Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bertie On Our First Date

On July 4th, we were invited to an old fashioned Southern style Independence Day picnic where the guests were encouraged to bring a family dish AND include a photograph of the relative from whom the recipe came. This task first required looking through a very disorganized box of recipes. Having found a recipe for Mills' Homemade Ice Cream, the next order of business was to find a photograph of my father's mother, Gramma Mills.

Now, I realize it's very unlikely that this recipe was invented by my grandmother. And it's also very probable that it wasn't passed down from her, but I do remember going to her house in the summertime and eating homemade ice cream. She was really cute. She would get so excited in the kitchen when she was cooking for us. Sometimes she would have saved some snow ice cream from the previous winter....Now remember, I was young. The story was that since it didn't snow in our part of Mississippi, she would save some snow ice cream for us to eat when we came to visit. In my childishness, I imagined that all snow fell in drifts of colors and flavors. One would go outside in the winter and gather a bucketful of vanilla or strawberry snow ice cream to save for the coming year. I'm convinced that's why we tell our youngsters not to eat yellow snow....if it's yellow it must be lemon flavored, right?

The photograph I found was stuck in an old album. It's the only picture I have of Gramma Mills. She didn't still look like this when I loved her.

This is what she looked like when my grandpa first loved her, for on the back of the photograph, it says in a lovely script,
"Bertie on our first date"
Did my grandpa know *on his first date* that he was going to build a life with this woman?

For the last 20 years, the Lawndale Art Center has hosted a Dia de los Muertos exhibition inviting Texas artists to create a retablo, a small oil devotional painting. This precious photograph of my grandmother and what it signifies---the beginning of a life and love that is a huge part of the reason that I even exist---was the inspiration for the retablo I'm painting.

The plan for this piece is to have the Gramma Mills part in black and white (as shown below) to indicate life from the past. Then I plan to paint the background in color to show that love flourished and grew, and is still growing from this first date. The whole "family tree" aspect of the retablo will be suggested by a tree in the landscape. The finished piece will be auctioned in The Retablo Gala and Silent Auction for Lawndale Art Center on October 26. (I might need to buy this piece back.)

Mills' Homemade Ice Cream

6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 can condensed milk
pinch salt
4 teaspoons vanilla
2 cartons whipping cream
1 pint half and half
2 cups milk - more or less - fill to line in machine

Ice and lots of salt
Also drain water as it turns


Lori said...

I love this -- gorgeous!

Sarah Hazel said...

Thanks! I'm enjoying it while I can.