The Wrath of Mom (well, this mom anyway)

I normally go throughout my day with an optimistic attitude and a sunny disposition.

While you probably couldn’t hold a magnifying glass up to me to start a fire, I’m plenty sunny enough to give a pale redheaded kid a respectable sunburn.

But, Gentle Reader, as the thermometer and humidity begin to rise in tandem, my attitude and patience sink in inverse proportions.  I have all the generosity of Martin Shkreli and the good will of trash can dweller Oscar the Grouch.For everyone’s protection, I really shouldn’t spend extended time around anyone.  I was going to say humans, but this time of year, even squirrels and other innocent woodland creatures kinda get on my nerves.

Because the culinary arena is my jam, it seems that annoying food topics pinch the hardest.  When provoked, I have been known to yell at the TV and stomp from the room like a spoiled child thwarted for the very first time.So, what I need is a new rule: from late April to mid-October, television talking heads need to get their facts straight, or fear my wrath.  And when I say wrath, I’m not messing around.  It can include anything from a vigorous fist shaking, up to and including changing the channel or leaving the room.

There are two categories that really set me off—tea and family.  Just wait, I promise I’m going somewhere with this.People that try to seem particularly fancy and drink their tea with pinky extended.  Yeah, don’t do that.  The only people who do this are either ignorant or ill-bred poseurs.

But the biggy, the one that has literally has me yelling, stomping, and wishing for the offending skull to thump, is the criminal misuse of the phrase ‘high tea’.  If, Gentle Reader, you remember only one thing I’ve ever talked about, please, I beg you, let it be this.High tea is not extra fancy and enjoyed only by toffs (aristocrats and landed gentry).  It is an evening meal eaten by working-class blokes.  It usually consists of meat and a few side dishes.  It’s eaten around 6PM or so because they go to bed much sooner and rise earlier than the wealthier classes.  The fancy swells actually indulged in “low tea”.It’s denoted high or low tea all because of a piece of furniture.  The heavier meal-type tea is “high” because it’s eaten at a dining, or high table.  The repast termed low is eaten in arm chairs, with the tea and lighter foods laid out on a lower table; what we Americans call a coffee table.

The second frustration is something everyone has been guilty of, myself included.  And that fact is what drives me up the wall.

It’s when someone says, “Food is very important in my family, or culture, or geographical area”.What a shock.  Gosh, nobody else in the history of humanity has ever eaten, or considered food important—just you guys.  Y’all must be brilliant.

Here’s a news flash, Scooter.  The fact that we are still here, walking the earth means that everybody that came before, all of them, discovered that food and the eating of it is important.  The food thing isn’t a secret.So, knock it off.

This time of year, I acknowledge and accept that I get unreasonably cranky.  My tolerance for others begins and ends with my dog—and sometimes even he gets on my nerves.  So, until we get that nip in the air that means fall is just around the corner, I try to limit my exposure.

To everyone.Thanks for your time.

Tastes like chicken

I’ve always felt that there are two kinds of people who frequent tea parties (not counting little kids and their guests drinking imaginary tea out of thimbles).
First, genteel ladies and gentlemen who like to get dressed up, and be around other fancy types. I don’t know a whole lot of those people; I mainly hobnob with the sweat suit set.
Next are folks who are just nuts about tea; the history and lore, the various types and flavors. My tea appreciation begins and ends with giant Luzianne bags for pitchers of sun tea. Somehow, I produced The Kid, who is a genuine, over-the-moon tea fanatic. In my child’s pantry are two full shelves dedicated to all things tea.
Last week I discovered a third variety of tea party enthusiast, and also discovered I am one of them.
It’s that enlightened subset who shows up at tea parties for the grub.
I was invited to the Washington Duke Inn (3001 Cameron Blvd.) for tea. Constance Lue, the founder of the Old North State Tea Society, was our guide through the history and etiquette of the phenomena that is afternoon tea.
Here are a few tea facts I’ll bet you didn’t know:
Tea was responsible for much of the suffragette movement. Tea houses were the first respectable venues where a woman could go unaccompanied. High tea, contrary to popular belief, is not an extra-fancy tea, but is a working man’s tea, with a full supper. And my favorite tidbit; one of the welcome benefits of an at-home ladies-only tea, was the opportunity to remove one’s corset, and actually take a nice, deep breath for the first time all day.
At the hotel, in addition to an offering of various teas, we were presented with a three-tiered stand upon which was heaped both sweet and savory treats. There were finger sandwiches, tiny quiche and deviled eggs. On the sugar-coated end of the spectrum were brownies, truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries and fruit tarts.
In the middle tier, next to the quiche, was a tart filled with chicken salad. Petey is a chicken salad man, I’m not really a connoisseur. But since I’d recently made a batch with a giant roasted Costco chicken, I was eager to sample their version.

Culture and civility abound at the afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn, in Durham, NC, held daily. And the food's pretty darn good, too.

Culture and civility abound at afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn, in Durham, NC, held daily. And the food’s pretty darn good, too.

Chef Jason Cunningham kindly offered the recipe off the top of his head, which I hurriedly transcribed. So the amounts may be off a bit, but the beauty of chicken salad is its flexible and forgiving nature.

Chef Jason’s WaDuke chicken salad

3 chicken breasts, poached in chicken stock spiked with orange juice, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ small red onion, diced
½ bell pepper, diced
Duke’s mayonnaise, to taste
1/2 cup seedless grapes, sliced in half
1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
Salt & pepper

Toss first 5 ingredients with enough mayo to moisten. Fold in grapes. Season, and taste for seasoning level. Sprinkle top with pecan pieces, so the nut intolerant can remove if needed.

I thought for fun, I’d give you my newest chicken salad recipe, to compare.
My original salad had toasted pecans. But I decided since the WaDuke salad has pecans, I’d switch to pistachios, as a nod to them. The Fairview at the Washington Duke consistently does amazing things with pistachios.

Debbie’s WaDuke-kissed chicken salad

3/4 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons garlic oil (slowly poach 2 cloves garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden, then strain )
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together.


2 1/2 cups shredded chicken from supermarket roast
1 ½ tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 ripe Bartlett pear, peeled, cleaned, cut into ¼ inch cubes, and tossed with 1 ½ teaspoons vinegar
½ cup chopped pistachios

Mix together with desired amount of dressing. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

You can have chicken salad on dainty, crust-less bread with a cup of tea.
Or, you can eschew the gloves and hat, throw on a sweat suit, load up some Wonder bread, and serve with Funyuns and a bottle of Yoo-hoo.
But regardless of which style you choose, don’t stick out your pinky. That’s actually rather tacky.
Thanks for your time.