Let’s take a moment to meet the winners of the 2013 Delaware Shakespeare Festival Picnic Contest, sponsored by Janssen’s Market: “Two Ladies of Newark (and Their Manservant),” a trio also known as Donna Sever, Amy Shay and Manservant. These two sophisticates in black produced a perfect picnic that hopscotched through the Shakespearean canon in only five courses, with muffins to spare. Here’s how they did it:
Clearly, you’re not Shakespearean newbies. Run down your credentials.
Donna: Her Shakespeare credentials are more impressive than mine. I’ve always loved Shakespeare, but I had never read The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Amy: Watching Donna’s reaction to the unfolding story was very funny. She had that fan and she was flapping it furiously.
Donna: I was a little upset with what was happening!
Amy: I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in literature, I’ve taught and I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s works, so I know him pretty well.
Your menu was a thing of beauty. What was the first dish you came up with?
Donna: We actually had three times that number of dishes. But we knew we would be in all black, and we knew if we ate everything we came up with, we’d be these little fat balls. And we wanted to keep some ideas for future years. We had Midsummers Night ice cream, and we couldn’t figure out how to get it there. We also paired down the menu for what would work as a picnic. We thought of Merchant of Venison, and then, no.
Amy: Donna is a beautiful cook, so she can make anything. (I had no problem with venison.) But she had a vision of incorporating Shakespearean puns with the menu names, so we brainstormed to come up with names for dishes, and then Donna whittled it down to a reasonable number. The first dish was the As You Like It salad.
Donna: I wanted Taming of the Vindaloo. But we went through several iterations. And having a manservant was just a dream come true.
You wore fascinators. Did you just have fascinators lying around the house?
Donna: Would that we did. We originally wanted to wear big hats, but it was hot.
Amy: Donna made hers, and then told me which one I should buy, knowing I had no intention of making my own fascinator.
Any favorite moments from the night of the competition that you would like to share?
Donna: I loved the show. I love the trivia, when the gentleman behind us was so good at it. The crowd is involved, and everyone who is not that familiar is given a rundown.
Amy: I loved people fawning over Donna. She was in her element. This is where Donna lives, and people saw brilliance. The manservant and I just deferred to Donna as she offered people Much Ado About Muffins, and it was great to see people who appreciate Shakespeare as much as we do who appreciate what we did.
Do you plan to defend the title next year?
Amy: Must you ask?
Donna: We’ll have to see what the show is. I always wait every year to see what’s the next one.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Where do you find a good manservant these days, and do you rent him out by the hour?
Donna: He is fantastic. I’ve known him for about nine years. He taught both of my children karate.
Amy: And he’s my karate instructor too! So try to figure out that dynamic.
Donna: He makes her do push ups.
Amy: “”Yes sir, yes sir. But tonight, you’re calling me ma’am.”
Donna: Manservant is also a big reader, a definite Shakespeare aficionado. I could not have picked a better manservant.
Thank you to judges Paula Janssen (Janssen’s Market), Michele Mitchell (Executive Pastry Chef at the Hotel du Pont), and Matt Sullivan (DSF Board Member).
And here is the winning menu:
The Two Ladies of Newark
A Menu in Five Acts
“Tis not a year or two shows us a man.
They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;
They eat us hungerly, and when they are full,
They belch us.”
Act I As You Like it Salad with a Romano & Juliet Dressing
“Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table”
Act II The Berry Wives of Windsor fruit bowl featuring ‘Pear’icles
“Those palates who, not yet two summers younger, must have inventions to delight the taste, would now be glad of bread, and beg for it.”
Act III Macbeth & Cheese
“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
Act IV Meatballs Well That Ends Well
“Mine eyes smell onions; I shall weep anon”
Act V Much Ado About Muffin
“How much better is it to weep in joy than to joy at weeping”
Washed down with a lovely King Beer & A Midsummer Night’s Sangria
“In jest, there is truth.”