Nothing could induce me to reveal her name.
It was a long time ago, on the 6th floor (as it then was) of Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic (as it still is, though it’s no longer part of Cornell — or only glancingly so — as it was when I worked there).
As one of the most junior nurses working on the floor, I saw many unusual things, most of which the seal of practitioner-client confidentiality prevents me from discussing. But come holiday time, there was a recurring event which I now feel it safe to reveal.
It was Miss S.’s eggnog.
Miss S. was…frankly…a goddess. In a time when the term is thrown around with idiotic lassitude by razor manufacturers and those trying to make a fast buck, as well as those whose characters partake a whole heck of a lot less of the divine than they’d like to think they do, the term is desperately overused. But it would not have been misused of Miss S.
She was Jamaican. (And still is, as far as I know: the past tense here should be understood to imply my past and not her passing.) She was about six foot two. She was, straightforwardly, stacked like the brick ****house of your best imaginings. She wore her hair quite, quite short, and this helped her look more like a superbly carved ebony statue of some torrid-zone deity than you can possibly imagine. There was no room she merely entered: she was her own procession.
Miss S. was also a truly excellent psychiatric nurse. She had a liking for evening and night shifts, which is probably why I saw so much of her (being then the most junior member of staff and therefore routinely stuck on nights during much of the early part of my practice at PWC). Working with her was always a treat. Under that gorgeous slow-spoken smooth-as-treacle Jamaican accent lurked the intention and skill of a wily and thoroughgoing professional, a woman who could get anyone (mostly meaning our clients) to talk to her about anything (mostly meaning whatever was bothering them). She was formidable, indeed nearly fearless: I once saw her take a fire axe off a seriously out-of-control schizophrenic with no weapons but that voice (in basso-growl mode) and a scowl. Nobody messed with Miss S.
She also made the most outrageous eggnog.
She smuggled a discreet small amount of it into the clinic only on one night each year, New Year’s Eve, and only to those who deserved it (which is why nothing could get me to tell you her name, as of course what she did would have been construed by the clueless-but-superior as rather naughty).
And here’s how she did it (or so she told me). (Not the sneaking: the eggnog.)
You take a dozen eggs. You separate the yolks from the whites. You freeze the whites and do something else with them. (Probably meringue.)
You beat the eggs together extremely well with a pound of confectioners’ sugar / icing sugar. (UK icing sugar is actually superior for this, as unlike US confectioners’ sugar, it contains no cornstarch.) You then pour in half a bottle of Myers’ Planter’s Punch Rum (or other good smooth dark rum).
You mix it all well and put it in the fridge, tightly covered, to get friendly with itself overnight.
The next day you combine this mixture with about half a gallon of whole milk and at least a quart of cream — more, if you like. And the rest of the rum. Into this whole business you then grate fresh nutmeg (not more than a quarter teaspoon, as nutmeg is toxic in excess) and some cinnamon and allspice to taste. Check the flavor, and then add more milk/cream if you feel the eggnog’s too strong.
Refrigerate for a while more: then serve it forth.
Miss S. also told me about a stronger version of this — apparently called the “Pan Am Pilots’ Eggnog” — which involves the further addition of a dozen whipped egg whites and a bottle of apricot brandy. This is doubtless why Pan Am went under.
…I’ve been making this eggnog on and off for more than twenty years. It’s now traditional down at our local pub on New Year’s Eve: our thank-you to our neighbors for putting up with our constant search for Galactic Domination.
Try it…see what it does for you. If you try it, raise a glass to the Divine Miss S.
And Happy New Year!