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Nov 30 2009

Garden Club gets into the holidays

Delicious gingerbread women made by Hamby Catering.

Delicious gingerbread women made by Hamby Catering.

At 9:30am on November 13, the parking lot at Seabrook’s Lake House was packed to capacity and parking attendants helpfully guided the unending parade of cars into rows on the Lake House lawn. “What’s all the hubbub?” a Seabrook resident asked one of the lot attendants. The man smiled. “Garden Club,” he replied.

Inside, the large meeting room was filled to capacity with more than 80 Seabrook residents, all of whom were excited to hear about the hot topic of the season, “Holiday Decorations”, as presented by one of the most popular local catering companies around: Hamby’s Catering.

Before introducing the Hamby crew, Garden Club Board member Marianne Banwort sang the first verse from “All God’s Children Got a Place in the Choir”, preparing the crew for a “call to volunteer” for various upcoming holiday events hosted by the Garden Club. Luckily, the roster filled up quickly as ladies volunteered to help decorate the Lake House Christmas Tree on December 4, and to serve punch and run food during the Holiday Open House on December 6.

As the Hamby crew rushed in box after box of decorations and hidden goodies, Deborah Hamby, co-owner of Hamby Catering, announced that “If these guys can teach me how to do table decorations, anyone can learn.”

Gingerbread Women and Egg Nog Cookies

“If you’re going to make gingerbread cookies for the tree, remember that you have to let them age a little before hanging them,”

Deborah Hamby shows how to make gingerbread women.

Deborah Hamby shows how to make gingerbread women.

said Deborah, reminiscing about the time that she hung several fresh gingerbread cookies on her Christmas tree, only to find that every one of them slipped their hooks and fell to the ground overnight. She also told the story of the first gingerbread men which were not made for eating at all, but were instead decorated with gold and gemstones to imitate the guests at fancy parties in 15th century Germany.

To decorate an edible gingerbread person, Deborah noted that she uses either royal icing (a combination of egg whites, water and powdered sugar) or fondant, which can be cut very accurately.

The egg nog cookies provided even more of a history lesson, with Deborah telling the story of rum in the early American colonies and how the settlers used it instead of the traditional brandy in egg nog recipes, as rum was cheaper and more readily available. “However, we used bourbon in these, as bourbon is more popular in the south,” said Deborah.

A bell pepper Poinsettia

The bell pepper poinsettia.

The bell pepper poinsettia.

To literally top it all off, Deborah presented a breathtaking work of art in the form of a Poinsettia recreated entirely out of vegetables. Starting with half of a cantaloupe turned face down, Deborah cut the sides off of a bell pepper in three sections, being careful to avoid creating holes when cutting under the ridges. Scraping out the seeds, she carefully cut the section into a leaf shape and threaded a toothpick through one end so that, when stuck in the cantaloupe, it would stick out perpendicular to the melon. “Be sure to stick the toothpick in the melon first, then re-thread the pepper leaf onto it,” she said, noting that the peppers tended to shred if handled roughly.

For the center of the pepper Poinsettia, Deborah sliced the white end of scallions so that they created a fuzzy white center, holding the onions in place with more toothpicks. Finally, the base of the Poinsettia was created by piling two separate shade/textures of greens, such as kale and cabbage.

“The best part about this Poinsettia is that it’s edible!” Deborah smiled.

Centerpiece for dummies

If you’re like most people who don’t really have the three to five hours to create a pepper Poinsettia centerpiece, Deborah also

Deborah Hamby shows how to make a "centerpiece for dummies".

Deborah Hamby shows how to make a "centerpiece for dummies".

demonstrated a quick centerpiece by placing a hurricane lantern inside of a wreath lying face up in the center of a table. “Stick a candle in the lantern and you’re done!” she said.

Presenting hors d’oeuvres

Last but not least, master designer for Hamby’s, Kathleen, took a few minutes to demonstrate how to make quick, tasteful table decorations and bases for hors d’oeuvres trays. Suggestions ranged from bunching a separate, differently colored table cloth on the table to give the presentation of the food a quality of depth, to placing multicolored ornaments in flat-topped glass containers, on which the food could later be placed. To add interest, Kathleen ran strands of battery-powered Christmas lights in between the ornaments and turned them on. “You can get these at the dollar store,” she pointed out.

An easy-to-make centerpiece for Holiday decorating.

An easy-to-make centerpiece for Holiday decorating.

Her final suggestion was a quick Christmas tree made of ribbons which could add height to a table presentation. By sticking a dowel rod in a flower pot filled with plaster-of-paris, Kathleen hot glued several strands of ribbon to the top and ran them down to a wire hoop about 12 inches in diameter. The hoop, she noted, was one of the bases used to make wreaths and could be found at almost any craft store. To finish off loose or untidy ends, she glued a fancy ribbon to the top of the tree, finished the knots on the hoop with little bows and tiny ornaments dangling from the bottom, and covered the plaster-of-paris with ornaments which were hot glued into place. “This time of year, your hot glue gun is your best friend,” Kathleen smiled.

As the presentation closed, the Garden Club was invited to the front to enjoy their very own gingerbread woman, egg nog cookie and signature gingerbread cookie.

For more information about Hamby’s Catering, please visit or call 571-3103. For more information about the Garden Club, the next meeting will be held at the Seabrook Lake House on December 4, starting at 9am.

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