Friday, December 26, 2008
Instant Tom & Jerry!
Christmas makes me think of Tom & Jerrys. I can't help it. My parents would hand out hot mugs of the stuff every yuletide like clockwork, even (now that I think of it) to us underage youngsters.
My parents never made Tom & Jerrys from scratch. They used a mix, easily found in Wisconsin stores, but which I've never seen outside the state. I recall it as a powered mix. While on the phone with my father recently, I asked if the product was still available. Yes, he said, but only at Christmastime, and there was no powered mix that he could remember; just a liquid, refrigerated version. Before I could say stop, he volunteered to ship me out a container.
It arrived a few days later, in the sort of plastic tub that is usually used for sour cream or yogurt. Mrs. Bowen's Tom & Jerry mix. There's a sweet picture on the container of a steaming mug superimposed on a winter scene of a log cabin in the snow. The weird brew is made in Wisconsin, natch.
Having sampled the superior Tom & Jerry of Audrey Saunders at Pegu Club, I had my suspicions. How good could this stuff be? Or, rather, how bad could it be? But I had it. It had traveled all those miles. It was worth a try. I opened it. It was half filled with a gloppy, tan, gelatinous substance that looks like the caramel swirls you see in certain store-bought ice creams. Did it always come this way? Had my father helped himself to half of the contents before sending it, to save on postage?
There were recipes on the back of the container, not just for Tom & Jerrys, but for Egg Nog, and "Kid's Egg Nog." The Tom & Jerry formula asked for a tablespoon of the glop, 3/4 oz. brandy, 3/4 oz. rum, hot water and a sprinkling of nutmeg. I did as ordered. It was easy enough, and the smell of the resulting potion reminded me of Christmases past. It didn't taste bad. It didn't taste good. It was just kind of uninteresting. A slightly creamy, somewhat hot mix of brandy or rum. It was crude. No wonder Tom & Jerrys never captured my imagination when I was younger. This prefabricated cocktail wasn't built to impress.
I asked my wife if she's like a sip. She recoiled as if from the maw of a snake, its fangs dripping with venom. "No!" she said. "Always hated that stuff!" The wife knows what she likes. And hates.
And so I moved on to my own little holiday tradition: a Blue Blazer on Christmas Eve, for its festive quality, and on Christmas morn, a Ramos Gin Fizz, an egg-based, morning drink far superior to the Tom & Jerry in my opinion.