Sylvia’s Wild Cows
1 pint 1/2 and 1/2
1 pint whole milk
for every two pints add:
1 tsp vanilla
6-7 tsps sugar
1 oz bourbon (vodka or brandy can be substituted)
Sprinkle with nutmeg
My Other Mother, Sylvia Flammer
I grew up in a “Wonder Years” neighborhood; Southern California, circa 1960’s. It was a newly planted housing tract in the San Fernando Valley, carved from lemon and orange orchards nestled up against the San Gabriel mountains, filled with young families. My mother was the youngest housewife in our neighborhood, in her early twenties, and Sylvia was the oldest, probably in her late thirties. Soon our families became good, lifelong friends.
Decades ago I matured enough to realize that no household, family, or marriage is perfect, but throughout my childhood Sylvia was a beacon for me. A child of Italian immigrants, who’d settled in Torrance early in the 20th century, Sylvia was a wonderful cook. Her house always smelled delicious. She kept a pristine, beautifully decorated home. I received a warm welcome from her whenever I came through Harvey and Sylvia’s nearly always open garage (Harvey’s haven) and entered her kitchen. Deep in my consciousness I knew I wanted to create a home like hers someday.
I have great memories of Sylvia, Harvey, Mike (their son,) and Linda (their daughter,) especially on holidays. There were Halloweens, Trick or Treating in our neighborhood, when Sylvia would arrive at our house with an empty glass, calling, “Trick or Treat.” Just as often it was vice-versa, the neighborhood adults brought empty glasses to her place.
One particular New Years Eve the parents all moved from Harvey and Sylvia’s to another neighborhood party and Mike and I, about age 12, sneakily sidled up to her bar and made our own ‘cocktail’— a mixture of every hard alcohol we could find. It was truly disgusting.
But my favorite holiday memories are of Christmas Morning. After we opened presents at home, my parents would visit Harvey and Sylvia’s to drink her special “Wild Cows,” a mixture of milk, sugar, and whiskey (Jack Daniels preferred- though any quality whiskey, vodka, or brandy will do,) sprinkled with nutmeg.
I hated Wild Cows into my early adulthood—too sweet and milky—but now, lighter than eggnog, they’ve become a delicious family tradition in my home on Christmas (and New Year’s Eve) mornings.
A few years ago, both quite elderly, Harvey and Sylvia passed away. Mike has been gone for a long time, too. Linda is living in New York these days. Once in awhile, I drive through the old neighborhood, but of course, everything has changed.
However on ‘Wild Cow Mornings’ I never forget to toast the value of tradition, and remember Sylvia, thanking her for her friendship and support. Sylvia is one of the people who made a quiet, but powerful, difference in my life.
Here’s to you, Miss Sylvia. And here’s a toast to family, friendship, and tradition. Enjoy.