Cathy Best on “From apricots to Bernice sauce”

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Cathy Best

Cathy Best

By Cathy Best

As a newborn, what little hair I had was apricot colored and fuzzy; my daddy nicknamed me Apricot. Thus began a long litany of variations: Percots, Cotsie Boo Boo, and Cotsie. Eventually, he landed on Cots. To this day, daddy is the only soul on the planet that has ever called me Cots. My mother opted out of the nickname game. Being firmly rooted in double- name old school, she called me strictly by the name she signed on my birth certificate- Cathy Jo. Early on, each of my three sisters had their own idea as to how I should be addressed; fortunately, they are repeatable. Sister, Jo, and Cathy follow the sister’s birth order as to who calls me what. When I hear Pweetpea or Precious my husband is in the near vicinity. Mom and Mama get my attention but, more often than not, my sons alternate between Joann, Kathleen, and Mot- short for Matee. Explaining each endearing name my children call me is a column unto itself. To friends, I’m Bernice, Mom, Peach, Georgia Girl, Georgia Sista and Other. You read it correctly; Other is a moniker. It’s easy to see how upstanding individuals, who have never so much as tossed a piece of chewing gum out the car window, can be considered dangerous criminals trying to hide their true identity with unsolicited nicknames.

Unlike P-Diddy, who changes his name as often as he changes ring bling, family, friends and co-workers generally change your name for you. I’m just as guilty of affectionately dubbing family and friends anything but their given names. Typically, there’s a good story behind the dub. For instance, in 1995 I was seated with two close friends in Tom Tom’s, a fine dining restaurant, in Atlanta. Somehow we got on the subject of listing the individuals on an estate’s staff. One friend was trying to recall the name of a woman she knew who worked on the estate. Total blank, she couldn’t come up with the name if her lunch depended on it; the conversation moved on. The waiter, well versed in the art of enticing dignified clientele with elegant entrées, approached our table and offered to recite the tantalizing special. He described each entrée in mouth-watering detail. It was easy to mistake the linen hand-towel draped over his forearm as a drool cloth; he took his position seriously. As he recited the so-and-so with such-and-such in Béarnaise sauce my companion barked out, loud enough for the Sous-Chef to hear over sizzling sauté pans, BERNICE! BERNICE! It’s BERNICE! The “Other” companion and I glanced at each other, and knew, better than we knew our own nicknames, our waiter assumed he was being corrected. We proceeded to fall into uncontrollable giggles, like 7 year-olds on the front pew. I’m sure the waiter put two and two together and recognized two out of three of us as the pair who parked the Mayor’s truck in the Neiman Marcus parking lot with a week’s worth of garbage stacked in the bed. Eighteen years later, we are still the only souls on the planet that call each other BERNICE.

Best of the Best: Bernaise Sauce

Courtesy of “The Joy of Cooking”

About 1 1/2 cups

Heavenly on most broiled red meat, especially beef tenderloin. It is also quite at home with fish and eggs.

Combine in the top of a double boiler: 1/4 white wine; 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar; 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or onion; 2 crushed white peppercorns; 2 sprigs tarragon, chopped; 1 sprig chervil, finely chopped; (1 sprig parsley, minced)

Cook over direct heat until reduced by half. If you have used dried tarragon or coarsely chopped onion, strain the mixture. Allow to cool. Then, beating briskly over, not in, hot water, add alternately a little at a time and beat steadily so that they are well combined: 3 egg yolks and 3/4 cup melted butter. Season to taste.

When you have added all the butter, the sauce should be the consistency of Hollandaise.

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