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Gardening GUSTO: Where Does Shakespeare Go in Winter?

The Putnam County News and Recorder Logo
Originally published on March 4, 2020 by Katherine Whiteside in
The Putnam County News and Recorder.

To: Gusto  
From: William Shakespeare
Subject: Snowbirding in Boca 

My dear Gusto,

I’m sooo happy to be back here on the beach in Boca and away from the beastly “winter of our discontent” (Richard III: Act I, Scene I.) You are most likely out in your garden, freezing half to death, yet rejoicing over every emerging little bud. (“…she is a lunatic.” Richard III: Act I, Scene III.) I often wonder why you disdain snowbirding in Boca and “hate the idle pleasures of these days.” (R. III, Act I, Scene I.) But you are a happy worker bee and I am a contented retiree. I say viva la difference, old friend, and turn my face to the warm blue sky saying, “Shine out fair sun!” (R. III: Act I, Scene II)

As you may notice, my infamous character, Richard III, is on my mind. That was an exciting play to write: despicable, murderous villains make such riveting stories. During my last visit to Cold Spring, I was thrilled to learn that my peeps at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival will start their summer season with that malicious Machiavellian masterpiece where “sin, death, and hell have set their marks…” (R. III: Act I, Scene III.)

We had a cozy catch up in HVSF’s Main Street “Back Room” a sweet little nook that looks like the Elizabethan tavern I used to frequent after long nights playacting at The Globe. Regretfully, Sir Digby’s 17th century tavern posset was NOT offered during our meeting. I’ve included that boozy recipe at the end of this letter… just in case you’re called to a meeting there sometime. It’s definitely BYO posset at 143 Main Street.

Anyway, besides my Richard III, HVSF is presenting the world premiere of The Venetian Twins (rated a bawdy PG13! I can’t wait!) and a musical version of Love’s Labor’s Lost. Sing along Shakespeare! I love it!

It’s going to be a great season under the tent and, Gusto, you must tear yourself away from the garden and order your tickets now! Immediately! Remember all those sold out performances last year? No whining allowed this summer – just wining and dining on Boscobel’s’ Great Lawn with Richard, the Twins, and Love to follow. hvshakespeare.org/whats-playing/

Other news on the Rialto: Artistic Director Davis McCallum directed Judith Ivey at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater in “Greater Clements,” and is now back in Cold Spring gathering the troupes for the 2020 HVSF season. And, calling all young thespians, Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education Sean McNall is holding open calls for child actors on March 15th. And, he’s helping Haldane plant a garden of Shakespearean plants and flowers. (I knew you’d like that, Gusto.)

You probably saw lots of familiar faces in the New York Times coverage of Kate Hamill and Jason O’Connell’s beautiful wedding. What a party that was! Gabra Zackman officiated! See the wedding album here: http://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/24/ fashion/weddings/no-lackofchemistry-onstage-oroff.html?smid=nytcore-iosshare

Other good news is that Kurt Rhoads’ knee is healing nicely and he will be directing Richard III this summer. As probably know, Kurt’s knee was very seriously injured while he was playing Sir Toby Belch during the HVSF winter break. In true theatrical tradition, the show went on, with Nance Williamson taking over Kurt’s Sir Toby role. Gusto, I would have adored watching that switcheroo being negotiated: “Dispute not with her…” (R. III, Act I, Scene III.)

By the way, Kurt would love to receive get-well cards for some much-deserved laughs during his recovery period. (Hint: He is a big fan of monster movies.) Send those cards (and stuffed Godzillas?) to Kurt Rhoads, HVSF, 143 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY, 10516.

Well, dear Gusto, the sun is hot here in Boca, the morning margarita(s) drained, and, sweet friend, surf’s up. I’m sending my favorite gardener best wishes and warm breezes and I shall see you under the Big Tent when June is “made glorious summer” (R. III: Act I, Scene I)

XOXO from WS, your snowbirding and surfin’ Will.

PS: As promised, the original drunken posset recipe from Sir Kenelm Digby The Closet (London: 1671). Seems like a lot of work, no?

“Take a pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace. To this proportion of Cream put in eighteen yolks of eggs, and eight of the whites; a pint of Sack; beat your eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack. Put in three-quarters of a pound of Sugar into the Wine and Eggs, with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon; set the Bason on the fire with the Wine and Eggs, and let it be hot. Then put in the Cream boiling from the fire, pour it on high, but stir it not; cover it with a dish, and when it is settlede, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up.”

Three Ingredient, Fifteen-Minute Creamy Lemon Posset (from The Spruce Eats) 

“This modern dessert posset only requires three simple ingredients and a quick fifteen minutes to make. Chill in the fridge for at least five hours for the posset to set, then remove to the counter ten minutes before serving. This recipe, perfect for Easter Sunday lunch, makes six servings.”

Here’s What You Need

• Lemons: two large, un-waxed
• Heavy cream: two cups
• Superfine sugar: 2/3 cup
• Optional: grated nutmeg and/or berries for topping

Just Do This:

1. Use a micro-plane or the smallest raspy side of a cheese grater to finely zest the peel off the lemons. Be careful to avoid the bitter white inner membrane.

2. Squeeze the juice from both lemons. You should have at least ½ cup

3. In a small saucepan, mix ½ cup fresh lemon juice, grated zest, and superfine sugar. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Use a medium-sized, non-reactive saucepot over low heat to bring the heavy cream to a gentle boil. Do not rush or the cream will separate.

5. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the lemon syrup into the cream.

6. Allow the posset to cool a bit, then pour it into six small bowls or glasses. (You may strain the posset or leave the zest intact.)

7. Chill the posset uncovered for at least five hours until the posset sets. Then cover.

8. Before serving, remove from fridge, unwrap, and leave on counter about ten minutes.

9. Optional: Top with a grating of fresh nutmeg and/or berries. Posset is perfect with a side of shortbread or plain sugar cookies. Enjoy!

This is the 490th Gardening Gusto column Katherine has written. Stay tuned here every week for tried-and-true organic gardening tips and simply delicious family recipes. Katherine is the author of six books, including The Way We Garden Now, illustrated by pediatrician/gardener/artist Peter Gergely.