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Observer, Dec. 27

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Just because Christmas is behind us doesn't mean we can't drink eggnog, at least for a few more days.

When The Observer says “we,” we don't mean “we.” The Observer cannot drink eggnog. It makes The Observer act up and The Observer is trying our best to maintain some kind of dignity to better serve you here.

But for all those who can pull off a cup of eggnog, here's some news: The winner of the Third Ever Nog-off at the Historic Arkansas Museum was Robynn Mendez, for her grandmother's recipe “Creamy Liquid Custard.”

Usually, HAM head Bill Worthen tries to steal the prize (not that there is a prize that we know of) with his venerable ancestors' boozy delights. But he restrained himself and let the 2nd Friday Art Night crowd — nearly 200 tasters! — choose the winner.

Here is, as one nogger opined, the “smooth, silky and sweet” recipe of Louise Hummel, Mendez' grandmother:

Creamy Liquid Custard

8 teaspoons arrowroot (or ½ cup flour)

8 egg yolks, beaten

Vanilla to taste

1½ cups sugar

6 cups whole milk

2 cups cream

Bailey's Irish Cream liquor (or alcohol of choice)

Sift dry ingredients together and add the egg yolks. Put milk and cream in a double boiler. Wait until the milk is heated and add the egg mixture. Stir until thick and strain into another bowl. Strain again into a container and add vanilla and alcohol (if desired*). Refrigerate and serve chilled.

* Observer's note: Does anyone drink virgin eggnog? Why preserve for one holiday a drink that won't bring you to your knees?

For the past six years, The Observer has taught a couple of Saturday classes out at the college. “Enrichment opportunities” the English department calls them; populated by eager, middle-aged back-to-schoolers and twenty-something kids, most of whom can barely keep their eyes open at 9 a.m. on that day the Lord hath made for hangovers, cartoons and sleeping in.

This week, The Observer put his classes to bed for yet another semester.

The end of the semester is always tinged with a little sadness for us. No matter how many goof-offs in a class, most of the folks that show up are really and truly there because they want to know more than they did when they came in the door. It's those folks who make it worth doing — them, and the fact that by the end of the semester, you've inevitably formed a kind of family; the know-it-all little brother, the old sage, the contrarian, the quiet type who you suspect is actually the smartest person in the room, and others. That family is always a little different, and it's always fun watching them gel over the course of months; hence the sadness when it's time to show them the door. Though you'd be unable to get most of them to admit it, the short winter break can be the loneliest time in any teacher's life, save the long summer.

Sigh. Hurry up, January.

Seen on Maple Street in Little Rock: a yellow sign put up by a housing speculator — one of those that looks handwritten but was most likely run off in the thousands. “I'll buy your house for cash!” the sign says. Below that, in smaller black script, is written “… and then I'll bulldoze it and build an ugly McMansion!”

The Observer says: Whoever you are, sign vandal, can we have your baby? We've always been suckers for a realist.

Then there are the purely sweet signs. Like “STUFF YOUR EYES WITH WONDER,” a handwritten sign at a Cantrell Road stoplight.

Stuffed eyeballs are a little edgy, but the sentiment — which we guess equates to take off the green eyeshades — is sugary.

Mike Huckabee, responding to a Dec. 11, 2007, question about global warming, posed by the CBS Evening News: “(W)e ought to declare that we will be free of energy consumption in this country within a decade, bold as that is.” Yep, that's pretty bold. Stupid, but bold.

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