Cocktails & Cuisine: In the Spirit of “The Happy Table of Eugene Walter”
Spring and summer are probably some of the most celebrated seasons for enjoying wonderful food, drink, and family. I consider myself to be a southern Renaissance man, and with that said, I have chosen to share with you all some excerpts, recipes, and funny anecdotes of a man named Eugene Walter.
Eugene Walter was a pioneering food writer, a champion of southern food ways and culture, and just a downright hilarious character. He loved southern culture, along with the food and drink it has to offer and thus, centered his career and life around that notion. I have chosen to take a few things he has written to share with everyone. The book I am referencing is “The Happy Table of Eugene Walter.” This book was written and composed after his passing years ago. Eugene’s legacy lives on in Southern spirit!
It is summertime, so let’ start with some drinks! This is peak season for gatherings, holidays, and family affairs, and I couldn’t pick a better beverage for the masses other than punch. According to Eugene, pretty much every punch needs to contain Champagne (preferably), or some kind of bubbly to really set the punch off. As Voltaire said, respect for wine is respect for God and the law. Eugene knows exactly what he is doing. Now let’s get into some punches!
Alba Club Punch
8 ripe apricots 1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups ripe strawberries Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
1 quart white rum 3 bottles of chilled Champagne
Peel apricots; remove stem caps from strawberries. Mix fruit, rum, sugar, and bitters. Allow to marinate several hours or overnight, then put into chilled bowl and pour in chilled champagne. (if you’re having trouble finding Peychaud bitters, head up to your local liquor store and ask)
Now for some food! I grew up in a household where wonderful smelling things I couldn’t even pronounce, were coming out of my mother’s kitchen. She is my biggest fan, supporter, and like minded with me when it comes to some grub. I have always been a fan of Burgers. Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Bacon Burgers, you name it, I have eaten it if it is a Burger. My family always knew that I would choose a Burger at a restaurant before anything else! With that said, I have taken Eugene’s famous Hamburger Recipe. Bon Appétit!
Hamburgers with Tequila
½ cup tequila 2 crushed bay leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil pinch of thyme
½ cup minced celery Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup minced onion pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar 1 pound ground chuck
Mix all ingredients except meat over low flame; don’t simmer. Then chill in the refrigerator. Shape ground chuck into patties. Brush marinade frequently over hamburgers while cooking them. (Tough beef can be marinated in this overnight for stew; steaks are delicious broiled with this marinade.) Try dressing any fresh fruit salad with tequila, honey, and almond extract; you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Use honey instead of sugar, of course, and not too much.
So, hopefully by this point, you have a summer punch buzz in the sun and you just finished these delicious burgers. The day after a wonderful party filled with punch, and food can leave you feeling a little sluggish, or “ hung-over” as we Americans call it. Eugene has a slew of wonderful recipes for hangover cures. I picked out my favorite and can personally testify to its wonderful, healing powers.
1 cup milk (your preference)
2 ounces whiskey, rye, bourbon, or Scotch
Combine raw, pasteurized egg, milk, and whiskey with sugar to taste. Put into shaker with cracked ice. Shake well, strain into tumbler, sprinkle with nutmeg, and serve at once!
I trust that all these wonderful recipes treat you and your household well this spring and summer. All of these recipes and much, much, more can be found in Eugene Walters book, The Happy Table of Eugene Walter – Southern Spirits in Food and Drink. Cheers and Bon Appétit!