Of tea parties and open houses

My food column last week about St. Patrick’s Day had a picture in the background that I did not bother to explain. It is of the Blarney Castle in County Cork, Ireland, the birthplace of some of our McHugh ancestors.

It was erected in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermont McCarthy, and the massive square keep, with a battlemented parapet, is what remains of the third castle to occupy the site.

Each year, thousands of visitors climb the 127 steps to the top of the keep to view and perhaps kiss the legendary Blarney stone, which is set in the wall below the castle battlement. And I am told that this is no easy task.


Our oldest granddaughter, Amber, will have returned from the Dominican Republic and Haiti by the time this column is published.

Her Worthington Christian School senior class went with a SCORE group to help with a vocational Bible school program and helping out after the devastating earthquake. Then the seniors got to spend some time in the sun on the sandy beaches. There were medical people and a dentist making the trip with them.


Dragana Lazic conducts a very interesting and tasty cooking school each month at the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. Last month, she held a tea, with the ladies in attendance asked to wear a hat.

She complied with her own request by wearing a wide-brimmed, frilly coral hat to match her jacket but found that it made too much shade to do her culinary work, so she removed it. “I never cooked with a hat on before,” she said as she removed it.

Others wearing hats were Mary Beth Allan, Nancy Hukill, Colleen Mindzak, Jessica Starkweather and yours truly. Jessica was dressed in a red chiffon dress with a yellow bolero and hat. She topped it all off with gray lace, fingerless gloves. It was eye catching.

I wore a pink straw hat, adorned with a flowered bow, that I had purchased to wear at the Jefferson County Fair. It served the purpose, although there was no sun to keep out of my eyes.

Dragana asked all the participants to bring their favorite tea cups and many did so. Colleen Mindzak brought a lovely china cup and saucer, decorated with a butterfly, that she won in a fundraiser. She wore a black suit trimmed in leopard print and a hat to match.

Flo Rakich didn’t have a hat but she had a lovely, flowered teapot and a matching china teacup and was pouring with style and grace.

Dragana cautioned that you never have a tea party with paper napkins. Starched napkins with lace and linen tablecloths are used. She showed china that she had brought back with her from Europe. And it might be said that the plates, cups and saucers were brought back with great care and caution on the plane.

A little hint that she dropped was to always dip a cookie or biscuit cutter into flour before cutting dough, and it won’t stick. Have you ever had dough stick to the cutter so you had to shake and pound to get it out? Then when you do, the dough is all crumpled and doesn’t resemble anything like the shamrock or star that you wanted.

It also was noted that raising the little pinkie to drink tea is not appropriate any more.

The tiny cook with a delightful way of speaking had a story about the worst college food ever served included with her recipes. Here it is:

It seems that the Rev. Sylvester Graham, inventor of the graham cracker, wasn’t as much fun as that crisp treat might have you believe. In fact, he was a food zealot, convinced that the diet should consist of nothing but water and graham crackers.

This was originally a health food made from whole wheat flour and honey, and he believed it would turn the one consuming it into a better person.

Some 170 years ago, the administrators at Oberlin College, a small-liberal arts school in Ohio, grew enamored of Graham’s ideas and decided to feed students according to those principles.

The students were encouraged to abstain from consuming meat, tea and coffee, except for crust coffee, made from toast and boiled water. They were discouraged from eating butter and pastries and even from seasoning their food.

As legend has it, a professor actually lost his job for bringing a pepper shaker to the dining hall table.

Oberlin students complained so vociferously that the college was forced to abandon its dining plan, and the Graham diet and his cracker faded into culinary history.


The lunch dilemma will be solved for people in Smithfield and the surrounding vicinity on April 6 when the Smithfield Historical Society holds a soup, sandwich and dessert sale from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its historical building.

There will be shredded chicken sandwiches, different kinds of soups by the bowl to eat in or by the pint or quart to be taken home. Also, there will be pie and cake for dessert and cold and warm drinks.


If you want some cookbooks to make delicious pies, cakes, cupcakes cheesecakes, quick breads, cookies, muffins, scones and yeast breads, make sure to shop at the Taste of Home Cooking School at the Serbian- American Cultural Center in Weirton on April 2.

The baked products are just as tasty as they look on the book, and there is a great source of cooking information along with recipes.

For instance, it tells that you need to check all ingredients for the recipe before getting started. Make sure you understand the cooking and preparations of the recipe before starting, measure the ingredients correctly and preheat the oven before baking.

There are hints on how many egg whites make a measuring cup full – the answer is eight to 10 if you’re interested to know; 16 graham cracker squares make 1 cup; and 6 ounces of chocolate chips equals a cup.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is a staff columnist and food editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronline.com.)