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What's Cooking in Region 1 - December 2006
by Marghretta McBean

2007 will probably be ushered in by the time many of you read this. 2006 certainly had its share of bad news for me: several deaths and serious illnesses of friends. In the positive column though, Region 1 furnished me with many opportunities to see warm-hearted volunteerism at it best, from Mid-Hudson Mensa's book drive, to Mensa of Northeastern New York's Colloquium production, to Rhode Island Mensa's AMC Meeting hosting. Each group in our region that hosted a Regional Gathering (RG) - Northern New Jersey, Connecticut & Western Massachusetts, Boston and New Hampshire/Maine - is testimony to the spirit of positive team work. May even more interested folks step forward in every Region 1 group and lend a hand to help keep their groups vital and growing.

In the Answered Prayers Department, Jeane Thompson, The VerMonter's editor, finally has her son Josh back home from twice extended military service in Iraq.

Congratulations are in order to Greater New York Mensa which tested more people during Mensa Testing Day than any other group in its Group of the Year Award (GOTYA) category. In these days of fewer (or no) test proctors for many groups, this is a great tribute to the hard work that Linda Spadafina GNYM's Testing Coordinator and her crew do to recruit and test potential members. I met Linda when she attended a GNYM RG after having just taken her Mensa test. She said she felt "right at home" with us and has continued to give back to her new family.

Boston Mensa's Pilgrimage RG was once again a fun-filled weekend. The caliber of volunteers who put this event together is of the highest. Two of them deserve special note: Registrar Al Beecy who designed an online registration form that could be a model for Mensa gatherings; and Rick Kovalcik, Hospitality Meister Extraordinaire, whom I've never seen sit down in all the years I have attended - he and his crew work nonstop. Any rumours you may have heard about me and my posse doing a Diana Ross & The Supremes imitation during the Karaoke Party are to be ignored......

In a bow to my Scottish McBean side, I have at times celebrated Hogmanay (Gaelic oge maidne ="new morning" or Anglo-Saxon haleg monath="holy month"), which is celebrated in Scotland on New Year's Eve. Traditions include First Footings and fire ceremonies: torch light processions, fireball swinging and the lighting of New Year fires.

First Footing lore says that your new year will be prosperous if, at the strike of midnight, a "tall, dark stranger" appears at your door with either a lump of coal for the fire, or a cake or a coin. In exchange, you must offer him food and either wine, a ‘wee dram' of whisky, or the traditional Het Pint, a combination of ale, nutmeg and whisky.

Sweet Haggis is a dish which originated in the Ayrshire town of Kilmarnock. This hot steaming pudding is just the ticket on a cold winter's night. A Happy New Year to All!

Sweet Haggis
Sweet Haggis

  • 12 oz. (350 g) oatmeal (old fashioned or steel-cut [Scots or Irish])
  • 4 oz. (125 g) flour
  • 12 oz. (350 g) suet, finely chopped*
  • 4 oz. (125 g) brown sugar
  • 4 oz. (125 g) currants
  • 4 oz. ( 125 g) raisins
  • Salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
  • Water to mix
  •  

    1. Put dry ingredients in a bowl and add enough water to make a thick moist dough. Add fruits and seasonings; mix thoroughly.
    2. Put into a greased pudding bowl (a heavy earthenware mixing bowl will do), cover with greased wax paper and steam for 3-4 hours. (Place bowl inside a larger pot on top of a trivet. Add simmering water, cover and keep water at a simmer. A metal knife inserted should come out clean when done.)
    3. Serve hot or warm, sliced.
    4. The remainder can later be cut in thick slices and fried or wrapped in foil and reheated in the oven.

    *Suet is the hard fat from around the kidneys of cows and sheep. Its high melting point works well in puddings and pie crusts, leaving thousands of tiny air pockets that make for a light and smooth texture. Additionally, it does not have a meaty taste, imparting a rich flavour. The substitution of butter, especially in a steamed pudding, simply creates a dish that is heavy and greasy.

     

    If you can't bear the thought of using suet, you can certainly substitute solid vegetable shortening - which also has a relatively high melting point - for suet and few people will notice. Yes, it is high in cholesterol, but the oatmeal balances it.

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