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.