Can I use what I have for anything ?
Sometimes it is due to the presence of even a small amount of fat; are you sure that no portion of the yolk got in, and that the bowl was very clean? Also, it is easier to beat whites that are a few days old than fresh. Other than that, I'm not sure; maybe others will weigh in?
You also might have some soap residue in the bowl. The bowl must be very clean. I use a copper bowl exclusively for whipping egg which means you don't need cream of tartar.
I'm not sure if it will work--I agree with what creamtea and bigpan said-- but you might try a big pinch of kosher (or a smaller pinch of regular if you don't have kosher) salt. I find that salt helps egg whites stiffen up quickly.
I was having trouble getting my whites to stiffen & a pinch of kosher salt worked! Thanks!
Thanks for the replies. I did have a small bit of yolk in the whites that probably was the cause!! Now any ideas for the great flavored mixture?
The presence of any kind of fat (that in yolks, for example), causes protein chains to literally slip apart. Protein chains are long and sinuous, and for a meringue, you obviously want them to stay long. Cream of tartar (aka tartaric acid) or cupric acid (which is formed naturally when using a copper bowl) help with the relaxing and strengthening parts of whipping EWs. It is important also that you never use a plastic bowl for whipping them. Plastic bonds well with fats and oils, and it is difficult to ever get one clean enough to use here.
I was always told that a drop of vinegar in the bowl first will counteract any remaining bits of grease.