Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Expensive to be Rich 'Darlings' but Costly To Be Poor

Learning It's expensive to be rich, but costly to be poor, petite little Malka Trevowsky, a Russian Jewish immigrant, rises to become America's favorite Italian Catholic Mother and TV personality, the quintessential queen of ice cream, Lillian Dunkle.

Too young to work, Malka's unhappy Mother, shuts six year old Malka and her Sister Flora out of their one room tenement every morning telling them not to return until they have money. Soon, Malka's n'er do well Father abandons the family of six. Searching for him, Malka steps off a street corner, and the greatest opportunity of her life, through tragedy, emerges.

A born businesswoman, exhibiting all the strong personality traits of an entrepreneur, Malka methodically plods along, working to be the first with the most of the best, in the cut throat ice cream industry. She utilizes her frugal, creative resourcefulness learned in childhood to build her ice cream empire, one penny, one paper cone, and one 3.5 ounce ice cream scoop at a time.

Told from the elderly voice of Mrs. Lillian Dunkle, Susan Jane Gilman's fictional novel reads like an historic biography. Her detailed portrayal of tragic, despondent family members and chaotic family life inside the diseased, dirty, segregated tenements of the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900's, is not a typical portrayal.

Late in life, Lillian Dunkle's large ego, which ironically makes her successful, skews her sense of reality and she lands in serious trouble with the law. Yet, as compared with her childhood, the prospect of prison with one's own bed and three squares a day, seems like a piece of cake with ice cream!

Read my review in the June Issue of Real Simple Magazine, p. 28 and enjoy!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How to Take "Elevenses" Tea

So, most of us know the Queen and the British take Afternoon Tea at 4:00 p.m. Those that are aware of this tradition, are as well familiar with the delectable menu of delicious scones, clotted cream and yummy jams. However, have y'all heard of "Elevenses?"

As a student at St. Anne's College, Oxford, I experienced my first "Elevenses" on our first morning of class. After our 2 hour lecture and discussion, our Professor announced at 10:30 a.m., we were all to adjourn to the house next door. We were all ushered into an ivy covered, brick house with a charming great room. There within these old walls, was a simple setting of tea cups, tea pots and cozies, and what the Brits refer to as "crackers", or what Americans call cookies. Couches, coffee tables and conversation abound. Yea!

So, for the next half hour, students and faculty alike were sipping tea and munching, mulling around  and chatting about, having a wonderful time having Elevenses. What a nice way to get to know our professors personally. What an unofficial opportune opportunity as students to practice our conversational skills with adults. As well, what a great way for those students 'in the know' to show off a bit of 'where with all' about taking tea, such as, how to 'Play Mother' whilst holding a conversation, and after a few days, remembering how others take their tea!

So, here are a few simple tips on how to have "Elevenses:"
  • If you volunteer to "Play Mother," know well how to pour a "cuppa." Pour the cup 3/4 full, leaving room for milk and room to avoid spillage. Then ask: "With sugar, milk, or lemon?"If "Plain" is responded, it is not necessary to place a teaspoon on the saucer.
  • Add the sugar first, then add milk if milk is taken. Never use cream as it disguises the flavor of the tea.
  • Add the sugar first, then the slice, not wedge, of lemon. No need to squeeze the lemon, as it will dissipate naturally, therefore no risk of squirting your neighbor in their eye with the acidic lemon!
  • Unless, and even if you are 6 years old, please do not add lemon to tea with milk, as it will curdle the milk.
  • When stirring the mixture, try not to clink and clank your teaspoon against the cup.  
  • Place your teaspoon on the back of the saucer. 
  • Place any food on a separate plate, not on your saucer.
  • The word napkin, which is derived from the French word "naperon," means "little tablecloth." Please blot the corners of your mouth with your napkin, do not wipe your mouth.
  • Remember, pinch the handle of your tea cup, and know that pinkies are passé!
  • Always introduce yourself if no one introduces you. New friends to be met!
  • When finished with your tea and crackers, place your used plates on a side table, never onto the serving table.
Enjoy your Elevenses and cheers!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is High Tea Higher in Societal Rank than Afternoon Tea?

Every time the topic of having tea pops up, then comes the inevitable question:

 "Are you going to have High Tea?"

So, here we go. The unspoken, intimation of the question is as follows:

Is 'High Tea' higher in stature, formality and societal rank than Afternoon Tea? 

The sad answer, dear reader, is unfortunately a "No."

High Tea was originally served on high tables at 5:00 pm for the working classes, mostly the miners up from the mines, who had not eaten anything all day. High Tea is a heavy meal consisting of hot meats and savory fishes, with vegetables and breads.

Afternoon Tea, dating back to the 1800's, is the familiar, quintessential British tradition served mid-afternoon consisting of a light three step menu first of cucumber and salmon sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and clotted cream, then finally cakes, chocolates and sweets. Sometimes champagne is included!

Then comes the question about how to eat the scone. Keeping with the Christian tradition of "breaking bread," the scone (and for that matter all breads) should be "broken" not cut. Each bite of bread should then be further broken and individually buttered or in this case spread with the clotted cream, then the jam on top. This order assures one the jam will not spill out all over the place as the jam is thinner and more malleable than the clotted cream. Less of a mess.

Breaking off each bite of scone, then spreading each piece individually with clotted cream then jam is more laborious, but neater to eat than spreading the whole of the broken half of scone with clotted cream and jam, then trying to maneuver a lady-like bite out of the whole mountain-like huge pile of decorated scone. Again, less of a mess to maneuver and consume.

After you pour your tea into your china tea cup or mug, add the sugar first if you take sugar, then add your milk if you take milk. This way, the sugar will dissipate easier in the hotter liquid. Never use cream in your tea as it is too rich and disguises the flavor of the tea. Never add lemon to your tea if you have milk, as the lemon will curdle the milk. Honey is a nice alternative to sugar and milk.

Pinch the handles of your china tea cup. Never put your fingers through the handle as a finger may get stuck! Putting your pinkie finger out is also passé! No need. Try to not "clink" your teaspoon inside your teacup whilst stirring your tea and please place the teaspoon behind your teacup solidly on the saucer.

Take your time, and enjoy the experience of having your tea, whether Afternoon Tea or High Tea. Cheers!