Friday, December 26, 2008
Cup of Holiday Cheer
Growing up, Christmas meant helping my mother bake what seemed to be endless batches of fruit cakes, cookies and treats like her famous Nanaimo bars and sour cream sugar twists. My favorites were the date-filled pinwheels that had to be carefully cut out and folded so the filling wouldn't leak out while baking, especially when they were warm from the oven, the dough crisp around the dark, oozing filling.
My folks would usually have a holiday party or two featuring some of the prodigious output from the oven and, to us, exotic treats like chips and dips made with onion soup and canned clams, staples in the appetizer pantheon of the early 60s. And because they and most of their friends were Episcopalians, drinking was considered a socially acceptable activity. As a matter of fact, I still remember the cheer that went up when the Surgeon General at the time declared red wine to be good for you.
My father's contribution to the festivities was to make a holiday beverage called Tom & Jerrys, warm, egg batter-based drinks containing copious amounts of rum and brandy that were way too easy to drink. According to Wikipedia, it was created by a sportswriter named Pierce Egan in the 1820s and was "a reference to Egan's book, 'Life in London, or The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom' (1821), and the subsequent stage play 'Tom and Jerry, or Life in London' (also 1821)."
The recipe was apparently popular enough that special dishware was created for serving the drinks, usually consisting of a bowl or covered tureen, a ladle and cups all labeled "Tom & Jerry" in a Gothic script. The set we have (above) is a deco version from the 1930s or 40s with a bubble-shaped lidded tureen with round cups, each with a stamp on the bottom that reads "KB Japan" (left).
My father would make a non-alcoholic version called Clyde & Harrys for the kids, and we'd sip them, gorging on the assorted snacks as the adults got steadily happier and more boisterous, enjoying those happy little drinks immensely.
So if you're looking for a beverage to warm up your next holiday party (can you say New Year's?), this might be one to throw into the mix. And lift a cup to my dad. He'd love it.
John's Tom & Jerrys
For the batter:
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 drop oil of cinnamon*
1 drop oil of clove*
1/2 c. whipping cream
For each drink:
1 jigger (1.5 oz.) brandy
1/2 jigger (.75 oz.) rum
2 Tbsp. batter
Dash of nutmeg
Separate eggs, putting yolks into large mixing bowl and whites into another bowl large enough to whip them in. Add cream of tartar to whites and whip into stiff peaks.
Beat egg yolks to combine and add cinnamon oil, clove oil and whipping cream. Beat, gradually adding powdered sugar till the mixture is thick and smooth. Add whipped egg white and slowly fold them into each other till you have a smooth, light batter.
To make drinks, put brandy, rum and batter into each cup (ours are 6-oz. cups), fill with boiling water and stir. Top with a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. For the Clyde & Harrys, simply leave out the alcohol and just combine the batter and hot water and stir, topping with the nutmeg.
* Oils available at many natural foods stores. Just make sure they're food grade.