mulling it over

21 11 2010

There is no doubt that it was a rainy winter, here in the Southern Hemisphere. In spite of that,  I had a wonderful time gathering with family and friends,  playing, learning and of course, cooking. Now that spring has put a bounce in everyone’s step, I want to briefly look back and pay a small homage to a winter comfort that so ably warmed and encouraged us on the coolest of evenings and under the darkest of skies.

Many years ago, I spent a season working in a well-known ski lodge resort in the Sierra-Nevada mountains.  It was a fashionably rustic and very high-class retreat, complete with a French gourmêt chef, Chinese sous-chef, a multi-ethnic kitchen staff. Then there was me.

My friend and I had managed to charm our way into a job at this resort. We didn’t blink when we were given skin-tight lycra ski suits to wear, nor did we hesitate when we heard that the resort was way out in the Wilderness and could only be accessed by snowmobile , skis or charming horse-drawn sleighs – upon which the guests would arrive, in their finery, ready for a 4 day retreat.

Whilst my friend spent her days lighting fires and cleaning loos,  I sat in the cafe attached to the lodge, overlooking the lake for a few hours each day.  I would very gladly  greet the day skiers who found their way out to the lodge, chatting with them and gathering an address book of helpful contacts whilst  feeding them chili, chocolate and beer.  I was very happy with my draw of the straw.

We were both responsible, however,  for ensuring the guests felt at ease, mingling and chatting together. Primarily, we were required to make intelligent conversation and keep it going but our specific duties included such things as hostessing a high tea at 4pm, serving tasty treats with loose leafed Earl Grey.  We were also required to sit at the dining room tables for each meal and facilitate group conversations. On the dot of 6pm, however, we could be found in the lounge ladling mulled wine from a large pot settled on a pot-bellied stove (very picturesque)  and offering baked brie and other delicacies whilst making scintillating conversation with the fabulously wealthy and well-read guests. I was 19 years old and I had a blast.

Step 1: Pour one bottle red wine  in to a pot ( no need for fancy wine – I’ve made it with nice Pinot and basic red)
Step 2: Add 2/3 cup brown sugar
Step 3: Add a few cloves
Step 4: Add 2 tsp cinnamon (can use cinnamon sticks)
Step 5 : Add 2 tsp ground ginger
Step 6: Add a sprinkle of nutmeg
Step 7: Add 1 cup orange juice (include slices of orange, lemon or lime if you have them)
Step 8: Add 1/4 cup of brandy – optional
Step 9: I also sometimes add a cup of ginger ale or ginger beer

Heat SLOWLY until sugar melts and spices have integrated.

These days, my socializing intentions are much more discriminating. I love being in a group of interesting people, talking and listening and discovering universal resonances. I have a wonderful, eclectic  collection of dear friends on the island – some of whom are recent but others with whom I have gathered  for many years now. I love that Zuzu is surrounded by people, at home and in the community, who enjoy discussing and debating issues – from global to local.  I want her to feel comfortable representing herself authentically in her interactions and to understand that communication is the first step toward every resolution.  On top of that, sitting chatting with friends, whether at morning coffee in a café or over a cup of mulled wine on a winter’s eve, is plain good fun.

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