Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tailgate Polo Party, Hazelnut Biscuits with Deviled Ham and The 21 Club’s Pomegranate Cider

You know, try as I might to get myself psyched about tailgate parties, the minute I started thinking about football I froze up.  I am not a big football fan.  I did one Super Bowl post early in my blogging career with one of my favorite evil snacks –– deep-fried meatballs and a spicy dipping sauce… delicious but not good for a tailgate party (is there anything worse than soggy deep-fried food?).

Persian Miniature, 1546

Not to be deterred, I looked into the history of tailgating and that widened my scope to include other sporting events because bringing food in the back of a car or a wagon to nourish sporting participants and spectators is as old as the hills.  The Indians did it at polo matches thousands of years ago.  Thinking about polo also made me think of famous English hunt lunches brought out to the fields to fortify the participants in the grueling event.  These were elegant and delicious affairs (and horses are the only athletes I enjoy watching!).

New Tiffany Table Settings photo

Fine china, crystal and linen were often packed into truly drool-worthy leather cases with elegantly tailored fittings to hold the dinnerware securely for travel.  Great huge baskets were stuffed with provisions and hot and cold food were placed the appropriate containers with wonderful drinks (champagne? –– oh yeah).  Spirit burners could heat up what needed heating and it all went off seamlessly with the precision of military maneuvers performed by a small army of servants with generations of experience via many tailgates or wagons or carriages.

Conde Nast Photo, Polo Tailgate

Another elegant and usually servant-less tailgating party possibility is one done for today's polo matches.  The photo with the adorable tent on the vintage station wagon captured my heart as well.

Although heart-stoppingly exciting to watch, Polo is a terrifying sport, if you ask me.  I have no end of admiration for anyone who can play it at all, let alone well.  The first time a mallet flew by my head going full speed down a field –– I retired from the fray, shaken and grateful I was not in the hospital or on my way to the undertaker.

It is a wonder to watch from the comfort of the sidelines.  Called the sport of kings and king of sports, both horse and rider operate as one and they fly and twirl like spirits possessed.  Tiny movements cause the horses to change course.  I discovered this the hard way riding my neighbor’s new and supposedly untrained polo pony in my field… almost ended up flying over his gorgeous black head when I unknowingly made a knee command and he nearly did a 360º turn—he must have thought I was such a clod, I swear he rolled his eyes at me when I got off!

As you doubtless know, Prince Charles and Prince Harry are both quite good at it –– they can afford to be.  It is not a sport for a light pocketbook –– the rigors of the game demand many changes of mount during the course of the match, necessitating the proverbial “string” of polo ponies for each rider that need to be cared for and moved to matches, often by jet.

I don’t have one of those fabulous picnic hampers and my car’s trunk is not suitable for display (between the dog hair and tools… it would put you off your feed to be sure) so you’ll have to use your imagination for the setting.  Just think of the tented tailgate above!

What to make? 

Finding NYT article  from 1987 about preparing a polo picnic inspired me.  In it, the author recommended elegant fare and well thought out menus that transport well. Caterer Jennifer Krascella made hazelnut biscuits with a rhubarb soup for the spread (along with cold veal stuffed with tuna, summer vegetables in vodka, cheese, fruit, berry-filled cones with marscarpone and of course –– an 80's menu for sure).  The recipe had no milk or baking powder so I added that (I just couldn't figure out how a biscuit without them would work... go to the original if you are braver than I am... I also cut down the sugar since I was using them with a savory filling).

It being fall, I decided to stick with the biscuits and add ham to make a bite-size slider, but then decided I’d share another old favorite of mine –– deviled ham.  When I was a kid I loved the stuff.  When I got older and looked at the ingredients as well as learning about factory-farmed pork –– I stopped eating it.  Then I found this recipe, use organic ham, and, well, I was in love all over again.  Sorry I can’t tell you where the recipe comes from since I copied it into my little black recipe book long ago but it’s delicious. 

Instead of the classic polo drink, Pimms Cup, I thought I’d share a wonderful drink I’ve made many times since I found the recipe, a pomegranate cider from long ago at the 21 Club (I shared this with you before but it seemed a perfect accompaniment for a tailgate picnic–– it’s so simple and delicious).  Add a little alcohol and you are good to go on a cool fall afternoon!

Hazelnut Biscuits inspired by Jennifer Krascella

 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, ground fine
1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
2 T to 1/4 cup granulated sugar (add the sugar to taste)
1 T baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
½  c milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 T edible rose geranium leaves, rinsed and finely chopped (optional)

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and process for 20 seconds.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl and combine well.
Add the flour, salt, baking soda and hazelnuts and add, a half cup at a time, to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix until the flour is just incorporated. Add milk.
Add the vanilla and chopped rose geranium. 
Place the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly butter two cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it into 1 1/2-inch balls.
Place the balls a half-inch apart on the cookie sheets, smush them down a little. I used the extra ground hazelnuts to sprinkle on the top.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden (mine took 20).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on cookie sheets for five minutes.
Transfer the biscuits to a cake rack and cool for 10 minutes. Store in a tightly covered container.

Yield: 2 dozen biscuits.

Deviled Ham

1/3 c minced onion
¼ c butter
1 T dry mustard
1 T flour
hefty pinch cayenne
1 c scalded cream (you may want to add more after you chill it if it isn’t creamy enough)
2 c ground ham
2 T Dijon mustard
1T freshly grated horseradish (or bottled) or to taste ( I added 2 T because I love horseradish)
2 t white wine vinegar if you are using freshly grated horseradish
s & p to taste

Pickle relish, sweet pickle or sour cornichons to serve (optional)
watercress (optional)

Saute onion in butter till soft.  Add the mustard and flour and make a roux.  Add the cream and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the ham and chill.  Add the horseradish and Salt and pepper to taste (ham is usually salty… so see what you think). You may want to add more cream after it chills if it is too stiff.  Also, it is better the next day.

The biscuits are slightly crisp on the outside.  I would recommend putting them together without the pickle so they don't sog up unless you are serving them immediately.

Pomegranate Cider from the 21 Club

4 cups pomegranate juice
4 cups apple cider
Zest of 1 orange
6 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 cloves
(add a shot of rum, brandy or calvados to taste if you would like –– and I like it with calvados!)

Combine ingredients in pot. Warm over medium heat to bring to a boil, reduce heat and keep warm for 30 minutes. Strain and serve; garnish cups with a cinnamon stick.

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday!

PS~  As some of you know, I have been on a sabbatical from my day job in the film business as a production designer.  I am doing a little project for a great director that he has written.  Not much money, great cast and a big dinner scene.  I was wondering if any NYC area bloggers would like to  contribute a beautiful dish to the effort for screen credit?   Email me if this interests any of you.  This would happen somewhere between the 8th and the 19th of November.  Details to follow.

PPS ~~ as a result, I will not be able to visit as much as I would like for the next few weeks and may miss a blog or 2... I'll be back before Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Clarimonde, Voluptuous Vampires and Perfumed Port with Chocolate

Ritratto di Giovane Donna, Henry Fuseli, 1781

What better way to celebrate the lost souls of Halloween than a darkly romantic vampire story?

Clarimonde, (La Morte Amoureuse) by Theophile Gautier is a rich playing field for the romantic imagination.  Written in 1836, it is not the first exploration of the vampire legend but it is one of the most compelling for its intricate pas de deux between reality and disturbed obsession.  Navigating these ever-mutable planes quickens your pulse and feeds your imagination.

When Lucy Raubertas, at Indieperfumes asked me to join a stellar convocation of perfumers to create perfumes (and in my case a drink) inspired by a voluptuous tale of desperate passion, how could I refuse?  It’s a tale I could not help but be drawn to since I love the idea of vampires and have done since I was a child. Reading this gave me an excuse (as if I need one) to find out a little more about vampires.

I read that the word vampire comes from the Serbian word vampir and that it was not mentioned in the West until the early 18th century when Russian and Eastern European stories and superstitions began to circulate (the word first came up in a 1734 travelogue ––one wonders if the opening of Russia by Peter the Great had something to do with the spreading of the myths??). 

At a certain point in the 18th century there was a veritable plague of imaginary vampire attacks that began in East Prussia and led to graveyards being ripped apart in search of the demons, lots of garlic, strange herbs and staking.

John Polidori (1795-1821)

It is widely acknowledged that the first to tackle the Vampire archetype in western culture was John Polidori (Byron’s handsome physician). Except –– that is not completely true. His may have been the first short story on the subject but the idea had been swirling around Europe for a century or more and many a creative soul had already been attracted to the myth (there were earlier German vampire poems like The Vampire by Ossenfelder in 1748 and Lenore by Bürger in 1773).

Until Bram Stoker’s Dracula  demolished the competition in 1897, Polidori’s The Vampyre enjoyed an enduring popularity, inspiring many later works including Stokers’ and a penny-dreadful called Varney the Vampire  in the 1840’s (that I read many years ago… it was dreadful). All the Twilights and Angels and True Bloods of today have some of the genes of Polidori's work.

Polidori wrote The Vampyre during the now legendary holiday with Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (soon to be Mary Shelley) at the Villa Diodati in Switzerland in June, 1816.

Chichester Canal JMW Turner

1816 was no ordinary year.  It was called “the year without a summer” because of massive volcanic eruptions from Mt. Tambora in Indonesia in 1815.  To a frightened, superstitious world, this would have seemed apocalyptic, with psychedelic skies (that Turner captured so brilliantly), a sulphuric fog (properly called a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil) and catastrophic crop failures.  No wonder it sent a group of poets over to the darkside that fateful June.

After reading aloud from a new translation (from the German) of one of the current hits of the day called Tales of the Dead, Byron encouraged the company to write their own dark tales…. The most famous of which is of course, Frankenstein.  Polidori based his vampire tale on a fragment of a story by Byron with the vampire named Augustus Darvell. Although Byron had mentioned the phenomenon before, it had not been fully explored.

Byron became interested in the vampire myth after hearing of it on his grand tour in 1809-10 and Lord Byron himself touched on the subject in a note following his poem The Giaour: A Fragment of a Turkish Tale in 1812:

“The Vampire superstition is still general in the Levant. Honest Tournefort tells a long story about these 'Vroucolachas', as he calls them. The Romaic term is 'Vardoulacha'. I recollect a whole family being terrified by the scream of a child, which they imagined must proceed from such a visitation. The Greeks never mention the word without horror. I find that 'Broucolokas' is an old legitimate Hellenic appellation –– at least is so applied to Arsenius, who, according to the Greeks, was after his death animated by the Devil. The moderns, however, use the word I mention. The stories told in Hungary and Greece of these foul feeders are singular, and some of them most incredibly attested.”

Lord Byron

Polidori’s vampire is a man named Lord Ruthven (a name first used by Byron’s ex, Lady Caroline Lamb, for a thinly disguised Byron character in her 1816 Gothic novel Glenarvon).  As Frankenstein was inspired by Mary Wollstoncraft’s vision of her Shelley, so the character of Lord Ruthven was 
again inspired by Byron in Polidori’s tale.

Fact and fiction sometimes share the same bed, do they not??

But what of Clarimonde?  The vampire Clarimonde was born of the mind and heart of Theophile Gautier –– a poet, painter and novelist.  He spoke of the “sovereignty of the beautiful” in his work and perfected a poetic technique for recording his impressions of works of art, seamlessly joining two of his passions.  He loved weaving realism and fantasy together in his stories and believed in the existence of the unexplainable and mysterious.  This belief system is fully displayed in Clarimonde where the visual and sensual are worked masterfully.

In his story, Aria Marcella he declared, “No one is truly dead until they are no longer loved.”  A perfect sentiment for the immortal vampire (or for their lovers)! Can that not be said for the immortal characters of literature that are re-animated in every new reader’s imagination?

 Gautier’s use of the female vampire as his heroine was inspired by Goethe’s 1797 female vampire story, The Bride of Corinth.  The poem predates both Byron and Polidori (it is not known if they had read Goethe’s poem).

I think the fascination with demon women is in our genes since tales of demonic women date back to the dawn of history.  They were often serpent hybrids, out to suck or squeeze the life out of their mostly male conquests (although children were also mentioned as favorite victims of the creatures).  They were always beautiful and desirable –– with a terrifying aspect (the serpent side of them was often not immediately perceptible –– only hinted at –– like something you see out of the corner of your eye but can’t quite believe). 

Goethe’s veiled bride was no serpent… she was a dead thing that killed her bridegroom by feeding upon him too deeply.  It was said of Goethe’s poem “An awful and undeniable horror breathes throughout it.  In the slow measured rhythm of the verse, and the pathetic simplicity of the diction, there is a solemnity and a stirring spell which chains the feelings like a deep mysterious strain of music.”  No wonder it inspired Gautier!

Topsell History of 4-Footed Beasts, 1607

Although 17th c Edward Topsell paints a nightmarish, “Island of Dr Moreau” portrait of the Lamia or Lilith (ancient vampire cousins), other later interpretations are ravishing beauties.

Lamia, Herbert James Draper 1909

Lilith, John Collier, 1892

I think Gautier was a little in love with his own creation, channeling Keats and Coleridge’s demon women with his words.  What makes his story different is that his vampire is a loving creature, not a monster.  There are no horrors to be found in her declaration to Romuald:

“I loved thee long ere I saw thee, dear Romuald, and sought thee everywhere.  Thou wast my dream…”

You can feel that spirit as lover/priest Romuald draws a portrait of Clarimonde:

“She was rather tall, with a form and bearing of a goddess.  Her hair, of a soft blond hue, was parted over her temples in 2 rivers of rippling gold; she seemed a diademed queen.  Her forehead, bluish-white in its transparency, extended its calm breadth above the arches of her eyebrows, which by a strange singularity were almost black and admirably relieved the effect of see-green eyes of unsustainable vivacity and brilliancy. What eyes!  With a single flash they could have decided a man’s destiny.
… she elevated her head with the undulating grace of a startled serpent or peacock”

Listen to Keats in his poem  Lamia (1819) as he describes his succubus:

 She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr’d;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv’d, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries—
So rainbow-sided, touch’d with miseries,
She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon’s mistress, or the demon’s self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne’s tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!

… or Coleridge in Cristabel (1797)  writing of his succubus, Geraldine:

There she sees a damsel bright,
Dressed in a silken robe of white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone :
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck, and arms were bare;
Her blue-veined feet unsandal'd were;
And wildly glittered here and there
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess, 'twas frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she--
Beautiful exceedingly!

As a woman, I have always found it interesting that a man’s excuse for being utterly obsessed by a woman is that she is a demon possessing him, not that his obsession comes from his own mind!  Perish the thought!

The Shepherd’s Dream Henry Fusili, 1793

In our hero’s case, Romuald is a young priest whose piety is forever poisoned by his vampire Clarimonde.

“Yes I have loved as none in the world ever loved–– with an insensate and furious passion-so violent that I am astonished it did not cause my heart to burst asunder.  Ah what nights ­– what nights!”

It would be hard to go back to a lonely life of chastity and poverty in the priesthood after such a pronouncement.

Clarimonde is beautiful and desirable beyond imagining and young Romuald is lost from the moment she gazes upon him –– but did she?

Vampire, Edvard Munch,  1893-4

 The great thing about the tale is that we are never sure whether this ever happened or if it is all in his imagination.  Is she in fact a succubus that he has invented –– or a real incarnation of temptation? 

Could it be his blood/imagination is the animator of this vampire who only exists in his mind as his eternal torturer?

“The error or a single moment is enough to make one lose eternity. Lose eternity 
the end”

For poor Romuald, this apparition has remained with him as real as memory can be. For the readers of the tale... it is for us to choose what to believe... or not.

Countess de Castiglione photo by Pierre-Louise Pierson, 1860's

Now that we have learned a little about vampires in literature, what dark obsessions can be called up with a scent?

How can you not be inspired to attach perfume and scent to the story as a way of fixing it in our Clarimonde group’s shared experience. Our memory of scent is perhaps our strongest fixative, isn’t it?

Who does not remember a lover with a fragrance… a perfume, a smell of wood fires that brings us back like a wormhole to moments in our history.

When I write about history, the question that always comes to my mind is, how did they eat?  If I can’t find specifics, I imagine what it would be and create it to make the history come alive for me.

I imagine doing the same thing with perfumes.  As artists in this field often do… an inspiration creates a scent or a person requests a special elixir and the perfumer tries to make something that is their perception of the person –– their scented incarnation or manifestation.

In this case it is a fiction, a mood, a melody.  The mention of perfume in Clarimonde is brief yet potent:

“In lieu of the fetid and cadaverous odours which I had been accustomed to breathe during such funereal vigils, a languorous vapour of Oriental perfume––I know not what amorous odour of woman––softly floated through the tepid air….

The air of the alcove intoxicated me, that febrile perfume of half-faded roses penetrated my very brain, and I commenced to pace restlessly up and down the chamber, pausing at each turn before the bier to contemplate the graceful corpse lying beneath the transparency of its shroud.”

For this, I decided food would not be appropriate, since she “… swallowed the blood in little mouthfuls, slowly and carefully like a connoisseur”.  I wanted something darkly perfumed, warm like blood with an air of the ancient. I chose an old port as my base because it has always reminded me of old leather.  Next rose–– to honor the half-faded roses Gautier describes.  For Orient perfumes I used musk, ambergris, oud wood.  I finished the brew with nutmeg and chocolate for their affinity to the port. 

The result?  It is dark and mysterious.  The fragrance lingers in your mouth long after the glass has been emptied.  Like a great vampire story –– or the memory of a great love.

 Liqueur de Clarimonde

1 cup of vintage port
2 t honey (depending on your taste, the port and the chocolate you may want more
2 drops Aftelier Rose essence or 2 t rosewater
pinch of nutmeg
2 T chocolate, chopped fine

1 pea size piece of ambergris from Ambergris Co. NZ, grated (optional)
1 piece of oud (2 “x ½”) crushed (optional)
4 grains of Siberian Musk in alcohol (optional)

* I got my oud and musk from Siti House of Perfumes

Warm the port and honey and add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir till chocolate is dissolved.  Allow it to sit for a few hours or until the following day.

For a simpler version, leave out the ambergris, oud and musk.  This drink was inspired by a port-flavored chocolate truffle that I had long ago in Paris and loved. I added the rare and exotic hippocras flavors to make the drink feel like Clarimonde… but know the ingredients are not easy to find.  You will love the simpler version too!

Re-heat, strain and serve.

Very Old Transylvanian decanter

PS~  As some of you know, I have been on a sabbatical from my day job in the film business as a production designer.  I am doing a little project for a great director that he has written.  Not much money, great cast and a big dinner scene.  I was wondering if any NYC area bloggers would like to  contribute a beautiful dish to the effort for screen credit?   Email me if this interests any of you.  This would happen somewhere between the 8th and the 19th of November.  Details to follow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kedleston, American Heiresses and Lady Curzon Soup

Mary Leiter, Lady Curzon 1870 – 1906

Lady Mary Curzon, wife of George, Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India wasn't born at the magnificent Kedleston House.  She wasn't even English.  She was born Mary Leiter in Chicago in 1870.  She was 6’ tall, very beautiful, very cultivated, very intelligent and a very wealthy young woman.  She rose effortlessly above her parvenu status (where so many less accomplished heiress-arrivistes had failed) and was warmly welcomed into high society.  Grover Cleveland’s wife, Frances Folsom, was one of her best friends.  From all accounts, she was the real deal… a quality that money can’t buy.

Her father, Levi Zeigler Leiter (1834-1904) was one of the founders of the Marshall Fields retail empire who went on to become a titan in the world of Chicago real estate. 

He brought his family from Chicago to Washington DC in 1881 to broaden their cultural horizons as he spent more time away from business, enjoying travel and philanthropy, helming The Chicago Historical Society and Chicago Art Institute boards. His children received tutoring in the fine arts and had a Columbia professor to teach history and science at their Washington D.C. home.  This surely influenced Mary’s life, making her more sophisticated and worldly than she may have been had she remained in Chicago.

Well-known Philadelphia architect Theophilus Chandler built Leiter’s mansion on DuPont Circle.  It was considered one of the finest houses in Washington DC when it was built with 3 stories and 55 rooms.  His wife, the former Mary Theresa Carver, was one of the leading hostesses of the capitol and Mary debuted there in 1888. Sadly, the house was torn down in 1947 –– the Dupont Plaza Hotel stands in its place.

Leiter House
Leiter House
Leiter House

In 1894, after much success in cosmopolitan society, she went to London where the American Ambassador introduced her to George Nathaniel Curzon, heir to the Barony of Scarsdale.

It was love at first sight.

George Nathaniel Curzon was a brilliant, driven man (he felt his character was formed by a diabolical, sadistic governess).  It was said you either loved him or hated him.  Because of a riding accident, he had to wear a back brace most of his life that made him appear stiff and haughty.  A rather unpleasant rhyme about him was created at Balliol and stayed with him most of his life:
My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,

I am a most superior person.

My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,

I dine at Blenheim twice a week.
He worked hard at Oxford, traveled extensively (even though his father felt it was a waste of time to travel to foreign countries and that people of their class should stay put).  As a result of his travels and languages, he was a force for good in foreign affairs and advanced quickly as he implemented forward-thinking policies.

Mary Leiter was more attracted to his talent and drive than his title (his ancient family tracked back to the Norman conquest but was not fabulously wealthy at this point) and they were married in 1895 in Washington, D.C. a year after meeting.  They had 3 daughters and were said to be incredibly devoted to one another.  George was devastated when she died in 1906, only 36 years old from complications from a miscarriage.  Later in life he said he had no fear of death for he would be able to join his beloved Mary (a fact that must have ticked off his 2nd wife).
Lady Mary in the Durbar Dress, 1903

Renowned architect, Sir Robert Adam (1728-92) built Kedleston House (at enormous expense) in 1765 for Sir Nathaniel Curzon, the first Lord Scarsdale (he tore down the ancient family house and a village to make it).   It was never meant as a family house and was rather meant to be a house to entertain in, a “temple of the arts”, hence the gorgeous giant rooms. As a result, the family apartments aren’t especially grand (Curzon ran out of money so a planned enlargement never happened).  As is often the case, lack of funds kept the gorgeous Adam house intact and undamaged by unworthy renovations.
The oval music room, The Saloon, has the most remarkable acoustics thanks to the round ceiling and the great hall has been used for filming on many occasions, most recently filming on the Duchess with Keira Knightly.  It is a very grand house for its size.
The Saloon

The Marble Hall


The Drawing Room with the startling blue silk wall covering and fabulous carpet

State Bedchamber

The Curzon’s lives underwent a seismic shift when Lord Curzon was appointed Viceroy of India.   In a 1904 NYT article, Lady Curzon was called “the American Queen of India”. It was thought that the position of Viceroy was second only to King Edward himself. 

Curzon felt it was important for appearances that the Viceroy lead an opulent life full of great splendor as was the custom in India at that time and Curzon did not disappoint –– he lived nearly as lavishly as the ruling 200-odd Maharajahs in the country who ran its princely states  (yes, there were complaints about his extravagance back home in England).

Mary Curzon in the Peacock Dress Portrait in the entrance of Kedleston

This desire to impress led to the creation of the incredible Peacock Dress that was made for Lady Curzon of precious jewels and golden thread by the House of Worth, Paris. Word was, when she appeared in the dress at the Delhi Durbar to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII, the crowd was breathless… the dress was designed to sparkle in the newly deployed electric lights at the party. Even today it is remarkable to behold in a glass case at the house.

 She was said to be one of the best-dressed women in the world and was a great supporter of the Indian fabric industry and its craft’s men and women.  She encouraged the renaissance of ancient embroidering traditions that were on the wane when she arrived in the country.  The fabric for Queen Alexandra’s coronation gown was made and embroidered by the same factory that had done the Peacock Dress at the urgings of Lady Curzon. 

But there was more –– she learned Urdu and a women’s hospital in Bangalore still bears her name ––– she was one of the first people to urge conservation of the dwindling rhinoceros population.  She was a remarkable woman.

Back in England, Mary campaigned for her husband, standing radiantly by his side during speeches and was immediately popular.

She was a magnetic hostess wherever she lived and it is for this we remember her creation that came to be named Lady Curzon Soup in her honor.

Dining Room

Wine Cooler the size of a bath for the dining room… for a lot of wine!!

Lady Curzon Soup was the result of a happy accident.  The story goes that in 1905 Lady Curzon was entertaining an important guest who did not drink.  All the rest of her guests for the evening enjoyed their alcohol.  With remarkable diplomatic skill, she reached a happy compromise and had the chef liberally douse creamed turtle soup with sherry.  The story and the bones of the recipe came from Soup Song.
The result is superb and quite easy to make. When I had it in my youth I thought it was the height of fine old-world dining elegance and terribly sophisticated.  Since I haven't had turtle soup for 1000 years  (I am very much against eating turtle… had a pet named Myrtle), I tried to come up with an alternative that had a hint of amphibian about it.
Today, it has become common to make Lady Curzon Soup with mussels and I think that is a delicious way to go.  It is also possible to buy cans of turtle soup should you want to do it that way. I went another way.  Since I am familiar with the taste of frog and even alligator, I decided that a mix of chicken and fish would approximate the flavor.  SO I used chicken stock with a splash of fish stock and blowfish tails (that the fishmonger at the Lobster Place, NYC recommended) as the garnish with great success.  I can say frog’s leg meat would work well or simply use sole or monkfish –– even crab or lobster would be delicious. Honestly, I seem to recall the turtle in the soup had the texture of clams… but I could be wrong… it was a very long time ago. Anyway you make it, it is rich and delicious and elegant.  It does honors to a remarkable woman.

Lady Curzon Soup serves 4-6
 2 egg yolks
1/3 c heavy cream
1 t (or more or less to taste) curry powder
4 c chicken stock (you could substitute 1 cup of chicken with 1 cup of fish stock)
1/3 pound blowfish tails  (or meat from 2 frog’s legs, or 1/3 pound sole or monkfish, or 16 mussels) gently sautéed in a t of butter and kept warm
1/4 cup sherry

Garnish: 6 Tablespoons whipped heavy cream, sprinkling of curry powder
In a bowl, whip together the egg yolks, cream, and curry powder. In a large saucepan, heat the soup, then gradually beat a cup of it into the egg yolk mixture, making a liaison. Remove the soup from the heat and finish the liaison by stirring in the egg mixture. Add the sherry, then reheat at a very low temperature until light and creamy ––do not boil.
To serve, pour into bowls or cups, add the fish and top with thewhipped cream on each one. Run the bowls under a hot broiler for just a few seconds if you have oven-proof bowls or cups or hit it with a blowtorch if you would like to glaze the cream, then serve immediately.