Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Of Course They Do


(Source, used without permission. If you would like it removed, please let me know.)

Monday mornings are the time to get things done. Fortunately, one of the more enjoyable items on my to-do list is to write thank you notes (one down, two to go. It was another very busy weekend.)

Over that weekend, I heard a comment on NPR about a story that they did concerning the “demise of handwriting.” A high school teacher (!) wrote in to say that he agreed that his students’ handwriting was awful. He then added that not one of them knew how to powder a wig correctly, and that their horsemanship was atrocious.

That comment depressed me a bit. He might just as easily have substituted “tying a bowtie (or any tie, for that matter) and their table manners.” Or maybe I see a slippery slope where others see technological sophistication.

My grandmother’s handwriting, even at the age of 93, is beautiful. There is no other word for it. My father’s was equally elegant (it was a bit more “Edwardian” to my eye.) I can’t hope to replicate either. (And studying French in school probably added to the problem as I tried to finesse the accent marks and spellings of which I was unsure….)

My penmanship has suffered somewhat over the years as I turn more often to the computer rather than the yellow legal pad. The speed at which I type has increased, and that, I believe, is the issue with my penmanship. I am a deft hand at hitting the delete button to rekey a misspelling (when I pick one up.)

I write more quickly, too, ideas and phrases tumbling from my mind and onto the page. The result often looks like something tumbled onto the page all right, but I continue to scratch away thinking that a handwritten communication is preferable to an electronic one. At least some of the time.

This year I resolve to take more time drafting letters and notes and to pay attention to my handwriting. To enjoy the heavy cream paper, the heft of my fountain pen, that scratch that it makes across the grain. In short, to luxuriate in the process in the hopes of producing a miniature piece of art. To begin to approximate that will surely result in a more elegant note of thanks or hello.

I do know a number of people who print rather than use script. And I love getting their letters and notes just as much. I wonder if they were taught script? Or, as in the case of my very good friend The Architect, it is a result of years of training that printing becomes the preferred method? (The Architect’s printing is so precise and elegant that it resembles a sans serif font.)

People just don’t live the way they used to, some tell me.

Of course they do. They are just awfully quiet about it. Which is why I have no photos to share with you.

This weekend Mrs. E., I and our best friends were fortunate enough to dine with our other set of very dear friends. The fire was roaring in the sitting room. The table, at which a dozen of us could have been comfortably seated, gleamed with beeswax polish, bright silver and sparkling crystal. As I walked around the heavy silver soup tureen I reflected that the only thing missing to turn the evening into a Merchant-Ivory production was a staff of liveried footmen.

Would we have enjoyed the evening as much without the spectacular setting? I can answer with a firm “yes” as we have so often enjoyed each others’ company. Supper, in case you’re wondering, was a humble, comforting, perfectly executed meatloaf, asparagus and mashed potatoes (dessert was outrageous and is still spiking my blood sugar days later.)

But it is that soup course that sticks in my head. How luxurious to ladle out a warm, colourful soup on a cold winter’s night.

Serve this to your guests and they will practice their handwriting to send you a note of thanks. I did and I can guarantee that the other couple has too.

The Easy and Elegant Life Carrot Soup for Four Friends

1 TBS of olive oil
1 leek, cleaned, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, passed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger (about the same amount as your garlic.)
1 medium to large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large potato (like a Yukon Gold), peeled and chopped into small pieces
1 lb of carrots, washed and chopped into the same size pieces as the potato
5 cups of chicken stock
pinch cayenne pepper
2 TBS of creme fraîche to swirl through the soup
Sea salt and cracked pepper
(optional garnish for a cream soup is grated nutmeg.)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek, garlic, onion and ginger and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and the carrots. Add the stock. Simmer for 20 minutes or so until the vegetables are tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a food processor with a cup of the stock and purée. Return to the pot and season with the salt and pepper (optional nutmeg.) Bring it to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes before transferring it to your warmed and polished sterling soup tureen. Swirl the cream through the soup to decorative effect. Serve from the left.

(If you are served soup in a soup cup, it is acceptable to drink from it using both hands. Otherwise, as we were taught in our fraternity, one must sip one’s soup thitherwardly from one’s spoon.)

6 thoughts on “Of Course They Do

  1. Fabulous post. I’m trying the soup this weekend. My handwriting was pronounced beyond hope in fifth grade and I’m afraid my teacher was right!


  2. Have you ever tried an immersion blender to blend the soup in the final stages? This is a handy tool for the kitchen, if you are a fan of homemade soups in the winter months, as I am. Your carrot soup sounds heavenly. I must give it a go.

  3. It was fun to read about your carefully dressed table – which sounds lovely, from your description. And serving the soup in a beautiful tureen was perfect. And, the roaring fire – gee, I wish I had been there! I, too, try to set the stage at all my dinner parties as you have. For fun, I make my guests write a small limerick about the hostess, or the evening, or whatever comes to mind, and stand and read them to the rest of us at the table in the candlelight. Or, I ask them to bring a favorite book, and read one of their favorite passages from it. Believe it or not, my guests always enjoy this – and don’t get embarrassed if they write or read aloud badly! Thanks for a great post.

  4. Mrs. PvE, a good letter opener is a must. Still looking for the perfect one.

    Mr. Lane. I can also send along the recipe for the Orange Carrot soup that I enjoyed that evening.

    teaorwine (great name), I use it all the time, especially if I’m cooking for just the two of us. Very handy.

    DD! Excellent suggestion. At one dinner party we had a very well-tailored friend standing on a chair declaiming … Wilde, maybe? If I could repeat that moment at every party I should never have a less than perfect supper.

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