Back in the 7os and 80s, we watched a lot of historical mini series. My favorites were Roots; Shogun; I, Claudius; Leonardo Da Vinci; and Edward and Mrs. Simpson. It was so easy to get lost in another world gone by for an hour every week, to cry and rejoice, to root for the good guys and curse the villains, all along learning the ways of the past, having the scenes etched forever in the memory.
The story of England’s King who abdicated the throne to be with the woman he loved was one of the most romantic I have ever encountered. I was always the sucker for romance and my world was intentionally full of melodramatic love sagas. For me, he was a noble outlaw defying strict and illogical rules, fighting for the rights that should be inalienable for anyone. That he and his beloved Wallis suffered exile until the end of their lives seemed to a fourteen-year-old me like a small price to pay for true love.
I have never been a British Royalty groupie, but I could not avoid the news blasting at me from every corner, as the media loves to bring the haughty aristocracy closer to the masses. I followed Queen Elizabeth’s voyages through the world, waved a high five when she knighted Elton John, smiled sweetly when homely Charles married comely Diana, and cried for her children on the day the Princess died. I tried to avoid the yellow print, but unavoidably had to cast an occasional glance at the front page of People as I waited in line at the grocery store. So, I was aware when Charles started openly dating Camilla. And as everyone was appalled, I thought they were physically much better suited as a couple.
I am not really interested in the daily escapades or routines of the rich and famous. If a piece of information hits me while I flick through channels during commercial breaks between Jeopardy and Double Jeopardy rounds, I will process it and move on, unperturbed and unchanged.
The world outside my own is atwitter with the news of the latest royal wedding. The bride and groom are young and beautiful (again, the bride outclassing her royal catch), and one day they will pretend to rule one of the most powerful nations in the world. I wish them all the luck in the world, but if I can avoid it, I’ll stay away from any news channels today. But the food world has its special ingenious tricks in its magic hat. I can poo poo the reports of the color of Kate’s dress, but I cannot resist the onslaught of the recipes for scones, crumpets, popovers, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, fish & chips, tarts, and cucumber and watercress sandwiches saturating every nook of my virtual world.
I will avoid my TV set like a leper colony, but in the weeks leading up to the big British bash, my family has experienced a slight change in programming, getting to taste recipes form Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith, and Nigella Lawson. Oh, I try to run around the well at least once, not wanting to admit how easily I can be influenced, and I prepare Jamie’s Morrocan Beef Tagine or Nigella’s Big Pasta with Mushrooms, not landing anywhere near the British Isles in my culinary escapades.
But it is just a ruse. I am still a big sucker for romance, but this time the love comes enveloped in food, smelling like freshly baked bread, and tasting of sun-kissed apricots. I will join in the celebration in my own way, offering a light, easy, beautiful dessert that glistens with macerated strawberries resting atop soft, white, pillowy whipped cream, its smooth texture pleasantly interrupted by crumbled crunchy meringue pieces.
Eton Mess is usually served at Eton College’s annual cricket games and appeared for the first time in the 30s. I thought it was the most appropriate dish to ring in the new couple, as I am convinced that William had attended Eton at some point, rowing, riding, eating crumpets, and waiting on his own Wallis Simpson.
ETON MESS (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe from Nigella Express)
Nigella’s recipe asks for store bought meringue, but I made my own, because it’s so easy, and I always have frozen egg whites in the freezer. The recipe is my grandmother Njanja’s. The rest of the ingredients do not really have to be measured or weighed, as the recipe is pretty flexible.)
- 1 cup cut up strawberries
- 2-3 tsp pomegranate juice (or any other red juice, sour cherry, even cranberry)
- 1-2 tsp sugar (if the strawberries are ripe, itâ€™s not necessary)
- 2 cups (about 500ml) heavy whipping cream
- 2-3 Tbsp sugar
- 4-5 crumbled meringues (recipe follows)
Sprinkle the strawberries with juice and sugar, stir carefully, and let macerate until you whip the heavy cream. When the soft peaks start forming, add sugar. When done, crumble in the meringues, mix lightly with a spatula, and divide into several serving dishes, depending on the desired serving size, alternating layers with macerated strawberries. Finish with strawberries and serve.
For the meringues:
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature
- 250gr (about 1 cup) sugar (can substitute part for brown sugar, for tan color)
- 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
Preheat the oven to 250F*.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, add the sugar and lemon juice or vinegar. Put the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe the rosettes, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the heat off and leave in the oven for another hour.
* my oven is obviously off, as my meringues turned tan at this temperature; if you know that your oven is hotter than normal, adjust the heat
I am proud to display here an award that I received from Wit, Wok & Wisdom on her Let’s Break Bread blog event. Thanks:)