Thursday, February 13, 2014

Coddled Eggs and Ham... Plus a Ten-Minute Table Runner

I just finally watched the rest of the opening ceremony for the Olympics.  It was hard for me to watch… I got very emotional.  The idea of all those countries… all those people, young and old… coming together in one mind, with peace and love as their common ground… just overwhelmed me and I could only watch a little at a time.  Seeing the history of Russia portrayed so beautifully and artistically was very moving.  I stopped watching the Olympics quite a few years ago, because it saddened me to see children fail, when many had trained most of their lives to compete in the Games. They couldn’t all be winners, but when they didn’t win, they were devastated!  I abhored the idea of the competition becoming more important than the love of their sport and the joy of participating in it.

Perhaps this year, since it was in Russia, it brought a more personal connection for me. I grew up hearing that my mother’s grandfather was a tailor to Czar Nicholas, and her grandmother was a handmaiden to the Empress Alexandra, his wife.  So my Finnish great-grandparents were basically servants to royalty, it seemed, which may actually have been an honor to be one of the chosen.  I would like to know more about their experiences now, as an adult, but there is no one alive to ask.  Then came the revolution.  Out of that chaos came beauty… lovely music, breathtaking architecture, some of our most famous ballet dancers, and artists in words and paint whose works are still cherished and revered.  The opening ceremony certainly was a tribute to their rich heritage.  The joy and anticipation of all the athletes as they marched into the arena was magnificent to behold.  It was a fantastic show! 

I’ve spoken before about being a diabetic, and having problems with wheat and grains raising my blood glucose to levels higher than they should be.  The one food I’ve found that my body seems to “like” is eggs!  Eggs are not my favorite food, however.  I eat them scrambled, fried, boiled, poached… and the other day I remembered that when I was a young child, I learned in 4-H to make baked eggs.  The baked eggs were made in a muffin tin, and a bit of whipping cream was poured over the eggs and they were baked until they were set.  It gave me an idea for another way to cook my eggs: coddled. 

Coddled Eggs and Ham:
Put about a teaspoon of butter into a small frying pan and lightly cook a
slice or two of ham to warm it through until it just begins to brown a bit. I cover my pan.  Remove the ham from the pan.  Crack an egg or two into the pan with the ham drippings, salt and pepper them lightly, and drizzle about a Tablespoon or two of whipping cream over the eggs, as shown below on the right.  Cover tightly and cook over LOW heat until

the eggs set up, just a few minutes.  If you have a glass cover, you can see the progress of your “coddling”.  The eggs will be very tender and the yolks soft, with no crusty parts on the edges or bottom, and the cream will form a light sauce with the butter drippings to flavor the eggs.

They slipped out of the pan and onto my plate smoothly.  A bowl of fresh fruit will round out your brunch… and if you can eat grains, you can add toast, as well.  It was a delightful alternative to the usual eggs.   

One of my quilting friends, Deb, is making 10-Minute Table Runners for her sister… one for every month, choosing colors that coordinate with the seasons.  She shared her pattern with me, and it is easy enough that a child could make one.
Ten-Minute Reversible Table Runner:

Choose a fabric for your background, preferably something you love that blends with your d├ęcor, and a coordinating fabric for the center of your table runner.  You will need about ½ yard of the main fabric, or 18”, and about 12” or 1/3 yard of the contrasting fabric, both cut the width of the fabric, which is usually 42” to 44”.  These widths are not carved in stone, and if you want a wider table runner you would make the pieces wider, or narrower, if you want a narrower table runner.  It all depends on how big the table is that you are using your runner on.  Deb made hers a bit narrower, for her sister’s table. 

With right sides together and using a ¼” seam, sew the center strip to the background strip along both long edges, so you will have a long tube.  Press the seams toward the darker fabric.  Turn the tube right side out, and center your coordinating strip so that about the same amount of the background fabric shows on each  side of the center strip, as shown on the right.  Press your runner well, and take it to your cutting mat and cut off the selvedge on both ends so your ends are both straight and even, and the selvedge is removed.  Fold your table runner in half the long way, with your background fabric on the “inside” of your fold.  Sew ¼” from the raw edge, shown on the left.  
Repeat with the other end of your runner.  Photo on the right shows how the sewn end looks when it is folded down. Turn the seam to the inside, so that the end forms a triangle across your center strip.  Press well.  It can be hand stitched or machine stitched, see photo below left.  
You can use a decorative stitch to attach the triangular ends to the table runner, and edge stitch all around it.  Your table runner is reversible, so decorative stitching would be pretty on both sides if you use a thread that contrasts or coordinates with the fabrics.  My background fabric is a batik with metallic gold accents; there is no identification along the selvedge, and the contrasting fabric is a gold leaf design from Bernatex.  The decorative thread I chose is rayon in a copper color, and it has a sheen that almost looks metallic.
There is no batting in this runner, but it could have batting inserted and it can be quilted in the design of your choice.  Another idea would be to do a patchwork design instead of the contrasting center strip, but that would take longer than ten minutes!  You can make placemats to match or coordinate with your table runner, with napkins to complete the set.  It would make a lovely gift, and like Deb, you could coordinate them with a holiday or as a seasonal gift.  I seldom keep the items I make, but this one looks beautiful in my dining room, so it has found a home!
As I am making this table runner, I wonder how many families sit down to eat together anymore.  I seldom eat in my kitchen when I am home alone, and when we all are gathered, some sit at the tables and some sit with a TV tray in front of the game or whatever else can’t be missed on television!  My oldest daughter and son-in-law were here for dinner a few weeks ago, and my son-in-law commented it was the first time we’d sat around the kitchen table.  Usually, we sit in the dining room and the children sit in the kitchen, and often we eat in front of the television... a very bad habit to form!  I remember that we always ate Sunday dinner in the dining room with the good china and silverware when my children were small.  I never wanted them to sit as a guest at someone’s table and proclaim, “I have two forks… is someone missing a fork?”  And, after all, who is more worthy of using the good china than the people we love most in the world? 

So many of the customs and traditions we grew up with have slipped into oblivion.  My older grandchildren know when they set the table at my house, it means with ALL the silverware, but the younger children often ask, “Do we need spoons?”  Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing, because often we never use anything but our fork!  Perhaps we need to stop the busy-ness or monotony once in a while and remember what brought us to this place in time.  Traditions connect us with the past and create a bridge to the future.  Life moves too fast and has less meaning, it seems.  The world does not seem as safe as it did when my children were growing up in a small Midwest town, where they could hop on their bikes and go out with an ice cream bucket looped on the handlebars looking for berries, or set off with a B-B gun for a day of target practice in the woods on the edge of town.  We have lost something valuable, and I wonder if it will ever be experienced or recognized by future generations, in this age of electronic gadgets.  I have seen so many changes in my 71 years… I wonder also what will come next.  As Bob Dylan says so eloquently in song… The times, they are a’changing!

I think you have created a monster, Deb!  I am off now to make another table runner for my kitchen table.  I have started one in another beautiful batik fabric for a gift, because it won't really match in my home... but it is my favorite of all three!  Unless there is  fancy stitching or patchwork, these runners really don't take much more than ten minutes to make!