I was in the kitchen adding eggs to the batter in my Mixmaster when the lights began to blink, that tell-tale sign that our lights were about to go off here in Ben Lomond. I turned up the mixer’s speed, trying to outrun PG&E, but finished last in this now, oh so familiar race. If I were to complete the recipe I had been working on, it would be with my hand whisk just as my Aunt Betty did 80-plus years ago.
Undaunted, by candlelight, I labored on without PG&E’s power until my batter for the Tom and Jerry mixture was completed.
I have a small one-burner camp stove that is powered by a can of butane that has served me well here in the lights on-lights off San Lorenzo Valley, and while pouring brandy into my hot Tom and Jerry mixture, heated on that camp stove, I thought back to those days when houses were heated with firewood, families eating dinners together each evening at five o’clock, bedtime for the kids was no later than eight o’clock, and if you came late to church on Sundays, all seats were taken and you had to stand in the back of the sanctuary.
My Aunt Betty was the eldest of her siblings and the matriarch of the family.
When any of the family needed a “loan,” there would be a “family meeting behind closed doors,” prior to any dollars handed out; and when there was a family crisis, everyone headed to my aunt and uncle’s boarding house in Aberdeen, Wash., where those important “matters” would be discussed, and a solution would be found.
Once the “problem” was resolved, a family dinner would follow, and copious amounts of Tom and Jerrys laced with brandy and rum would be drunk.
In our little town, most of the men worked eight to five o’clock, with two 15-minute breaks and a one-hour lunch break. Men carried their lunches, packed by their wives, along with thermos tucked inside their metal lunchbox.
Kids stored their paper bag lunches in the cloakroom in schoolhouses. I can still smell the tuna fish and bananas that were in those bags.
Men wore bib overalls and women wore aprons. I wore my hair in long braids.
Women were called “housewives” and their work was never finished. Three meals a day were expected and very few men “ever” helped with the housework, my uncle being the exception. His house job would be to wash the evening dishes, and mine was to dry.
In our boarding house before going to his regular job at the mill, my uncle fed and watered the chickens and carried wood into the house for the day. After dinner, once again, the chickens were cared for, and more wood was brought in.
The phrase “from dawn to dusk” in our household rang true as far as work was concerned. On weekends, my aunt worked alongside my uncle in their large vegetable garden, and seemingly, was continuously canning the bounty from their work.
As soon as I was 6 years old, I had chores given to me that I simply took for granted. I was the one with the small hand that could reach into the narrow mouth of the canning jars, packing the pickles tightly in the mason jars and the peach halves that needed to be stacked, cut side down in those jars. We worked side by side, aunt and me, cutting ends off string beans to be canned, and laughing as our hand turned red while packing the red beets into those jars.
My reward today for all those wonderful memories is priceless…I wouldn’t take a million dollars for them.
And so, PG&E, I thank you for those few hours I have spent in the dark in front of my fireplace along with my Tom and Jerry drink in my hand, remembering those wonderful days of yore.
However, I just may have outwitted you PG&E…I have ordered a 1900s style “hand operated” eggbeater, making it easier to mix a batter of these delicious Tom and Jerrys when the “lights go out” again, as I know they will.
Aunt Betty’s Tom and Jerry Mix
6 eggs separated
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
1 oz. golden rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups powdered sugar
Beat egg yolk in large mixing bowl until smooth and pale yellow.
Add spices and vanilla to the yolks.
Beat egg whites in separate bowl until stiff. With a whisk, blend whites into the yolks. Add half of the sugar and mix well. Add remaining sugar mixing well.
Refrigerate four hours before using. Batter will separate when resting so stir well before each use.
In each cup put:
2 oz. batter
½ oz gold rum
½ oz. bourbon or brandy
½ cup boiling water
Mix together and top off with ground nutmeg.
This will keep one week covered and refrigerated.
Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].