For the first three-plus decades of my life I spent Christmas day at my grandparents. One of the things I most looked forward to was my grandfather and his brother, Bill, retreating to the kitchen to make Tom & Jerry’s. They’d separate the eggs and each take a bowl and whip it using a hand-beater. One of them would heat the water and the other would measure out the booze of the drinker’s choice: bourbon, brandy or run. Then they’d served them in decorative Tom & Jerry cups that were stored in the far reach of the kitchen cabinet for the rest of the year. It never occurred to me as teenager, when I first began to drink one every year, or later when I was an adult to ask the origins of this drink that I loved so dearly. As it turns out, Tom & Jerry’s are a common Christmas tradition in the mid-west and are renowned for warming you up. Given that my grandfather grew up in North Dakota this made perfect sense. Although most recipes call for milk, my grandfather made his with hot water—no doubt this had something to do with the 13 children in his family, making ends hard to meet so milk was most likely a luxury that couldn’t be afforded. As an adult I began to collect Tom & Jerry sets. I was surprised there was a bowl included, which my grandparents didn’t have. It must have broken at one point and was never replaced. I’m not sure who has that set now, but I’ve amassed a few of my own and can’t wait to pull them out this year.

Yields 4 to 6

2 large eggs
Cream of tartar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Booze: rum, bourbon or brandy
Hot water

Separate the eggs and put the whites in one medium bowl and the yolks in a medium bowl. (If you have a T&J set, put the whites in the bowl of the set.)

Beat the yolks with the powdered sugar until light and creamy. Add the nutmeg and stir until combined completely. This is best done with a hand beater or whisk.

Add a pinch of the cream of tartar to the whites and beat until soft peaks form. Do not over beat or the eggs will separate when stirred into the hot water.

Fill 4 to 6 small cups with 1 to 2 ounces of your booze of choice. Add 1/2 cup hot water (just below boiling temperature) and top with a heaping spoonful of the egg mixture. Add a spoon to the cup so the egg mixture can be gently stirred into the hot water and booze.

Mad Men is crack for vintage lovers. It’s like watching a movie filmed in your hometown. Scene after scene presents glimpses of items you own, owned or remember from your childhood. It’s also rife with food and drinks that make me nostalgic for Sunday nights at my grandparents.

The Pyrex bowls Francie brought over to Betty for Gene’s birthday party, the highball glasses used in the office and the wall hangings in Pete’s apartment are just a few of the details  that spark a feeling of familiarity and inspire me to mimic the show.

Last season we missed a few episodes and decided to devote an entire night to catching  up. To fully enjoy the mood, I pulled out a pink peignoir set, a la Betty, took our son to my sister’s house, invited our friend Gwen over and created a canapé party that would have pleased Matthew Weiner.

I referenced lots of recipes from 60’s-era cookbooks in my collection. What I found was an abundance of recipes with mayo, green onions and cheese. With those ingredients as my marching orders, I resurrected a recipe my high school boyfriend’s mom once made for me. No doubt she learned it from her mother in the 60’s. Try it this Sunday when you sit down for episode 9.

Cheddar Cheese-Onion Toasts
Serves 4
6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 large or 4 small green onions, sliced thin (white and green parts)
Pinch chili powder
24 slices cocktail rye bread

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a nonstick baking sheet.

Stir together the cheese, mayonnaise, green onions and chili powder in a medium bowl.

Arrange the bread slices on the baking sheet. Top each with about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve warm.

What to drink: A gimlet!

What to smoke: Lucky Strikes!

Everyone has a dream—or two! For me, one has been to have a little shop devoted entirely to dishes. I could picture exactly how the store would look with shelves on the walls lined with dishes and other delectable pieces of kitchenware. In the center of the room would be a big, well-used farm table with a fabulous display of vintage kitchen goods.

Today, I got a little bit closer to making my dream a reality. I set up a shop on Etsy to sell vintage kitchenware. I only have a few items listed, but already one was included in a really creative collective vignette.

I still have a lot to do: photograph the remaining items I have, upload everything to Etsy, add an Etsy widget to this blog and link it all to Facebook and Twitter to hopefully drive traffic there. Makes me tired just thinking about it all, but the little I have accomplished also feels like anything is possible.

Mostly, the items I have now are vintage kitchenware I’ve been collecting for a while. Of course, over the years I’d think my dream was a little too lofty and I’d get rid or a piece or two and am now kicking myself for it!

I started collecting plates in Japan as keepsakes of a particular place I visited and for their aesthetic value. Later, when I began gathering vintage kitchenware inspired by my friend Casey, who was a whiz at turning flea market finds into masterpieces, it made me feel like I was a curator for a small piece of Americana.

I’m excited about this venture. I love the thrill of finding a great piece and can’t wait for that first sale when someone as passionate about vintage kitchenware as me makes a purchase.

If at the end of the day, Napa Valley Dish doesn’t succeed at least I will have had an excuse for indulging in my desire to collect. And if it does succeed, Yippeee!


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