The food holidays are piling up in May.
By Frank Whitman
It’s going to be a busy food weekend for Marsha and me. Cinco de Mayo is just a few days off. The annual celebration of Mexican food, culture and margaritas is always a good excuse for a party. On top of that, bright and early on Saturday morning east-coast time, Charles Philip Arthur George will be crowned King of the United Kingdom and beyond. And post-time for the Kentucky Derby is at 6:45 that evening.
As far as I’m concerned, all of these occasions are opportunities to eat (and drink) – celebrating the cultures they evoke.
A scheduling conflict on Friday means we’ll start early on Saturday with the Royal festivities and then party in the Mexican tradition that evening, a day after the actual holiday.
The coronation begins at the uncivilized hour of 6:00 AM here on the east coast with pregame coverage including the processions starting at 5:00 on ABC. We’re fascinated with the pomp and pageantry, but probably not enough to get up at 5:00.
There’s even a local connection. Bridgeport-raised Sir Antonio Pappano, now Music Director for London’s illustrious Royal Opera House, will lead the Coronation Orchestra in Westminster Abbey. He’ll conduct the six orchestral pieces commissioned by Charles from world-renowned British and Commonwealth composers according to The Tatler.com.
I’ve heard suggestions to break out a bottle of bubbly when the crown goes on, but I’m afraid it’s too early in the day for that. Instead, I’m whipping up a batch of that most British of snacks: scones. I’ve got a good recipe and plenty of jam to slather on. I’m also on the lookout for some clotted cream. That’ll sustain us through the morning.
Tea is de-rigueur, after my first cup of coffee, of course.
For the centerpiece of the post-coronation lunch in London His Majesty chose Coronation Quiche with spinach, broad beans and tarragon. I would have thought something typically British like a meat pie would be more in keeping. This seems suspiciously French – perhaps it’s the hand of accord reaching across the Channel.
For lunch, I’m planning coronation chicken salad. A simple mix of poached chicken with curry mayonnaise, the recipe was created by cooks Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume for Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. Dressed up with raisins, almonds and chutney it can be served on a bed of greens or in dainty sandwiches with the crusts cut off. The recipe on BBCGoodFood.com is a good bet.
With its nod to the largest member of the Commonwealth, coronation chicken has become a British menu favorite. Gruel Britannia in Fairfield serves a fine version ($14) with cranberry-raisin nut bread.
After a nap, we’re going to a neighborhood Cinco de Mayo party. The host, who lived for a time in Mexico, is famous for margaritas.
Sometimes he presents a range of tequilas – blanco, reposado and añejo plus mescal – along with several fruity cordials for flavor accents and always fresh-squeezed lime juice. It’s a mix and match your own arrangement – an evening of searching for margarita “la felicidad”.
Other years, if no-one volunteers to be bartender, the cocktails are pre-mixed and offered in pitchers – a risky opportunity to overindulge.
Everyone brings a dish, hors d’oeuvre, main, or dessert. It’s an eclectic flavor buffet. Marsha’s vegetarian stuffed peppers are a perennial favorite. The recipe, from allrecipies.com, has the right mix of traditional spices. Since it’s a buffet, she looks for smaller peppers to make it easier to sample around the table. This year she’s eyeing a chicken casserole flavored with cumin, chili powder, jalapeno and garlic for something new.
I’m afraid there won’t be a chance to slip in a Julep as the thoroughbreds break out of the gate and head down the most famous 1 ¼ mile in sport at 6:45.
With three occasions, May 6th is shaping up to be a splurge day, feasting on foods representing three continents. Looks like Sunday better be a salad day.