Having a Ball!
Melon Balls, Highballs, Tennis Balls and they had a Ball creating an iconic, Mid-Century Clock
My grandmother made melon balls seem exotic. Like caviar, but for little kids.
The ritual of removing the compact, boxy packages from the freezer (that required a can opener to pry loose the metal sides) only happened on holidays. These were celebration morsels that deserved to be scooped into her special occasion Libbey fruit cocktail glasses before being set ceremoniously on the table.
The great melon ball thaw would be timed for the kids to have our cantaloupe and honeydew appetizer while the roast turkey could rest and the grown-ups finished all the scurrying around that grown-ups do before a holiday meal. We thought the melon balls were so good! We were impressed! Sweet and ice-cold and the cups looked so pretty.
At that modest apartment on Woodhaven Blvd in Queens during the early 1960’s, I got my first taste not only of melon, but of what it meant to make a dish so simple feel so special.
At the farmer’s market this week I picked up three beautiful, heavy and fragrant melons: cantaloupe, honeydew and yellow watermelon and made melon ball cups with a sprig of mint. The only things missing were the Libbey glasses. When the melon is this good, just scoop and serve.🧡
The Honey Deuce
Meanwhile, near the site of the 1964 World’s Fair in another part of Queens, the 2022 US Open Tennis Championships begins at the end of this month at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Demand for tickets is always high, but this year they’re through the roof, with everyone wanting one more chance to see the legendary Serena Williams in her final Grand Slam appearance at Flushing Meadows, her last appearance on a court anywhere.
If you’d like to toast Serena, the official cocktail of the US Open is the ‘Honey Deuce’ a ridiculously refreshing mix of Grey Goose Vodka, fresh lemonade, Chambord and a cocktail skewer of frozen honeydew melon balls. It’s been served at the Open for the past 15 years.
The story of the drink is that Grey Goose Vodka, a sponsor of the Open, enlisted the help of Nick Mautone, then a managing partner at the Gramercy Tavern in NYC, to develop a cocktail for the event. Mautone saw some honeydew melons at a farmer’s market and thought they looked like tennis balls, and the idea for the ‘Honey Deuce’ was born.
To read more of this fun story and get the cocktail recipe, click Here.
By the way, in my opinion there is nothing better with a drink than potato chips. Whether it’s a cocktail or Coca-Cola, I’m grabbing the chips. You?
Frozen Melon Balls for Ice Cubes? Yes!
So I went a little overboard with the amount of fresh melon balls that I froze and certainly with the amount I put in this glass of club soda, but let me tell you: using frozen melon balls as ice cubes is really good.
The club soda (or any sparkling water) gets a light melon flavor — and then you get to eat the melon. Perfect for hot days in August — I feel cooler just looking at this drink. Garnish with a slice of lime and mint. Make a pitcher!
To make melon ball ice cubes just line a small baking sheet with parchment paper and place the scooped melon balls on it and freeze.
A Cool Welcome
I dug out my little tea glasses and added raspberry to the melon ball ice cubes and club soda and they’re fun to serve from. I’ve always appreciated being offered something nice and cool to drink the minute you arrive somewhere, before you even have a proper cocktail or mocktail. Also, they are a perfect size for children to have a glass of water or some juice from.
Speaking of tea glasses, I’ve been reading a terrific newsletter by Samantha Childress called The Cairo Dispatch and she made the most beautiful hibiscus tea and granita recently. I highly recommend this well written, thoughtful and witty newsletter.
Read Here: The Cairo Dispatch
My Melon-centric Lunch
I had some prosciutto and feta on hand and God knows plenty of melon, so I made these quick bites for lunch. It’s salty with the feta and prosciutto but the cold sweet melon balanced it out and I nibbled some of the mint as well. Also: If you don’t share my enthusiasm for potato chips, these would be nice with drinks. 😉
And Finally: They had a Ball!
Let me start by saying that I love the enduringly popular, best-selling, iconic Nelson Ball Clock, pictured above.
Let me also say that it has always reminded me of multi-colored melon balls, which make it cheerful and appealing to me.
In fact, it is thought to reference the atomic-everything motif of the mid-century, or starbursts, but maybe not.
Here’s the story of how this mid-century classic, which was often seen in kitchen ads of that era, came to be:
Four guys are hanging out after hours in an office in 1947. They have a few drinks and start doodling on drafting paper, jostling each other as they go. They eventually go home and the next morning legendary industrial designer George Nelson, whose office it is, sees the design for the clock. He isn’t sure which one of them drew it the night before.
The other three men who were doodling that night were the brilliant architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller; the artist, architect and designer Isamu Noguchi; and the great industrial designer Irving Harper.
I love this story for many reasons: the spirit of collaboration among friends; the fun; the idea that work can be happy seriousness; all that genius in one room; and doodling as a path to even greater creativity.
I’ve linked to a wonderful article about it Here. The piece unravels a bit of the mystery of who designed it—but not all.
This is part of a great, candid account of that night in George Nelson’s own words:
And there was one night when the ball clock was developed, and it was one of the really funny evenings. Noguchi came by, and Bucky Fuller came by. I’d been seeing a lot of Bucky those days, and here was Irving and here was I, and Noguchi, who can’t keep his hands off anything, you know — it’s a marvelous, itchy thing he’s got — he saw we were working on clocks and he started making doodles. Then Bucky kind of brushed Isamu aside. He said ‘this is a good way to do a clock’ and he made some utterly absurd thing. Everybody was taking a crack at this—pushing each other aside and making scribbles. — George Nelson
Have a great weekend!
Taylor, Elise. “The History of the Honey Deuce, The U.S. Open’s Iconic Signature Cocktail.” Vogue, August 30, 2021. (Online)
Modig, Anders. “The Drunk History Behind A Mid-Century Modern Design Icon.” Bloomberg from HODINKEE, June 18, 2019. (Online)