Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Make Mine a Prince Rupert

Twelve cordial glasses, remnants of Blair family dinners, sit unused in my china cabinet. I'm torn between pressing them into service this Christmas and declaring them a family heirloom ready to be passed on to the next generation. The next generation, however, cannot possibly venerate them as I do, unless I tell the stories that go with them.

My maternal grandmother, Ruth Hatch Anderson (Mimi), (that's your great-great grandmother, Ben, Logan, Tom, Bill, Dan, and Robby) bought these for serving King Alphonses after family dinners (and after several high balls and free flowing wine). A king Alphonse is prepared by floating whipping cream on Creme de Cacao. Serving them was a big ritual -- the cream was floated by pouring it over the back of a spoon. If not done with a gentle steady hand, the cream would mix with the liqueur and "boil." This was considered a disaster and was to be avoided at all costs -- "accidents" were quickly tipped into the mouth of the host and a fresh drink prepared. When all the drinks were assembled, they were placed on a tray and passed around the table. For the kids, the ratio of cream to booze was reversed, but they were served, just as they had been served watered-down wine at dinner.

A part of the ritual included my father retelling the story ("here we go again") of trying to be a hot shot when ordering a drink at the bar in the San Francisco Opera House while an underage student at the University of California in Berkeley. Instead of asking for a King Alphonse, he requested a Prince Rupert, bewildering the bartender and humiliating himself.

Later, my mother took over the traditional dinners and the cordial glasses and eventually they passed down to me, although I don't think I've ever used them. The bases of four of the little glasses are chipped, probably because the dishwasher (a person, not a machine) had had a few too many and clunked them against the faucet. I don't think the glasses have been used in twenty years. I'm sure the grime in them comes from my mother's house.

They are tiny, holding 1/2 oz. if filled to the brim. If you want them, let me know (family members only, please). First to respond can have them.

Brown recluse or not? (I think not.)


  1. Doesn't the resident entomologist know this spider? My own guess is no, but shape, size and coloring suggest brown recluse but I thought hey all had a fiddle on their back.

  2. I didn't show it to the resident entomologist because I knew he would object to me smashing it. I also didn't want his brother to know about it because he freaks out over spiders. Thought I'd try to find out what it was before raising any alarm. I don't think it is a Brown Recluse because it has slightly hair legs, I think BR's are clean-shaven.

  3. There seems to be very little 'heirlooms' from Mimi. I guess so much was lost in the fire. I still remember her scent, I think it was Ole of Olay.
    It was a special treat to be served Crème de menthe at the family parties.

  4. Yes, I think the only things from Mimi are the octagon table (yours, some day) and these little glasses. Her scent was lavendar, I don't know what brand -- Oil of Olay didn't exist until around 1973 just after she died.