30 January 2010

Picasso Damaged

In life we all stumble now and then.

For those of you who didn't hear, on 22 January a woman taking an adult education class at the Metropolitan Museum accidentally fell into “The Actor.” Painted during Picasso's Rose Period, the 4 feet by 6 foot canvas was completed when he was only 23. There is now, according to the New York Times, "an irregular, six-inch tear running vertically along the lower right-hand corner."

I know how she feels.

Several years ago I was in Paris during la grève. Who knows they are always grève -ing in Paris. Still, it was difficult to get around the city and many things were closed. One afternoon, we found the Musée National Picasso was open and off we went. Now the Musée National Picasso is not known for its great collection. There are many inferior works housed there, but it does house the wonderful painting, "Portrait of Marie-Thérèse.

"Marie-Thérèse" was tucked in a darkened alcove. Upon exiting said alcove, my shin came into contact with the brass bar rail intended to keep the viewers at bay. The huge brass ball caused me to stagger and in doing so I knocked a painting off the wall. This caused alarms to scream and Japanese tourist to stop dead in their tracks.

As I saw the painting move (and to this day I couldn't tell you which painting, but even a crappy Picasso would exceed my budget) I knew I did not have enough traveler's checks to pay for damages if I broke it, so I managed to hold onto the frame and keep the painting from falling as I tried to regain my footing. So there I was, standing in Musée National Picasso holding a Picasso as the alarms blared. I didn't want to move because I didn't want to get shot.

The alarms rang and rang and no one came. Remember la grève. So I thought, perhaps I should just re-hang the painting. I was in the process of hanging it when two guards strolled around the corner. One took the painting and hung it while the other worried about my leg. Frankly, fixing my leg would be infinitely cheaper than fixing a Picasso.

I recovered. The painting was undamaged. And the Japanese tourists had a great story to tell.

My heart goes out to woman at the Metropolitan Museum.

25 January 2010

Happy Birthday -- Virginia Woolf

Today is Virginia Woolf's Birthday. In honor of that occasion Paste Magazine's List of the Day features 10 songs in celebration of the event. A soundtrack for her life.

Here's their list:

1. “Virginia Woolf” by the Indigo Girls
2. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Jimmy Smith
3. “Paris” by Regina Spektor
4. “To the Lighthouse” by Patrick Wolf
5. “Rapture” by Laura Veirs
6. “Virginia” by Marissa Nadler
7. “Shakespeare’s Sister” by The Smiths
8. “It’s Magnetic” by Assembly Now
9. “Waves” by Princeton
10. “The Waydown” by Modest Mouse

23 January 2010

Requiescat in Pace -- Jean Simmons

Jean Simmons died yesterday. One film critic said of her:

"Jean Simmons' jaw-dropping beauty often obscured a formidable acting talent."

For 60 years she worked as an actress, appearing in over 50 films and scores of television productions. My favorite was Elmer Gantry.

Little augury has been featuring a number of wonderful posts on great beauties. She asked me to participate, and I tended to go with writers as actresses often take top billing. If the assignment had been to pick 10 actresses, Jean Simmons would have been close to the top.

Eugene Walter

Eugene Walter picnicing outside Rome

Sooner or later Southerners all come home,
not to die, but to eat gumbo.

Eugene Walter

I have always been fascinated by strangers. One never knows, sitting in a restaurant or flying on a plane or simple walking down a street, who is there with you. The person beside you on a plane may well be a famous novelist or chef. The woman in the red dress at the restaurant might be an artist whose painting sells for a million dollars and the waiter may win an academy award in five years. Those goofy, unknown faces we pass each day, may be someone we really want to meet and talk to and know. Eugene Walter was an expert at noticing those people and seeking them out.

He followed Greta Garbo down New York streets, but never spoke to her. After a busy day of buying castanets, he found himself alone on a bus with Edith Sitwell, and he would dress up in his finest clothes and slip into the theater at intermission to see Martha Graham.

Eugene Walter "dancing" with some staff from the Paris Review

When I was in Alabama dying to get out, Eugene Walter had returned for gumbo. We were a short drive from each other, but we never met. That is a tragedy in my life. A failure on my part. Though we share many things, in the end Eugene Walter, triple Sagittarius could have never overlooked the fact that I was a Pisces and he always said, “Sagittarians do not get along with Pisces.”

After returning to Mobile he told Katherine Clark, “I’m fat, I’m bankrupt and I’ve got fleas.” None of that stopped Clark from assembling an oral history, Milking the Moon.

You may have never heard of Eugene Walter, but he knew everybody and never met a person he didn’t have a good story about. Now the question remains, are the stories true. Well some are true and some are real, some are real and some are true, but not always at the same time.

Here are some highlights: Eugene Walter served as a cryptographer in World War II, founded a chamber orchestra, was a founding contributor to the Paris Review, won the Lippincott prize for his novel, The Untidy Pilgrim, won and O’Henry, won a Sewanee-Rockefeller fellowship for his poetry, composed music, sang opera, acted in over 100 films, including Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Lina Wertmüller’s Ballad of Belle Starr, and was a cookbook author including Southern Style a volume in the Time-Life American Cooking series.

As the Mother Superior in Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits

Eugene Walter could have written a multi-volumed biography, but he was far too involved living his life than writing about it. He once said after trying to remember a particularly juicy story told to him by Alice B. Toklas,
"I should have been Boswelling all these years…but I wasn’t. I was Eugene-ing, which is different.”
Like a true Southerner, there was always food and drink involved in his exploits. At a time when he was penniless he fed fellow novelist Patti Hill a meal she always remembered.

"…she had three onions, and I had a bottle of wine and some crackers. So I put some olive oil in a frying pan, and I did onions three ways. I did all this elaborate froufrou about giving it French names and pretending we were doing this very elaborate French meal. But it was onions thrown into boiling water just long enough to be crunchy and flavored with cloves; and then onions boiled until they were mush, flavored with something else; and then onions fried with a little sherry poured into them. Then crackers and I think I had some peppermints. We were both absolutely penniless; we just had arrived at nothing. So I did this pretend snob French dinner of onions. Lord, Lord. It just goes to show it’s not money that makes a party; it’s imagination."

Everyone who knew remembered his parties. Feeling that T. S. Eliot was a bit uptight and would probably be more fun if he could, “get enough Jim Beam into him,” Walter made his 23rd Artillery punch for a party thrown for Eliot by an Italian princess.
“We brought up from the cellar of Palazzo Caetani a huge, magnificent old punch bowl that had not been used since around World War I. And I put a block of ice in it. And I made a little hole in the block of ice. And I put some sliced oranges and lemons in the hole. And then I poured two bottles of cognac over that. And then I poured two bottles of good white rum over that. And then I poured two bottles of very good English gin over that. And then I just filled up the rest of the bowl with cold champagne. It tastes like the most delicious orange punch. You would never guess there is one drop of anything alcoholic in it.”
Before the night was over, T. S. Eliot was teaching the party cheer leading chants from Holy Cross.

The stories are endless. Milking the Moon is a joy to read. Eugene Walter is truly one of a kind. But what kind? he might ask. Nearing the end of his life he talked about fate and his life he called “free-form.”

"I live three days in one day without haste, without hurry. I stop when I’m tired. I have a glass of wine when I feel faint. I have no schedule, although I work every day… You think you can plan a life? I’ve always thought you must improvise daily. Today may bring money in the mail. Today may bring a hurricane. You have to be ready for either one. In either case, give a party.”

Word to live by.

Find some of Eugene Walter's recipes at Cookbook Of The Day.

21 January 2010

Chuck Williams & the Brioche Molds

I love Chuck Williams.

The guy is in his nineties and still goes to work everyday.

I hate Chuck Williams.

He goes to work every day and looks for new things for me to buy.

It’s not hard. I have never been in a Williams-Sonoma that I wasn’t prepared to move into. Some thick drapes to keep those pesky shoppers from looking in and I am good to go. Getting my Williams-Sonoma catalogue makes for a good mail day.

Chuck Williams has a great knack for finding items you will never need in a million years and explaining to you why you need them. (Maybe Chuck Williams should have been in charge of the health care bill…I digress…) I admit I have fallen into this category more than once.

Many years ago, I was captivated by exquisite little brioches featured in the catalogue. They were not simply brioche, which I had never been captivated by; these were MINI brioche, mini brioche studded with CHOCOLATE. I wanted them. I needed them. Beside their stunning little picture was the recipe for making them. Not just any recipe but a recipe by Hubert Keller. By now I was obsessed with these chocolate-studded-Hubert Keller- mini-brioche.

I had everything I needed to make little orbs of chocolate pastryness sans one. I did not own a silicon mini brioche baking mold. How could this be? How could I not own a mini silicone brioche baking mold? Was I insane? Everyone needs a mini silicone brioche baking mold. Chuck Williams knew this. Hubert Keller knew this. And yet somehow, it had escaped me. I had to get one. I had to have a mini silicone brioche baking mold with its nine little cups for baking my brioche.

Then I re-read Hubert Keller’s recipe. The recipe made 18 mini chocolate brioches. But the pan only held 9! What was I to do? Chuck Williams knew. He knew that I didn’t need ONE mini silicone brioche baking molds I needed TWO. And two I have.

I have used them on many occasions to bake Hubert Keller’s Chocolate Brioches. I have never used them for anything else, though I am interested in receiving ideas. Here is Keller's recipe.

Not that I don’t trust Hubert Keller, but I find there are a few thing I would tweak in his recipe. My notes are in parentheses.

Chocolate Brioches

For the sponge:

2 tsp. active dry yeast (one package in those three-sectioned yeast packets is a bit over 2 tsp. so I just use the package)
3 Tbs. lukewarm water
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

For the dough:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
3 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/3 cup warm milk
4 Tbs. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water

To make the sponge, in a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the flour, cover with plastic wrap (a paper towel or cloth works just fine) and set in a warm place until foamy, about 10 minutes. (If you make the sponge, then begin the dough, the sponge will be ready when you need it without any timing.)

To make the dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the 1 3/4 cups flour, the sugar and salt and whisk by hand until well blender, about 1 minute. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and attach the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and milk. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. (It really only needs about 3 minutes. The dough will have a shredded look and not be a cohesive ball.)

Add the butter and knead for 5 minutes. (Again, about 3 minutes will do. This time the dough will come together in a big ball.)

Stop the mixer and add the sponge. Continue kneading on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 7 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed. (I find 7 minutes is plenty and no additional flour is needed.)

Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter the two 9-well silicone brioche baking molds and place on baking sheets. (Both molds will fit on one large baking sheet.)

Punch down the dough, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead in the chocolate chips. Form the dough into 18 balls and place in the prepared wells. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Brush the tops of the brioches with the egg yolk mixture. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Immediately invert the molds onto wire rack and remove the brioches, using a toothpick to gently loosen them, if needed. Let cool completely before serving.

What? You don’t own a pair of mini silicone brioche baking molds. You amateur! Not a problem, just give Chuck Williams a call.

20 January 2010

Wednesday Etiquette -- Reggie Darling

Home of Reggie Darling, Boy Fenwick, and Pompey

A lot of our Wednesday Etiquette posts feature doyennes and dowagers. Don't get me wrong, I adore doyennes and dowagers and plan to become one some day. I know some people believe etiquette to be the bastion of doyennes and dowagers but they could not be farther from the truth.

On Tuesday, fellow blogger Reggie Darling posted a little etiquette primer entitled:

Reggie's Rules for Popular Party Guests

I’m sending you to him for your dose of Wednesday Etiquette. While you are there, check out his other great posts.

Requiescat in Pace -- Kate McGarrigle

Kate McGarrigle died Monday. It felt like losing someone in the family.

My first exposure to the McGarrigle Sisters came from an old lp, Dancer With Bruised Knees. I was smitten. The McGarrigle's never released a disk I didn't immediately buy.

They seldom went on the road, but several years ago, the whole lot of them played at the Birchmere and I was on the front row. Kate and Anna were there along with Kate's children, Rufus and Martha and Anna's daughter, Lily Lanken. It was like sitting in big warm living room with friends, talented friends. They sang and joked and told stories; the evening was memorable.

Her sisters Anna and Jane were with her at the end. Rufus Wainwright said of them, “They were brought up in a very close-knit and somewhat old-fashioned way, a nice ‘Waltons’ way, and so they could never be too far away from each other.”

Kate McGarrigle -- New York Times Obituary.

Cover Lay Down has a lovely tribute to Kate featuring the thing she loved best, her family singing.

18 January 2010

Tilly Losch & The Monkton House Stairs

Monkton House

William Dodge James was the heir to two American fortunes when he purchased West Dean Park in Sussex for his new wife in 1900. The Willie James' were close friends of Edward II; according to prevalent rumors, Mrs. James a good bit closer than her husband. West Dean Park became the epitome of Edwardian splendor and just as quickly became a dated relic. Willy’s son, Edward, inherited the house, turning an ancillary property, Monkton House, into a surrealist dream. He lived in Monkton House for a short time with his wife, the dancer Tilly Losch.

During their time together he founded a ballet company for her and designed a famous carpet. You may remember a previous post on Diana Vreeland's Why Don't You? column, where she suggested the following:

…have a private staircase from your bedroom to the library with
a needlework carpet with notes of music worked on each step
– the whole spelling your favorite tune?

Edward James took the same idea in a different direction (and one I like much better than the musical notes). At Monkton House there was a circular stair case from the bathroom to the master bedroom. One day, Tilly Losch ran up the stairs in her bare feet. He was so taken with her footprints on the carpet that he commissioned a replacement carpet featuring her footprints woven into the fabric.

Alas, they parted after only six months amid rumors that the marriage was unconsummated.

She said:

He was a big old homosexual.

He said:

He was more than willing, but she was too busy sleeping around.

While the marriage failed, the carpet endures.

17 January 2010


Frank Lloyd Wright & Edgar Kaufmann, Sr.

There have been reams of documentation and exposition about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. I can understand how it captures the imagination of many people, but it has never held much thrall for me. In 2003, Franklin Toker published one of the best biographies of a house in recent memory and the house was Fallingwater. Fallingwater Rising documents the design and building of the house often thought of as the most famous house of the twentieth century.

It documents the family drama of the Kaufmann family who built the house and the enigmatic character of Frank Lloyd Wright. And perhaps most importantly, it chronicles the desire of man to tame the untameable at any cost.

In 1905 Wright took a trip to Japan that provided the spark for Fallingwater. When Wright returned he had in his possession dozens of postcards of waterfalls. At some point he acquired a print by Hokusai, View of Ono Falls. Wright became obsessed with building a house that cantilevered over a waterfall.

The most famous house of the twentieth century had its close-up, its biography and it even had its portrait painted. Peter Blume was commissioned by the Kaufmanns to paint Fallingwater. The artist hid the first painting, House At Falling Water. When the small oil finally saw the light of day, it had been dated, 1938-1968.

The next painting by Blume was entitled, The Rock. It was more in keeping with Blume’s love of magical realism and appears to be an allegory of the building of Fallingwater. Blume never spoke about his thoughts on the painting. Edgar Kaufmann, Sr. adored the work and kept it with him in Pittsburgh and Palm Springs until his death, when the painting was sent to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Neither painting eve hung at Fallingwater.

I suppose I never had a great affinity for Frank Lloyd Wright because he never seemed to care for kitchens. My ideal house would be an enormous kitchen with at least 2 stoves, an even more enormous two-story library, and a bathroom with a shower that had no enclosure.

My interest in re-reading Fallingwater Rising arose because of a cookbook. For Christmas I received a book written by the Kaufmann’s former cook at Fallingwater, Elsie Henderson. Generally, I am not overly enamored of cookbooks that want to tell me someone’s life story. I want the recipes and photos of the food and a minimum of exposition on the author’s life. The Fallingwater Cookbook was a pleasant exception. Henderson’s memories of both cooking in a “Wright Kitchen” and of the Kaufmann family are fascination. The issues of class and race are dealt with in direct and comfortable manner. After the recent news about Harry Ried, it is clear that America is still unable find the language to deal with race and its inevitable companion, class.

Elsie Henderson answered an ad in the paper and interviewed in the Kaufmann’s penthouse, so arriving at Fallingwater was a shock. On her first day in 1947 as she worked in the kitchen she heard laughter and looked out the widow.
“I was standing there at the stove, and there were ten or twelve people – all buck naked – under the falls. It was a mixed crowd, and some of them were on their backs. I thought, ‘It’s a nudist camp!’”
Henderson had worked for several wealthy families. Most of them served two sets of meals, one for the family and one for the help. One employee threw uneaten lobster down the garbage disposal rather than allowing the help to eat the leftovers. The Kaufmann kitchen prepared one meal and everyone in the house ate the same food. Henderson states:
“Rich people are funny about food. Most rich people are worried you are going to steal from them. The Kaufmanns never bothered to lock their liquor cabinet.”
In fact, the Kaufmanns paid for twice-a-year parties for the servants and Edgar Sr. was always anxious to see what the staff thought of his wines.

Wright put a bit more thought into the kitchen at Fallingwater, but it was still modest. The room was 15 x 12 with a Frigidaire refrigerator, a coal-burning Aga stove, a Formica-topped table and four chairs, a bank of yellow metal St. Charles cabinets, and a stainless steel double sink. The coal-burning Aga made baking a problem and wanting to enjoy Henderson’s baked goods, Edgar, Sr. gave her carte blanche to buy a new stove to facilitate her baking.

Here is Elsie Henderson’s recipe for pecan shortbreads.

Pecan Shortbreads

2 cups unsalted butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1.2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon slat
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and add confectioner’s sugar. Sift flour with the baking powder and salt. Stir into the butter-sugar mixture.

Work pecans into the dough with your hands.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough into a rectangle 1/3 inch thick.

With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2 1/2 inch squares.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The shortbread will be mostly white with lightly browned edges.

If you are enamoured of both architecture and cooking, The Fallingwater Cookbook is a great addition to your library, even if it is only a single story.

For another selection from The Fallingwater Cookbook check out this post at Cookbook Of The Day.

13 January 2010

Etiquette Wednesday -- Joan Crawford

“People are always asking me if there’s anything I regret, or would change.
The answer is no!”

Joan Crawford

Hardly anyone alive remembers Joan Crawford. I can hear you all disagreeing as we speak. Think about it. Do you remember Joan Crawford or do you remember Faye Dunaway AS Joan Crawford? My guess is the latter. I also know that there are a few of you that would rather lose a finger than use wire hangers, so let he who is without sin….

Truth be told (aside from what her kids thought of her), Joan Crawford was a force to be reckoned with. She was an actress who went on to be a formidable business woman in an age when few women would have entertained the idea.

In 1971 she wrote a manifesto My Way of Life that she presented as, “a script for a complete woman.” Here are just some of her tips so you too, can feel complete.


1. I wouldn’t have –or be- a houseguest if I didn’t know the person very well.
2. I stay out of their hair.


When I plan a menu I consider:
Color -- A red vegetable next to a yellow one looks unappetizing.
Texture – Creamed chicken and mashed potatoes makes too much mush.
Taste – Newer team two sours, two sweets, or two bitters.
Balance – Courses shouldn’t be uniformly rich or light.


People who have good taste are bound to make a mistake now and then, because they’re human, and when they do it’s a horrendous one.


When learning stops, vegetation sets in.

All very good advice. Now that wasn't so bad. Faye Dunaway should be ashamed.

Every time you drink a Pepsi, I want you to think of Joan Crawford.
If you drink Coke, you can think of those polar bears.

08 January 2010

Famous Food Friday -- Nela Rubinstein

Arthur Rubinstein, Nela, and Their Children Eva and Paul, 1942
Moïse Kisling (French and Polish, 1891-1953)

Famous Food Friday today is featuring Nela Rubinstein. OK, fine, she is not a household name and her fame comes from being married to Maestro Arthur Rubinstein, so maybe we will call today’s endeavor, Near Famous Food Friday. What ever you call it, Nela Rubinstein can cook. I am sure Arthur Rubinstein was no big box of chocolates to cook for or to live with for that matter. (I am always leery of men who refer to themselves as “Maestro”.)

Robert Redford, Sydney Pollack, Nela and Arthur Rubinstein

Nela Rubinstein was a friend of the noted hostess and publishing heir, Blanch Knopf. Knopf sent Rubinstein a contract for a cookbook that she refused to sign for 37 years. It was not as easy as pulling out her box of recipes and transcribing them. Growing up with a Lithuanian mother and Polish father, Nela Rubinstein had recipes not only in her native tongues but also in Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English. Measurements ran the gamut from “cup” and “teaspoon” to “garniec” (a kind of bucket) to “une bonne poignée d’ail” (a good fistful of garlic) and she insists on referring to “1/2 cup” as “1 deciliter”. After much transcribing and testing, the recipes ended up in the capable hands of Judith Jones.

Here is a simple fruity chicken dish. Rubinstein tells us that the easy and fragrant dish combines three simple ingredients that improve each other in the cooking – chicken, prunes, and butter.

Chicken with Prunes

1 roasting chicken, about 4 pounds
Salt and pepper to taste
8 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup (1/4 liter) chicken broth or use 1/2 Knorr chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water; plus enough additional broth to cover prunes and raisins.
24 dried prunes
1/2 cup (1 deciliter) raisins

Wash and dry the chicken, and salt and pepper it inside and out. Put a 2-tablespoon lump of butter in the cavity and truss the bird. Place it in a low-sided roasting pan greased with the oil. Add the cup of chicken broth to the roasting pan.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Into a medium bowl pour enough boiling chicken broth to cover the prunes and raisins and let them soak. Roast the chicken for about 45 minutes or until half done, basting it often by rubbing it with the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, the later spooning pan juices over it. Turn the chicken when basting it, so that it will color evenly.

When the chicken is half done, add the soaked prunes and raisins to the pan with their soaking liquid, basting the bird well and often then and thereafter. When the chicken is done, in about 1 1/2 hours, the pan juices should have the consistency of a light syrup. If they don’t, siphon off the juices and boil them down rapidly.

Carve the chicken and serve it over plain boiled rice surrounded by the prunes and raisins, with the pan juice pored over.

As for cooking she said "I was a frustrated artist and it was my way of creating."

What beautiful creations they are.

Roll Tide

Alabama 37, Texas 21

07 January 2010

Cocktails at the Burn Pit

I believe I was an arsonist in a past life or a fireman. I have always loved fire. One of the joys of living in the country is having your own burn pit. For those of you who grew up in the city and live in apartments this is probably as bizarre as it comes. Still, there is something very comforting about a day filled with cleaning brush and debris finished off with a big bonfire. It’s not a site you will see in New York or Los Angles or even Huntsville.

My BFF, Beverly, and her husband, the NASA engineer, built a house outside of Huntsville. The year it was built, there cows in the next field. Today, there are 6000 square-foot McMansions behind them. Every year they come to Shirley and spend a week on the farm. They loved being in the country and instituted a kind of “forced march” mentality trying to do every chore imaginable in a few days. I must say Doe Run Farm always looked its best the day they drove off into the sunrise. I usually looked my worst! The best part of our visits occurred when we grabbed a drink and gathered around the fire to discuss the day’s work.

This year, Beverly got her own place in the country, where she can work incessantly to bring order from chaos. The first thing she inaugurated was her own burn pit! The other day, she sent me a picture captioned “cocktails at the burn pit.” Beverly was finishing up the day in the country burning debris. Clad in her sweatshirt, she had a fire poker in one hand and stemware in the other.

It was the quintessential visualization of being a Southerner. No matter how hard or dirty the work, there is always time for a lovely cocktail. The picture made me laugh as I was researching some old cocktail books that were priced as though they were old cars! I sent Beverly a note telling her I was going to write a drink book entitled, “Cocktails at the Burn Pit.” After I wrote the note, I realized it was a pretty good idea.

Tonight, The University of Alabama plays some other team for the National Championship. In honor of this, here is the inaugural “Cocktails at the Burn Pit” recipe. Several years ago, I was off to London and grabbed a free “flyer” magazine that featured a drink recipe from a swanky D.C. hotel. It was for a margarita featuring beer as its secret ingredient. A few weeks later, I was reading The Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love and I realized the swanky recipe was based on New Allison’s margarita recipe. My cocktail is based on the beer margarita. Making it in 12-ounce batches eliminated the need for careful measuring as the limeade, 7-up and Corona are packaged in 12-ounce containers. Simply use the empty limeade can to measure the tequila. There is an alchemy to this drink that I can’t explain, so substitution of ingredients is not allowed, trust me it won't work with Sprite.

The Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer Give’em Hell Alabama Tequila Jack Slammer

12 ounces frozen limeade, thawed a bit
12 ounces 7-Up *
12 ounces Corona beer **
12 ounces top shelf tequila (I like Suarza)
12 ounces Jack Daniels
Juice of an orange
Sanding sugar

*7-up: not Diet 7-Up, not Sprite, not Mountain Dew
** Corona: not Coors, not Miller High Life, not Harp

Mix the limeade, 7-Up, Corona, and tequila, stirring carefully as it has a tendency to explode. (This would be a good time to emphasize that this can and never will be a frozen drink as putting these ingredients into a blender will cause it to explode.)

Place the juice of one orange in a saucer and the sanding sugar in another saucer. Dip the rim of a small old-fashioned glass or a stemless champagne flute into the juice followed by the sugar.

Pour four ounces of the margarita mixture into the sanded glass.

Take a spoon holding it directly over the drink surface. With the back of the spoon facing up, gently pour an ounce of Jack Daniels over the curve onto the drink to form a sort of pousse-café effect.

This is pretty potent, so only drink one or two. Be very, very careful if you drink them around the burn pit.

05 January 2010

Handkerchief & Glove Boxes

When my friend, Harry Lowe's stepmother, Josie, became a "woman of a certain age" (Southern women NEVER grow old) she decided that every day she would give something away. It was her way of clearing things out and passing on the various items she no longer needed.

Harry Lowe has adopted this practice and I am often the willing recipient. When I go to D. C. and head into my room, there is a bedside table bedecked with articles to read, books, a returning canning jar or egg carton and very often, a surprise.

Now I must tell you that during his working years, Harry Lowe, was a bit like Superman: Mild-mannered curator by day, but if he was needed, White-tie bedecked dinner guest and dancer by night. Now days, I'm afraid, the average invitation in Washington simply states: "Business Attire." The days of "White-Tie" are but a passing fancy, but Harry Lowe attended more than his fair share of party events.

On one of my last visits, I received a collection of Handkerchief & Glove Boxes. Harry Lowe passed them on to me, as it is important, he reminded me, to keep ones hankies and gloves neat and easily accessible. Now days, he is much more at home as a Gentleman Farmer in Virginia where his work gloves and secateurs are neat and easily accessible.

And while I no longer have a lot of gloves, as a confirmed Southerner, I always carry a hankie.

Now I have a place to keep them.

01 January 2010

Happy New Year

Clearly, Teddy is in the holiday spirit.

Unfortunately for me, I had to wait several hours before the champagne was safe to open.

I know what all you design mavens are thinking...

My New Years Resolution should be refinishing my floors. Maybe next year!
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