Mark Lamb’s Magnolia Mouth: Butter mints as a celebration of love

Magnolia Mouth

Creates, Tastes, and Tells.

Butter Mints

Reprinted July 24, 2019

I decided to make butter mints for the first Mark Lamb Dance Salon I hosted at Metro Baptist Church. I had never made them before, but had fond memories of eating them.

My decision to make these were inspired by the many weddings I went to when I was a kid. I remember the majority of the weddings I attended were short and sweet, usually with a reception held in the church fellowship hall. The fanciest parts of these receptions were mainly the crystal punch bowl, and lace table cloths.

Usually the fare served was mixed nuts, white cake with Crisco icing, punch, and perhaps country ham on a biscuit. And my favorite thing–butter mints!

When I was deciding what I would serve at the first Salon, I wanted to make butter mints. Butter mints meant a celebration of love for me, and that is what I wanted to bring to Mark Lamb Dance’s Salon Series-love.

I warn you that these little pillows of goodness are addictive.

Once they begin to dry, the outside has almost a chalky tooth, but then when it hits your tongue, the peppermint refreshes. Eventually, when the mint melts further, the subtle tang of cream cheese comes through, and then finishes on the palate with the smooth taste of butter.

For some odd reason, when they are laid out on parchment paper around the house to dry for a couple of days, many go missing. I usually double the recipe for such mysterious occurrences.

So here’s the recipe.
I hope you have a celebration of love where you may serve them. Or just be a big old pig and make a batch for yourself!

Butter Mints

1 package of cream cheese 

4 tablespoons butter

2 boxes of powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt cream cheese and butter over low heat stirring it together. Use a non-stick sauce pan if you have it!

Once it is melted together, stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts.

Gradually add in the powdered sugar, a little at a time. Wisk the sugar into the butter/cream cheese so as not to have lumps. Don’t use a wimpy wisk! This will take some muscle.

Remove from heat.

I personally like the natural ivory color, but I know a bride can be a threat to be all “matchy-matchy” when it comes to wedding colors! If you want to add color, this is the time. Use a touch of coloring paste. Say like the head of a toothpick? Start with a little, mix it in and see if you like the shade. You can always add, but not take away. 

Now, I want you to know the batter is going to look all runny and not correct. It is fine. Pour it out onto a piece of parchment paper or foil lined cookie sheet as best you can into a circle. If you are in a hurry, pop it in the fridge.

Let this cool and dry for awhile. 

Then cut it like you would a pie, and take a section and knead it a bit, then roll it into a rope. You can make the rope the the size and thickness you desire for the mint. 

Then take a butter knife and use it to cut the mints into little pillows. I use my thumb and pointer finger to measure and give it a little squeeze as to fluff them up when I cut them. If you want them to be in a “shape,”  I have seen folks buy molds and take the mint dough and dip it into granulated sugar, then press it into small molds. (You need that granulated sugar to keep them from sticking.) I personally, am not a fan of the granulated sugar on the outside. It makes the mint a bit grainy. I like a smooth mint.

Lay them out on parchment paper lined surfaces, and let them dry for at least a day. If it is humid you may want to let them dry a little longer. 

Store in airtight containers once dry.

I dare you not to pop one in your mouth before the full drying time is over.

Enjoy!

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It has been more than a decade since I moved to New York City. New Yorkers have told me if you can make it here for 10 years you can call yourself an official New Yorker. No matter what happens New York will
always be a part of me.

There are so many experiences, memories and  iconic symbols of this great city that warm my heart, but none quite like the Statue of Liberty.
 

One Summer I taught dance at a day camp program at the Staten Island Children’s Museum. This meant that I rode the ferry past the Statue
of Liberty for a week. Even though you might think passing by the
statue every day would become old hat, it did not. Even folks in
business suits reading their papers would look up and take her in when
we passed in front of her.

When I ride the ferry and see the Statue of Liberty, it sparks a memory
of when I first moved to the city. I had  a life-long dream to live
here. My intention was to move here in the early 90s, but due to so
many circumstances, life offered me other choices. One day I turned
around and 14 years had passed. So at the tender age of 38 I knew if I
didn’t give it a shot I would probably never live in the Big Apple.

I had saved some money, and family, friends, and patrons, encouraged
me with emotional and financial support. I knew living in New York
would be expensive, but I was not really prepared for what would be a
paradigm shift in lifestyle.

I immediately began applying for jobs. I even had solid leads and
recommendations, but no one seemed interested, even though I had over
15 years experience in dance education and the performing arts. One
day I saw an ad on Craigslist that a after-school program was hiring
down the street from my apartment. This time instead of sending out a
cyber résumé I put on a suit and marched down the street a block and a
half and asked to interview with the Executive Director. She granted
me an interview and it seemed to go well, but two weeks passed and I
heard nothing. My money was running out. I felt defeated.

My dear friend and champion, Jennifer Hodson, had not yet moved to the
city but was up from Tennessee visiting a friend and asked me to join
them for a street festival and a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. I
declined because I told her I was running low on funds. She informed
me the ferry ride was free and she would be happy to buy me some stand-
up street food at the festival.

The festival was filled with people from all over the world, laughing,
singing, eating. I remember asking what festival we would attend?
Jennifer’s friend replied “I’m not sure yet? There is always a street
festival in New York City.” This one happened to be around Grand
Central Station and it was magnificent. I must admit that now
stumbling across a street festival is a common occurrence, and they
all seem to be the same to me.

However, seeing Lady Liberty never fails to stir something deep inside my soul.

On that day, after the festival, we rode the Staten Island ferry. It
was one of those eerily perfect September days. As we passed in front
of the statue I was overcome with emotion. It had been less than a
year since my Father had passed away and seeing Her made me think of
him. Not only him, but all that she stands for in welcoming immigrants
(even a Southern transplant) to her shores.

As I took in her magnificence, tears started to stream down my face,
and then my phone rang. It was the after school program down the
street offering me a job as a tutor.

 My Father was a teacher and it made everything seem to come full circle.

I took the job and eventually became the Enrichment Coordinator for
the program. The neighborhood, Jackson Heights, is primarily made up
of a cross section of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants from all
around the world. It was such a privilege to work with these amazing
children. After being there awhile I started to get to know the
students and their parents closely, and was continually amazed at the
sacrifices these parents made to give their child more opportunities,
Oftentimes, the parent was a scientist, engineer, or professor in
their home country, but because their degrees could not be recognized
in the United States, they were put in a position to take a menial job
here. These were some of the hardest working, devoutly religious,
doting parents I had ever seen.

With this job I poured my heart into celebrating the diversity of our
students. We learned about each other’s traditional clothing, food and
dances. Unfortunately, like many arts programs I have worked in, the
funding was cut. Nonetheless, I will treasure my time with the
children of Jackson Heights.

So this Summer, more than a decade later, while crossing the waters from lower Manhattan onto Staten Island, surrounded by people from all around the world, I took stock in my experiences in the Big Apple. On the boat
rides I listened to the Jewish boys camp sing folk songs. I watched
the elderly Chinese lady hold a toddlers hand while climbing the
stairs for the best views. I even gave some tourists from Ohio
directions on how to get to Times Square! …all the while stealing
glances and a few pictures of Lady Liberty. When I passed her, I was
clearly reminded of what is written on her pedestal. Yes, I know the
poem from reciting it for a speech competition in college. It goes
like this.

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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Walks: Like A Sissy

Blog reprinted for June 23, 2019

My Father and Mother grew up going to the movies. During their childhood, our little town, Sturgis, Kentucky was booming. I look at old photos from that era and the town looks so regal. Dad would talk about going “uptown” to see the movies. His sister, my Aunt Louise, was an usherette at the theater, and I think she could get her family in at a discount. So Dad saw a lot of movies.

By the time I came along the movie theaters uptown were long gone. We had TV, or the Broadview Drive In.

So whenever an old movie would come on TV, Dad would encourage us to watch it. I remember someone like Cary Grant or Grace Kelly would appear on the screen and he would say “Now that kid, that is a star.”

I watched these movies in awe. Although just a little boy,  I was mesmerized by the clothes, how they spoke, and how they carried themselves.

I fondly recall going to Aunt Louise’s house for family dinners. She let all the kid cousins go into the attic where she kept a wardrobe full of her old clothes from her “dancing” days. We would dress up in fedoras, stoles and an assortment of amazing accessories. I felt like a character from All About Eve.I loved this “old movie” idea of elegance. But sometimes it is not easy to strive for elegance when you are a boy growing up in the South in the 1970s.

My parents never discouraged my natural proclivity for dressing nice, or even my love of all things domestic. When I asked Santa for an ironing board or a rainbow colored tea set- he delivered.

It wasn’t til I went to kindergarten that I realized how different I might be. I distinctly remember Mom walking me into the open multi-purpose room. The boys were running around like animals! They were throwing balls, knocking over blocks, and making machine gun noises. I was terrified.

My Aunt Velma was a teacher there, and she ushered me over to a smaller room that was full of girls cooking away at a small play kitchen. I felt at home.

I don’t think it was until I went to 1st grade that I remember a boy calling me a “Sissy.” It hurt my feelings, but not enough for me to stop wearing my fake fur jacket to school.

The word Sissy could be sneered through dirty teeth at me, but the pronunciation alone did not pack a punch. Plus, to me, Sissy was a word for Sister, and also charming characters I had seen on television. I revered women and didn’t think it was an insult to be compared to grace, strength and beauty.

It wasn’t until junior and high school did a word hit me like a sharp punch to the gut, “Faggot.”

Faggot still makes me bristle.

After I left high school and went to college, I discovered other young men and women who appreciated the fantasy of glamour and fashion as much as I did. It was the mid 80s and gender bending was becoming part of pop culture.

Enter Madonna. She captured my imagination with her early tunes, but for me, “Vogue” became an anthem for my formative years as a young adult.

Ronald Reagan’s administration had idly sat back and watched over 20,000 American citizens perish before he addressed the growing epidemic. The lyrics of “Vogue” touched a nerve for me regarding the health crisis in America, and Madonna and her dancers provided a defiant attitude against the conservative set.

VOGUE(click the title to see the original video)

Look around everywhere you turn is heartache
It’s everywhere that you go (look around)
You try everything you can to escape
The pain of life that you know (life that you know)When all else fails and you long to be
Something better than you are today
I know a place where you can get away
It’s called a dance floor, and here’s what it’s for, so[Chorus:]Come on, vogue
Let your body move to the music (move to the music)
Hey, hey, hey
Come on, vogue
Let your body go with the flow (go with the flow)
You know you can do it

All you need is your own imagination
So use it that’s what it’s for (that’s what it’s for)
Go inside, for your finest inspiration
Your dreams will open the door (open up the door)It makes no difference if you’re black or white
If you’re a boy or a girl
If the music’s pumping it will give you new life
You’re a superstar, yes, that’s what you are, you know itBeauty’s where you find it
Not just where you bump and grind it
Soul is in the musical
That’s where I feel so beautiful
Magical, life’s a ball
So get up on the dance floor

Come on let’s Vogue.

The video reminded me of the old movies I watched with my parents. Except, these weren’t movie stars. They were dancers of different shapes, colors, and sizes. Also, the men and women had an androgynous quality. A beautiful mix of feminine and masculine.

Over the years Madonna has re-invented her performance of “Vogue.” She has done everything from a Marie Antoinette themeThai influences, and even an Egyptian extravaganza for the Super Bowl. All the while, the through line of this song, no matter how performed, is to celebrate your own personal stardom.

There are a couple of videos that stick out in my mind of young men, who were inspired  by Madonna’s “Vogue,” to let their star shine. I see these as expressions of pure joy and not as a target for ridicule.

One is of this 9-year-old boy.

Vogue Boy

The other is this young man and his Madonna-themed Bar Mitzvah.

Shaun Sperling
(To hear Shaun’s story on how posting this video on Youtube changed his life go to the Moth.)

Vogueing actually came from the ballroom days in the tradition of Paris is BurningRupaul came up through the club kid circuit in New York during the 80s, and his style is definitely influenced by those experiences. Ru says, “You are born naked, and the rest is drag.

I admire the drag queens. They were the pioneers in the Gay Rights Movement in America.”

Rupaul also says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”  I love how Ru tries to be a positive influence on so many folks that have been disenfranchised. He encourages them to find their own power in what the society at large may have once frowned upon. For example, being a Sissy.

Rupaul’s latest song is titled, “Sissy that Walk”. Here are the lyrics to the chorus.

And if I fly, or if I fall,

Least I can say I gave it all,

And if I fly, or if I fall,

I’m on my way, I’m on my way

Fly, fly, fly!

And so on this celebration of the Pride Movement in America, I want to remember those who have fallen, and those who are flying. Thanks to Madonna and Rupaul for encouraging their fans to live their life proudly and to the fullest.

And to Mom and Dad thanks for letting me be a Sissy.

Now Sissy that walk!

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