Epicure: A grandmother's tea
"A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend." --Author Unknown
This Mother's Day, let's hear it for grandmothers ... and Grammys, Nanas, Grand-mères, Memas, Grans and YaYas, too!
Yes, as a Nana myself, I may be a bit biased but I think grandmothers need to be celebrated more. After all, aren't we the ones who graciously agree to babysit or take carpool at a moment's notice, buy clothes for the grandkids instead of ourselves, laugh with glee over our grandchild's latest antics, eagerly sit through a four-hour holiday school program just to see 30 seconds of a grandchild dressed as a lamb, and gently soothe a skinned knee or bruised ego? Aren't we the ones who refrain ourselves from second-guessing our own children's parenting techniques? And the ones who plaster our refrigerator doors with photos of every stage of growth in our grandchild's life? (Well, maybe some of those!)
In case you've forgotten how very special your grandmother is, here's a short list to consider:
14 ways nanas are great
1. They know lots of good stories and aren't hesitant to share them.
2. They know interesting things about your parents, even embarrassing details.
3. They are a cheering audience for your new drawings, sports wins, dances, words, school achievements, etc.
4. They go on trips, send you postcards and bring you back neat stuff.
5. They are patient, take time to explain things and talk about how to be good.
6. They aren't afraid to be silly, un-cool or get down on the floor to play.
7. They send care packages when they think about you or when you are away at camp, college, etc.
8. They cook special dishes for you and are willing to let you cook and mess up the kitchen.
9. When you are mad at your parents, they offer another way of looking at things.
10. They are never too tired to talk to you.
11. They are not uptight; they sometimes let you do things your parents wouldn't.
12. They know lots of cool songs and don't hesitate to sing them, even if they don't have a great singing voice.
13. They are proud of anything you do and will brag about you to everyone they meet.
14. They are calm during crises, don't call you stupid and always have ways to solve your problems.
So this year, whether you are 12 or 32, whether your grandmother is 51 or 95, devote some one-on-one time to sit, share, talk, sip, munch and enjoy each other's company. Food is a universal way to commune and an afternoon of tea and refreshments is an ideal way to spend time with your elder.
An informal tea with your grandmother(s) or your child's grandmother(s) need not be elaborate. A pot of her favorite tea, fresh fruit and one sweet offering is sufficient to generate great conversation and loving exchanges. If you can't find time to bake one of the simple cakes noted here, select a few special treats from your local grocer, based on her tastes.
Pssst ... here's the secret ingredient: Time is the most important element for a grandmother. Taking time - even an hour-- from your busy, stressful life to spend exclusively and unhurriedly with her will create memories that you will both cherish in the years to come. And don't forget to bring the camera!
Jacqui Love Marshall lives in San Ramon with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glazed Lemon Cakes (makes 12 regular cupcakes)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt (or 1/2 cup buttermilk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large lemon, zest and juice, Meyer lemon preferred
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice, Meyer lemon preferred
1 Tbsp lemon zest, Meyer lemon preferred
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard muffin tin. In a medium bowl, whisk the four with the baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt (or buttermilk), vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set aside.
2. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in several batches, alternating with two additions of the yogurt mixture.
3. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until the toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in tin; cool completely on a wire rack.
4. Set the rack over wax or parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir confectioners' sugar with the remaining lemon juice and zest until smooth (add more lemon juice if needed). Pour over the cakes, spreading to the edges with a small knife. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.
Cinnamon Pear Cake (serves 12-16)
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup self-rising flour, sifted
1 pear, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp sugar
Heavy cream or butter, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan.
2. Whisk the egg white until stiff peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the egg yolk. Stir in the milk, vanilla, and melted butter.
3. Gently fold in the flour, then pour into the prepared pan. Arrange the pear slices on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
4. Topping: Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. While the cake is still hot, brush the top generously with the melted butter. Combine the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the top. Serve the cake warm or cold with the cream or spread with the butter.
Black Russian Cake (serves 12-16)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (3-1/2 oz.) box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup oil
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup Kahlua
3/4 cup pre-made coffee
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp each Kahlua, vodka and coffee
1. Preheat one to 350 degrees. Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine all the cake ingredients and beat 4 min.; pour into Bundt pan.
3. Bake 50-60 minutes; cool in pan until cake is just barely warm.
4. Turn cake onto plate; poke hole in warm cake with straw or knife.
5. Mix glaze ingredients; stir to dissolve sugar. Pour over cake.