Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Time of Reflection

Frank and Edith Mainella

As it approaches the end of the year, I think it is a time when most of us look back on the things in our past, the people who are no longer with us, the good times we've had, the not so good times, all the things that make us who we are.

This is the time of the year for me that always reminds me of my Aunt Edith, and the New Years Eve Celebrations we always had together in Bayville, New York. When I was very young, I used to watch her making the eggnog for our family celebrations with awe. It was a canned eggnog, but she would doctor it up and it would taste delicious. As I got older, it was my job to help her with the eggnog. I was the only girl among the 6 grandchildren, and my aunt's substitute daughter. I followed her around like a puppy, and she spoiled me to death.

She was married to my mother's brother Frank, who was a surgeon, and I adored both of them. I spent every day of every summer with them on Valley Road, in Bayville on the north shore of Long Island...those were the days.

People actually liked each other, and everyone on Valley Road's doors were open to everyone else. It didn't matter whose house you were in, it was your house. There were some incredible families on that block, the Mainellas, Pacificos, Lopezs, Vulpices, Fratiannis, Anconas, Farnells,
to name a few.

On New Years Eve, we would head to the beach to watch the fireworks and then make the rounds of all the houses on the block and sample the food and the traditions. Some houses
celebrated with Black Eyed Peas, in some you had to have a bit of herring, and in our house, you had to have the egg nog on the eve, and Aunt Edith's homemade pea soup on the day.

As I got older, I found this recipe and doctored it up, Of course, somewhere in my history, I must be related to Paula Deen, as I am a "butter and cream have to make it better girl." I decided to add in the ice cream to the egg nog as well. The recipe below will make a ton of eggnog but you can easily divide it in half. Aunt Edith then decided this was the only eggnog to have, as we created it together.

It is made with raw eggs, and in all the years I have made it, no one has ever gotten sick. I always use fresh eggs bought the day before and from reputible sources. If you are afraid of using fresh eggs, don't make this recipe.

I love you all dearly, but please don't hold me responsible, if you get rotten eggs. As always when working with raw eggs in a recipe, use caution, and saying a little prayer never hurt anyone, except for Madeline Murray O'Hare, and look what happen to her!

This is the most delicious eggnog, so thick, you will have to eat it with a spoon. You can add rum, cognac, or brandy, to it if you'd like. There were always little kids around, so we didn't, but you can, and it's delicious. My son Steven won't let a year go past without making this eggnog and so I know the tradition will continue for another generation as well.

So here is my toast to my beloved Aunt Edith for the New Year - you taught me well, I have been carrying on your traditions for you...I will make your eggnog, and your pea soup, and hope I can be half the woman you were.

To all of those who were on Valley Road, although many of you are now gone, you live on in the hearts of those of us who shared in your love, generosity and kindness. Our children will never be fortunate enough to know a world like that, to have what you gave to all of us...thank you!

To the rest of you, reflect on those special people who touched your life, if they are still around, give them a call, write them a note, let them know that they mattered to you - it will mean so much to them.

Enjoy a Happy, Healthy, New Year...now get out there and go shopping for those nice fresh eggs and make up a batch of Aunt Edith's Eggnog.

Elise Feiner and Edith Mainella

12 eggs separated
1½ cups sugar
1½ quarts heavy cream
1 quart milk
Candy canes
2 pints heavy cream whipped with ¼ cup sugar and 3 teaspoons vanilla
1 (half gallon) container of eggnog or French vanilla ice cream, softened
1 bottle each of red and green maraschino cherries, drained
Freshly ground nutmeg
1 pint whiskey or cognac (optional)

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, gradually add the 1½ cups of sugar until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored, fold into the egg whites. Gradually add the 1½ quarts of heavy cream, milk, and whiskey and rum if desired. Stir until well mixed. Whip the remaining heavy cream with the ¼ cup sugar and vanilla until it becomes a thick whipped cream, being careful not to over beat (or you'll have butter.). Add to the eggnog mix by large spoonfuls. Soften the ice cream slightly and add by large spoonfuls to the eggnog mix. Add the red and green cherries. Grate fresh nutmeg on the top. Decorate the punch bowl with candy canes, and place one in each cup to serve. This is so thick you probably need to use a spoon to eat it. It probably has 1000 calories a cup, not for the squeamish! Buy the eggs the day before so they will be super fresh. Some people are skeptical about raw eggs but I have made this for years with no problem. Serves 18 to 24.

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