There was a white tie State dinner at the White House last night. (I guess they wanted clothing to match décor). Maybe you heard that the Queen is in town and they were going to toast one another in the East Room. When I saw the menu I noticed that the wine accompanying the first course— a pea soup with lavender (we eat tuna with cream cheese so who can explain taste) and a fancy name—was an unfiltered Newton Chardonnay. This brought to mind a number of things. First is my mother’s split pea soup.
When my mother or my Aunts made soup—other than chicken, the recipe was pretty much the same but the ingredients changed. Exactly what do I mean by that? Well, first you sauté some onions, but never with butter and usually dry. You do this for two reasons, they taste good and they smell great. This was particularly important when they lived in an apartment in Miami because all the yenta’s who lived nearby thought that the good smells were an indication of excellent cooking skills. Actually it just meant they discovered the secret to making the hallway smell great.
Anyway, once the onions are sautéed you need to add water or chicken stock – we hardly ever used beef stock because, while they did cook boiled beef, they never saved the water after they boiled the beef into oblivion—it was not used for stock. Why bother when it could if added tomatoes, cabbage, sugar, salt and pepper it would become a cabbage soup. However, if you were not using beef, once the water came to a boil you added chicken and probably a dried vegetable or bean. The you cooked it for two or three hours—until the meat/chicken was unidentifiable and the dried bean or vegetable was mushed enough to becomes part of the liquid. However, you didn’t want the soup to be too thin so you added potato, rice or thin noodles to thicken it up. And at some point (early in the process) you might want to add celery, carrots, parsnips, dill, and absolutely enough salt (to taste) and pepper—preferably white pepper. Are you confused? So was I my whole life—but it’s how I learned to cook and now I am never afraid to take a chance on anything – cooking or life.
Back to bringing things to mind. There I was watching C-Span prepared to guffaw at the Queen’s outfit and the President’s toast. Did anyone ever tell him that toasting with water is bad luck. It’s the last thing he needs. He really ought to consider tea, juice, or cola. Well, the Queen did not disappoint me. I can’t get over the constant element of dowdy. I often think it must be intentional because she has advisors who probably give her some fashion direction which she chooses not to take. Do you think she’s repressing her sexuality because she doesn’t want to drive His Royal Highness mad. Who knows? However, I must admit that I do love the crown and have been looking for one just like it for most of my life. A tiara just won’t do when you’re in the market for a crown. Maybe I’ll try Claire’s – it’s inexpensive and, of course, totally tacky.
Moving back to the first course. I don’t know much about unfiltered Newton Chardonnay except what I read it is “Bold and concentrated, with layers of ripe fig, pear and melon that unfold on the palate. Holds onto the opulent flavors and finishes with a long, persistent aftertaste” and it is also the favorite wine of my friends Jane and Jerry. On the other hand, I do know something about the Newton’s – a truly wonderful and most interesting family. Grandpa Newton (who also founded then sold the Sterling Vineyards) was born in England and came to the US as a young man where he met, married, and had two children. The daughter, Gail (a person of marvelous wit and great humor) stayed in the US, married and had a child, while the son, Nigel (a person of note and good taste, and additionally he publishes "Harry Potter”), chose to go to college in England. Where he met, married and had three children.
One of those children, William lived with us for about three months while he interned for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2004. And what a delight it was to have him here. Jordan had just left for school and we were seriously feeling her absence when my pal Eric called and asked if we knew anyone who had some room for this young British lad. “Well I do”, I said without hesitating. And the next day Will, clearly unfiltered, smart, well mannered, absolutely adorable, and over six feet tall, (I had to stand on a chair to hug him goodbye around his shoulders, I would hug his knees), appeared at our door. We had fabulous time with him and I believe, despite my over-mothering, so did he.
So last night, my two worlds collided at a State dinner during the first course. It was quite remarkable and the only thing that I thought would have made good sense but was missing -- my invitation of course. We’re just sayin...