Y'ALL! GUESS WHAT! I bet you don't know this about me, because hardly anyone does, but sometimes? I'm REALLY smart. Like, almost a genius! Just like I was last week, when a random idea popped into my brain and I emailed the rest of the FYA girls, and said, "hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but I have an idea for an FYA Advent Calendar, it could be cool, maybe?" Luckily, they agreed, because the only thing we love more than drinking and doing our Tami Taylor impression is giving things to the people we love. And who do we love more than you guys? No one, that's who! You think anyone in our families or friends' group support our dreams to live on a boat? I mean, other than Henri?
But! It turns out that there are a lot of you (yay) and we are poor (boo), so not only are our boat dreams shelved for yet another year, but we can't actually BUY you 25 days' worth of gifts. I know. I'm sad too. Particularly because I found these sparkly ballet flats that would look really great on all of you. But, instead, we hope that you'll take the internet gifts we humbly offer instead, knowing that we give them with love and appreciation for everything you guys put up with as readers of this blog.
If you're unfamiliar with the way an Advent calendar works, typically you open a little gift every day and get a little surprise! Most of the time it's something small and silly. Sometimes you get lucky and get a twenty dollar bill or a pair of socks! It all leads up to The Big Day, i.e. Christmas, i.e. the Little Dude's Birthday, i.e. Santa's Crappiest Day at Work. But, because we're all-inclusive on this blog (and, no, Bill O'Reilly, not because I'm waging war on Christmas), let's just call it a Holiday Advent Calendar. Eid, if you weren't so tricky with your lunar cycles, you could get a piece of this!
So! Every day there will be a new Advent Calendar post from one of us, with something new inside. It'll be a total surprise - we're not even teasing them in the twitter and Facebook feeds - so please do click on each post to get your gift! We aim to be as personal as if you were in our own homes this Holiday season, so pull up a chair, let us pour you some champers, and have a very merry and bright season.
The FYA Advent Calendar Day One: Erin's Grandma's Bourbon Balls Recipe
I come from The South. When you look at a map of the United States, there's a Southern portion people point to in general, and then there's The South itself: the sap-sticky, thick-aired, pine-towering hills of home. The South is ridiculed and it is reviled; it is glamorized and it is glorified, but for me it is mostly just home, in a way no other place has been or ever could be. And while much is made of the archetypal Southern woman, no one has fulfilled that role for me quite like my grandmothers did. They were both strong, Southern women in their own way, but complete opposites - my mother's mom, my Ma Mae, was the quiet, gentle Baptist, always willing to bring a casserole to a neighbor in need, only slightly concerned about what she saw as her granddaughter's "diabolical sense of humor," stern, loving, but nonetheless she would cut you if you went after someone in her family. She and my grandfather's marriage is, to this day, everything on which I base what is beautiful and perfect.
But this? This is a story about my other grandmother.
My dad's mom, my MeMe, raised three boys, a fact she liked to loudly proclaim was going to put her into an early grave. (She was right: she died at 67, of lung cancer.) My grandfather, an economics professor, leaned more to the "perish" side of the "publish or perish" admonishment, and moved the family to pretty much every University the State of Mississippi had to offer anytime someone dared to mention the word "tenure." MeMe was a librarian, so when Grandpa Ray would pack them up and move them to a new college, she'd just set up court at the University library and demand a job there. The Dean usually complied. Most people complied to my grandmother. She was one of those people who had what we would politely call "an air" in the South. (That meant she was kind of a bitch, but charming about it.)
MeMe was an expert hostess and loved to have guests over at whatever campus housing the family lived in. My father used to say - although, you honestly cannot trust my father; he once told me Tony Curtis was my uncle- that she'd have all three boys spit-shined and washed up, serving hors d'ouevres for University guests. And if they goofed up? They were kicked out to sit on the back stoop until the party is over. Even when she was older, and she and my grandfather had divorced, she still kept her job as Head Librarian at one of the Universities, inviting over professors and the students she claimed were "interesting enough to talk to; young people are getting so boring these days, Erin; promise me you won't be boring when you grow up" to her house, only this time I was the one carrying around the sweet pickles and the cream cheese with jalapeno jelly.
Her best friend was Dr Jacobs - I still don't know his first name, because I was never allowed to call him by it. In the South, and particularly in my old-fashioned family, kids aren't allowed to call adults by their first name, unless they're close enough to be granted the title of "aunt" or "uncle." Dr Jacobs lived next door, and he and his wife would come to call on my grandma nearly every day. They'd sit on the porch, drink sun tea, and gossip about their small town while I adorned myself with locust shells and made mud pies by the porch steps. In the winter months, my grandma would always serve Dr and Mrs Jacobs these bourbon balls, and Dr Jacobs would always pat his belly afterwards and say, "no one makes them like you do, Dot."
My grandma died when I was seven, so I wasn't old enough to try her bourbon balls when she was alive. Luckily she wrote a cookbook for her daughters in law, including the famous bourbon balls, and I tried them not-too-many years later. Old Dr Jacobs was right. No one makes them like MeMe did. But here's your chance to try.
Dorothy Elizabeth Wright's Famous Bourbon (or Rum) Balls:
3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers
1 cup finely crushed pecans
1 1/3 cups (15 oz can) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup bourbon (or rum)
Combine wafer crumbs and nuts. Add milk and bourbon (or rum); blend well. Chill about 1 hour. Dip palms of hands into sugar. Shape, by teaspoonfuls into small balls*. Store in covered container.
* I was going to rewrite this to make sense but that's sort of the beauty of my grandma's cookbook - it kinda makes NO SENSE. She wrote it after her daughters in law asked for a few recipes (apparently in effort to appease their picky as hell husbands) and it is adorably and hilariously randomly missing directions because she just figured they'd know what to do. This recipe is actually pretty tame by comparison. You should see the Chicken Kiev one, which is missing half of its instructions AND manages to be casually racist in its directions. In this case, though, she means to shape the bourbon dough, using a teaspooon.
From "The Wright Touch," a family cookbook.
From my family to yours, Happy Holidays. And tune in tomorrow for your next gift!