Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Kind of Tea Party

I made a new friend on Thanksgiving Day, a six-year-old named Ella. We had a great time working together on making turkey gravy and clearing dirty plates from the table and blowing out all the candles. I had a feeling she'd probably enjoy doing some baking.

She came over yesterday afternoon. Our plan was to bake something sweet for a 3 pm ladies' tea party for four. Our first decision was what to bake. We discussed cookies, dropped or rolled, cupcakes, and whoopie pies. Whoopie pies are new to both of us, so we took them on. We used a Martha Stewart recipe for a banana cake, really, that you drop on the cookie sheets to make soft, mounded cookies. We made a cream-cheese filling, flavored with a smidge of freshly grated orange rind. We matched up our cookies in same-size pairs, thickly iced the bottom of one, then pressed its matching bottom to it, making a rounded sandwich.

We produced exactly eleven, which meant extras to be bagged up, labeled, and sent home to relatives with Ella's note: Whoopie Pies from a tea party...

We got out the little Spode teacups and saucers, and the big Spode teapot. She made place cards. We drank black tea, some more milky than others, and enjoyed our whoopie pies.

Before our guests came, I talked with Ella about strategies for promoting good conversation. For example, if someone gives too simple an answer to a question like, Have you had a nice holiday? it's often helpful, I said, to say, "Tell me more." Ella instantly got into the spirit and said, "Oh, tell me more! Tell me everything from the inside!" It was really rather stirring, and I'm sure, had her guests had the opportunity to hear it, they would have been moved to confess all kinds of deep things about their holidays.

But conversation never lagged. We'll have to try a more challenging guest list next time. And Ella says we should do dinner!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holly's Eggnog

Woke up feeling sentimental, wanting to write letters, or emails at least, to a hundred people who have made 2010 such a lovely year. Zach and Henry who organize Waltz Etc where I dance every Monday. The guy who owns Third Place Books, where I dance for free most Fridays. Brice and Jayme and Laurie and Niki and Andrea at church, who make me feel I belong. My neighbors here at the condo. And so on.

Then I got my sister Marty's email request for my eggnog recipe. Which is actually the recipe of Holly, my first sister-in-law. We're about the same age, married around the same time to brothers. If I'd stayed married, we'd be going to their house, or they to ours, for Christmas, along with all the cousins we'd produced. I remember having lunch with Holly when my marriage was breaking up. I was foolishly jubilant about my new plans. Holly said, "I'll miss you." I didn't understand what she meant. I couldn't see why I'd have to lose her friendship.

Well, of course, I did. She's far too loyal to maintain a friendship with an old wife, especially when a new one came along. And that's just one of the things I was too ignorant to know when I blithely moved on.

Every few years, I telephone Holly, just when I'm getting her recipe out. She never phones me. I think I'm a guilty pleasure: she almost says she can't talk, but she stays on the phone.

Holly's Eggnog

3 eggs, separated
1/4 c sugar
pinch salt
grated nutmeg
2 c single cream (half and half, I guess)
1 c bourbon
2 T Jamaica rum
2 T sugar for egg whites

Put punch bowl in freezer. Add sugar to egg yolks and beat until light and lemon-colored. Add cream, whiskey, and rum. Stir well. Beat egg whites with salt, adding sugar gradually. Fold into eggnog. Pour into punch bowl. Dust with nutmeg.

That's the recipe as I received it. In fact, I don't have a punch bowl. Nor do I have a lot of liquor, so I use whatever I have around for my fruitcake cookies. And that much booze is a little strong for me, so I thin it down with more cream. Anyway, it's a fine place to start.

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies