5/9/11

T R I F L E
TR I F L E
T R I F L E
T R I F L E
T R I F L E
Who doesn’t like a trifle bit of dessert? How about an English Trifle? It’s the undisputed Queen of desserts. Accept no substitutes. But, if you’re going to make a trifle there are some things we have to discuss.
 
The story goes that the Queen wanted a Trifle for her dinner guests on one occasion. The pastry chef was a notoriously literal fellow; he asked, "Your majesty, how much should we make?" The Queen replied tersely, "A bucketful."
 
 

 
In the springtime in early May we have a riot of violets in our gardens. We have a major planting at every one of the estates and even have them in window boxes in the city pied-à-terre in NYC, London, Paris (but, of course), and Cuernavaca. The ones at the place on Lake Como are the very best of all; perhaps those blossoming at the compound on Mount Desert Island in Maine are a close second. We have an ongoing, but friendly, competition with Martha (Stewart), who owns a small place down the road from us on the island. We like to stick it to her with our prize violets. All our staffs know how much we like them and they make sure that there are as many bouquets as can be gathered in the rooms always waiting for us upon arrival. They do so much want to please. We are truly blessed with such good help. God bless the little people.

Even so, there are always a lot of the lovely violet flowers left over, and so we make candied violets religiously every spring. If you are in the neighborhood do stop by and lend a hand. If Trifle is the Queen of desserts, candied violets surely must be the Queen of garnishes. We’re old fashioned so it’s just egg whites and sugar. Vegetarians can use edible gum Arabic as the binder instead of egg whites. (Check for yourself on the issue of safety using raw egg whites; we understand that it is raw yolks that can give the problems.)



Speaking of Queens. We once had neighbors who where British. Pamela and Percy. He sold Egg Harbor Yachts and she lived the life of a princess/queen at home. Pamela was a lady but she also let you know that she still had it going on. You could catch a teasing glimpse of her in the large front window in her filmy light violet colored peignoir set as she moved about the house. It was a billowy floor length gown and matching barely-there coat, all gauze and satin and ribbons and bows. There she was, in full makeup, with her Elizabeth Taylor black tresses coiffed just so. Jewelry? Lots! Perfume. Triple carnation from London's venerable Les Senteurs. (Let's just say that there are always more than a few bees buzzing around Pamela's door.) It's probably an English thing. You know how the ladies there dress. Just think of those things they call "fascinators" (dressy hats) and you'll get a sense of the aesthetic. In that get up she was as close to the textbook definition of “naughty but nice” as there is. Clearly a mixed message, for sure.


Mind you, you couldn’t really ever see anything with all those layers, except maybe a hint of form as she bustled about. But they were bed clothes, and you know what can happen in a bed. If you are having trouble conjuring up the image of Pamela in her frillies and ribbons and bows, Nigella Lawson is a pretty good look alike. Woof! Or, as Cooky Cat would say, “Me-OW!”


Pamela wasn't someone to trifle with, though. She was a Lady. Veddy proper, to be sure. At daily Teathe cucumber sandwiches, never with the crust (heaven forbid). One Christmas season Pamela and Percy brought us along to a soiree with their crowd. We didn’t socialize with them except for that once, and maybe the time we went out for a cruise on Percy’s boat with too many cocktails en route. Someone up there was looking out. The folks at the party were a strange bunch, very louche and best described as poseurs for idle rich. With maybe a sprinkling of euro trash. Can anyone tell us what the hell is a vodka and water? The de rigueur drink that evening. Our best take is that it is the sort of tipple that you have after too many years of too much of everything else.

Perhaps the most memorable person at the party was Princess FU FU. It wasn’t immediately clear what that Asian woman of a certain age was the princess of. But after a while even the vodka and waters took effect, and there was the Princess showing off her spécialité. Decorum does not permit the full graphic description; leave it to say that the Lady had a certain nether anatomical prowess for ejecting ping pong balls fast and far into the crowd. The sound as each ball was launched into the air was what you would hear when you repeat “FU!” FU!” FU!” with a forceful exhalation with each syllable. (Watch out, duck! “FU!” FU!” FU!”) Someone could get their eye poked out! But it was all an eyeful to be sure. Naughty, but nice. [Try it yourself, you'll get the picture. Not with a ping pong ball(s), silly; just to say it. Though, not that there's anything wrong with it if you did go for the whole nine yards.]

What’s all that have to do with English Trifle?

Well, Pamela was a subject of the Queen, remember? Turned out that our sexy Pamela could russle up a superb English Trifle. That night for the party she brought one and it was the centerpiece of the banquet table at that louche luau that night. It was my first and best ever still. Just what other sensual treats Pamela offered were, alas, not ever to be revealed.

The Princess was renowned for her sinful little trick and the English Trifle itself is sinfully delicious. It’s a trick to make also. An erotic mélange à trois+++... all fresh and creamy and custardy, with hands full of sensually soft cake and berries and fruits, and liberally lubricated with sherry and cordials. Are you feeling it? Yes? Ah... yes! Me-OW!

Lastly, the candied violets. Everyone around in our crowd knows that an English Trifle without a generous sprinkling of crystallized violets on top isn’t even edible as far as we’re concerned. No discussion on that, please. Do not trifle with us on that point.

So now it is all starting to come together, huh? Just a few more things. As good as English Trifle is to eat, without the proper presentation it is not worth looking at. We’ll even consider going without the garnish of violets over not having it offered in proper fashion.

Here's the secret to English Trifle. It's indispensable, the sine qua non. You will be absolutely needing a proper English glass trifle bowl. Hurry, Waterford has a lovely example on sale for just $950, marked off from $1,200. You say that is a trifle steep? The other one they have is $2,250 on sale from $4,500. Don’t let the term “trifle” fool you. We did point out that it is the Queen of desserts, didn’t we?


And one last thing. The custard. There’s only one choice for a veddy, veddy British English Trifle (accept no substitutes):


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