Saturday, December 17, 2022

Calling Gladys Taber Fans (A book by her daughter and some Christmas at my house)


There was another side to our dear Connecticut countrywoman. For a time she lived in the biggest city of all, New York City where she taught at Columbia University. Oh, to have been a student of Creative Writing with Gladys Taber for a teacher!

Her only child, daughter Constance Taber Colby, despite growing up in Southbury, Connecticut, raised her two daughters in Manhattan.

 The View from Morningside, One Family's New York, published in 1978, is the story of the riches that the City That Never Sleeps offers for children. For Constance's girls, who early on fell in love with the subject of Tudor England the way some children fall in love with a sport, New York was rich with resources for their passion. 

 Interested in the Tudor period? For Colby's daughters there was the Metropolitan Museum, the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library, the Cloisters, Renaissance concerts all over town, Renaissance dance at Lincoln Center, Elizabethan cookery at Riverside Church, and the New York City Ballet.


As Colby's daughter Anne says in the book, "living in New York was the next best thing to living in London."


For fans of Gladys Taber, her daughter's book is not to be missed. For those who love New York this book should be fascinating, including those who like me have never been there. 

I'm definitely more of a Country Mouse than a City Mouse. I live in a 1935 cottage in what was once farmland outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

Before that I lived for twenty-six years in a 1920 farmhouse where sausage once hung in the smokehouse. I love the country!

In this house I'm enveloped by old board paneling that calls for country style.

But the older I get the more I lean toward what goes with the first true antique RH and I purchased as newlyweds.

 An 1800s Staffordshire Blue Willow ironstone platter.



There's not anything more country than Blue Willow and it's just as comfortable in a humble cottage as in a Georgetown townhome dressed to the nines with Chinoiserie.

Speaking of Chinoiserie, I think a touch of it looks well on our eighteen year old Ethan Allen red leather sofa. So does BreeBree, don't you think?


Here is a Christmas pillow I found on Etsy with a red amaryllis in a blue and white cachepot. The front is like a hooked wool rug, the back a velvety fabric, with zipper and quality insert. 

It's fancy but is perfect with an old wool tartan throw from Canada.

I will keep it out through winter and must get a picture of it with our Black Pearl amaryllis from White Flower Farm, which won't bloom until after Christmas anyway, as it did last year when I could not get the lighting in this picture to accurately show the rich dark red. 

If you're interested in Constance Taber Colby's book on raising a family in Manhattan, you can find copies of The View from Morningside, One Family's New York for under $10 online, unless you'd rather pay $43 for it on Amazon. I wouldn't!

Any thoughts on whether you would be up for raising a family in a big city? Cons and pros?

Are you ready for Christmas? I need at least another month!

[I do appreciate every comment you leave! For some reason I can no longer publish comments from my phone even though I've signed in and out from Google over and over trying to. I have to go to my laptop in order to publish them so sometime I'm delayed in getting to it. And emails about new posts from me are no longer being sent out and sometime after Christmas I will try to figure out what to do instead. Thanks for your patience!] 


Friday, December 16, 2022

Coconut Cake, Top of the List, Almost


No, we haven't had snow yet. I made this coconut cake when we had a beautiful snowfall on January 3, 2022 because it just didn't get made before Christmas of 2021.

But I'm thinking back to November of 2020--you remember that year, don't you? The year the world shut down and many of us had Thanksgiving in our house, alone?

That November I started watching every new Hallmark Christmas movie premier. Religiously. It had been that kind of a year.


I even kept a pen and notebook nearby and titled a list--"What Hallmark Movies Taught Me About Christmas."

Top of the list was...Baking is good!

Fruitcake is top of my baking list (my White Fruitcake with no citron posted here "Stir Up Sunday") 

Coconut Cake is not far behind. 

 One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is of Mama making her Coconut Cake with lemon filling on Christmas Eve and it being refrigerated overnight and eaten cold on Christmas Day.

It was a serious project requiring Daddy's help in poking an ice pick into the eyes of the fresh coconut to save the coconut water to pour over the warm cake layers, tediously removing the shell from the meat, and finally grating the coconut meat, sometimes resulting in scraped knuckles. 


It was a cake straight from heaven!

Foolishly neglecting to secure Mama's recipe before she left us for her heavenly home, I've tried several recipes. One was very good and also very time consuming:

See my post Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal here!

I finally found a recipe that was very close to Mama's in Eugene Walters, American Cooking: Southern Style, a Time Life book and a fascinating history of Southern cooking.

I have four cookbooks from the Alabama author, who I "met" through Pat Conroy's cookbook. He taught me never to use the black dust that you put in salt and pepper shakers, that the essential oils in peppercorns help with digestion when freshly ground. Although RH still demands his black dust.

I wish I could link to Mr. Walter's recipe for Coconut Cake with Lemon Filling but it's not online. I will link to a recipe I substituted for his frosting recipe that required me to boil to 239 degrees. I found one at It was delicious even though not like Mama's. Maybe hers was whipped cream based?  But I did make Eugene's recipe for cake instead of the one at add a pinch--those 8 eggs separated won me over--and I am going to put his recipe for lemon filling at the bottom of the post because it's become my foolproof go-to recipe for that. 


Full Disclaimer: I did not buy a fresh coconut and poke out his eyes! Despite using Baker's coconut flakes the frosting was excellent. It was one of those times when we didn't see any family to share my baking with so eventually the remains went to the birds. 


Take my word for it, RH had hardly turned around and all our resident crows and bluejays were fighting over their dessert of the day. 

Eugene Walters Lemon Filling:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4 inch bits

2 tablespoons finely grated fresh lemon peel

2/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice [I did not strain it]

1 cup water

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and 2 beaten eggs in a heavy 2 quart saucepan and mix well with a wire whisk or wooden spoon. Stir in the butter bits, lemon peel, lemon juice, and water. When all ingredients are well blended, set pan over high heat.

Stirring the filling mixture constantly, bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and continue to stir until the filling is smooth and thick enough to coat the spoon heavily. Scrape the filling into a bowl with a spatula, and let it cool to room temperature.

What's top of your baking list for Christmas?