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Wrong for Each Other
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5 April 2014
The Woodland Shakespeare Book Club meets from October to April and there are two events to which members can invite friends, one in January and one in April. The April event is a luncheon and I think it was the first event to which I was invited.
My friend Sue had been saying I should join the club and, as I am not a devotee of Shakespeare, I really didn't have any interest, but when she invited me to come to the luncheon, I decided what the heck, I'd come.
It was a magnificent spread and included plates of something Sue told me, reverently, were the famous club mints.
According to the story, the recipe was a closely guarded secret and that only certain people were trusted to make them and that their origin went back decades.
I attended two or three other events before my nomination to become a member of the club was approved (only 50 are allowed to be active members, so someone has to either resign or die before you can be approved ... and given the median age, I suspect most of the new members fill slots left by dearly departed).
Now I am an active member, though actually pretty inactive because I haven't done a thing this year but try to read the books, and to come to the meetings. People become members of either the hospitality committee (providing snacks at meals) or program committee (leading the discussion about this month's book), but newbies like me are given a pass for their first year, since you sign up for committees at the last meeting of the year and you aren't an actual member then.
But a few months back, I got a call from the chairman of the Hospitality Committee for this month's meeting asking if I would like to join the committee and help plan the lunch that will close off the 2013-2014 year. I agreed, feeling it would be good to get my feet wet.
We met two months ago to go over all we needed to know about hosting the luncheon. In all honesty, I have to say that this lengthy book of instructions is one of the reasons why I don't like to belong to groups like this. So many of the things seemed so unnecessarily formal, but as I've gotten into it, I see that really it the only way to assure that the event will run smoothly. I've never been a "ladies luncheon" kind of person, but being a good sport I decided I would give it my all.
One of the jobs for our committee was to determine who would make the mints. It turns out that what was once a deeply held secret recipe had actually been published in the club cookbook a few years back, so it's not a secret any more, and the recipe is printed in the instructions for the luncheon.
Others on the committee didn't seem so eager to make the famous mints, but I've never shied away from trying something new in the kitchen and I volunteered. This made me a very brave person in the eyes of my fellow committee members.
When I started looking at the recipe, I realized that it was a terrible recipe. You mix 2 cups of sugar with 1/2 cup of water, boil it to the hard ball stage, add dissolved gelatin, whip the mixture for 15 minutes, while adding flavoring and color, pour it in a pan, let it sit and then cut it into little squares.
Now, missing from that recipe are little things like -- do you whip it over the heat, or move it to a bowl and whip it? how much flavoring? how big a pan? When I asked those questions of the committee, they were as clueless as I was, but told me I should talk to Mary and that Mary was the resident expert on the mints. Only it turned out that Mary had never made them, was the oldest person in the club, and was the person who accidentally put the recipe in the cookbook.
She told me I should call Carol. So I did call Carol, who had actually volunteered to make them this year, but was happy to have me do it instead. She answered all of my questions and even gave me a big candy cookbook that has photos for how to make them.
They are just marshmallows with mint flavor. I'd never made marshmallows (or actually any candy, I don't think) but they are ridiculously easy. I was happy that the first batch came out so well. The mixture that you spread into a pan is like trying to spread silly putty, but I was finally able to do it, with the help of a spatula that was dipped in water (those old cake decorating tricks came back!).
Carol had said that she actually didn't cook the sugar mixture as hot as they say to cook it, so when I made the second batch, I took it off the stove at 250 degrees instead of 260 degrees. The big picture cookbook also says to dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 to 1/2 cups of water. Since the first batch were kind of firm, I decided to go with the larger amount of water the next time.
The second batch is much better than the first. It spread easily, is softer and more marshmallow-y than mint-y and I like them better. On the whole, I'm glad I took on the job and am pleased with the results.
I also made a batch of Ned's famous tortellini salad, which I love, as my contribution to the lunch. Now I just have to be sure to wake up in time to leave the house by 8 a.m. to be in Woodland by 8:30 and get set up for the lunch. I have been sleeping so late these days that I actually had to set an alarm to make sure I got up on time.
Must also remember to return the candy cookbook, bring the bag of 10 pairs of flip flops from the Dollar Store for table decorations, and the big bottle of ginger ale that someone gave us recently which we will never drink, to use for the punch.
I'm even going to wear my mumu to go along with the beach theme that will accompany the discussion of "Gidget" (terrible book!)
Good grief, I'm a ladies lunch person after all.
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