV.

Most of us prefer to stay home to view. KYW-TV (Channel 3) estimates that more than a million people in nearly 362,000 households did just that last year. (By comparison, 100,000 spectators shivered on windy Broad Street as 20,000 Mummers blew by.)

Having guests over during the parade is as much of a tradition as the spectacle itself. Huge pots of homemade soup, snack spreads that accommodate grazers from morning till night and a nip of something warming are synonymous with the day.

Lunch meat, rolls, prepared salads and chips are what everyone wants for parade day from the Wawa store at Richmond Street and Allegheny Avenue. The store manager there said New Year's Day is second only to Christmas for party tray orders.

The deli department at Acme's 3rd Street and Oregon Avenue store expects to fill 100 to 150 party tray orders for Jan. 1. The most requested items: kielbasa, pepperoni and cheeses.

If you're planning an open house on parade day, here are some things to consider:

* The parade will be telecast on Channel 3 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You could

serve bagels, pastries and coffee during the comics; a spread of colorful salads during the fancies; a main course during the string bands; and dessert during the brigades.

When should you expect to see your favorites on TV? Comics are scheduled to pass the reviewing stand from 9 to 11:45 a.m., fancies from noon to 1:30 p.m., string bands from 1:45 to 4:15 p.m. and brigades from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Last year's parade ended at 6:44 p.m. Channel 3 will fill the time between the parade's end and 8 p.m. with live reports from Two Street and Mummers clubhouses.

* Be creative. Anyone can order a couple of six-foot hoagies and a keg, but Mummers are famed far and wide for surprises, topicality and attention to details.

If you can, find out what your favorite club's theme is this year, then plan your decorations and food accordingly. Otherwise, you can justify almost any cuisine on New Year's Day, because Mummers' themes are so diverse.

For '94, our sources tell us the Uptown String Band will look to Texas for inspiration; Duffy is hoping for a g'day with an Australian theme; and South Philadelphia will have a New Orleans flavor.

Quaker City and Ukrainian-American will sport military looks. (Too bad South Philadelphia's Defense Personnel Support Center doesn't sell those infamous meals-ready-to-eat to the public. They'd be a perfect accompaniment.) Fralinger will go up as gold miners and prospectors, giving home hosts an excuse to pick up some KFC Rotisserie Gold and Molson's Golden.

Themes of your own devising are equally valid. The Phillies alone can provide a wealth of inspiration. How about "Lenny in Paris," for which you require all guests to keep their baseball caps on while they eat? "The Choker's Wild," a Mitch Williams tribute, could feature both Philly and Texas fare. (Don't let anyone throw anything.) "Kruk's Home Plate" could be any lavish food display that doesn't stint on calories. Seconds are mandatory.

Why not invite skinny Shawn Bradley of the 76ers over for a bite? This will be his first look at the Mummers Parade.

* If your open house will last many hours, consider foods that are best at room temperature. Mayonnaise-based dishes such as turkey salad must be kept chilled so they don't spoil. Soup and chili are good hot food options, because they are inexpensive to make in bulk and can sit on a stove for hours. A microwave oven can be used to reheat individual servings of a big-scale party dish, such as lasagna. Make plenty of coffee and non-alcoholic beverages available.

* Be flexible. The parade has been postponed 22 times since the first sanctioned strut in 1901. Best bets are decorations and food that can hold at least a day. (Sunday, Jan. 2, is this year's rain date.) The decision to postpone will be made by 5 a.m. on parade day. Tune in to KYW radio (1060-AM) for updates, or call City Hall (215-686-1776).

* Honor tradition. The Union League, which entertains up to 1,000 guests at its annual members' reception on New Year's Day, always serves Fish House Punch. Pepper pot and snapper soup are often on the lunch menu. Canned versions of pepper pot are made by Campbell's and Old Original Bookbinders, and are available at gourmet shops and supermarkets; Bookbinders' snapper soup is likewise easy to find.

* Consult the pros. Cookbooks by Philadelphia authors are another resource for entertaining ideas. Some possibilities: "The Frog/Commissary Cookbook," the "Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook," "The Original Philadelphia Neighborhood Cookbook" or "The New Reading Terminal Market Cookbook."

* Delegate. If you'd rather not do all the work yourself, ask guests to bring a covered dish. The city awards prizes to the best Mummer clubs, so why not offer a prize for the funniest or fanciest dishes at your party? Tickets to the Show of Shows or a Mummers Museum membership would be appropriate rewards.

* Keep distractions to a minimum. This means no football talk and no sneaking off to other TVs in the house to watch football. The only bowls the Mummers recognize are those that have pretzels and chips in them.

* Make everyone leave on time. Mayor Rendell got 20,000 Mummers to do it last year. You can too.

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