I have fond memories of my grandmother; granny. She's the type of grandmother that can keep you in line with a look, but also make you feel more loved and important than anyone else. I have faint memories of visiting her home in Vidor, Texas. They are bits and fragments, but when I piece them together they create a beautiful quilt of moments and a time I recall like a dream. The smell and weight of the humidity, the deafening sound of the cicadas, the smoldering heat in the summer that required driving (rather than walking) across the road, her greenhouses filled with so many flowers and plants, her washroom where all grandbabies were given their baths in the big sink, and her green garage freezer filled with surplus berries from past seasons. Breakfast at the kids table, the cereal cupboard, the tableware, even the sugar bowl, and watching her mix sugar with her milk before adding her cereal, every time. My favorite version of peter pan (a musical of course), bluebell ice cream, running barefoot, seashells in the gravel, ginormous mailboxes, imaginary games, and a line of the plumpest blackberries my young years had ever seen. I returned to visit after almost twenty years and so many memories were resurrected; noticeably lackluster, but still as much of a treasure.
virginia may + sandra jane (my mother)
There was a time when she came to live with our family, after we moved here to utah and still when I was very young. The memories lessened considerably in fondness. I think it had something to do with being a young child and prefering to be outside playing in the sun rather than sorting through undetermined amounts of laundry alongside her. She was a great help to my father during those years, I hope I have shown enough gratitude for both of their sacrifice. When I think about the moments I could have spent getting to know her better and understanding the life she lived, I regret my fickleness. But I was young, and as much as I'd like to think I am very different now, more sentimental with a clear understanding (and practice) of what is most important, I still find myself gravitating toward things that seem more enticing than a phone call. Even if it's the very thing I wish I would have done all those years ago, spent the time.
It's funny, in a sad and morose kind of way, how you really never change as much as you think. I am still that silly young girl in hand me downs, with bruised shins and dirty fingernails, that would rather run and climb trees instead of spending time with the people who I will miss most when they leave. Only now I can recognize it much better. In the conversations that we have had, even if they are more scant than I would like, we laugh together, she gives advice, and I listen. I ask questions, and she tells stories, or refers me to her written biography... and through it all I am reaffirmed just how much I love her. I see bits of my mother in her, and shadows of myself. I don't think I would have appreciated, and definitely wouldn't have been able to relate to, my dear granny like I do now. So ultimately, I am grateful for times to be silly and young, but also amenable and mature.
This is granny stephenson's favorite dessert. I have included her description of the recipe as well as my own, including measurements - for those who love the letter of the law.
virginia may's bread pudding
"There's no real recipe for it. Well, I guess there is, but I never followed it.
Save all your dried bread, pour milk over it until it's absorbed and not dry. For a big bowl of dried bread, beat up 6 eggs and some vanilla extract. Stir together some cinnamon, sugar, nuts, and raisins. Combine everything, then squish so it's flat. Sprinkle with gobs of butter. Sprinkle a lot of brown sugar on top of that, and a lot of cinnamon on top of that. Bake it in an oven until you think it's done, just to cook the eggs. It's like french toast, only it's a lot better.
If you use gobs of butter, you're made in the shade. Especially if you eat it with some bluebell black walnut ice cream."
4 - 6 cups dried bread (baguette, brioche, etc)
1 cup whole cream or half and half (coconut cream)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 - 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
a pinch of each nutmeg, cloves
pinch of salt
1/2 cup whole nuts (walnuts)
1/2 cup dried fruit (blueberries)
butter or coconut oil
brown sugar or sucanat
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Combine the dried bread and cream. Whisk the eggs, maple syrup and vanilla extract together, set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the spices, salt, nuts, and dried fruit. Add the egg mixture to the bread and mix well. Then fold in the nut mixture until everything is combined. If the bread is still noticeably hard (it's okay for the the very middle of the bread pieces to be just barely hard), add a little more cream or another beaten egg.
Spoon mixture into a baking dish, press the mixture down, then top with spoonfuls of coconut oil or butter, sprinkle cinnamon on top, and last about a 1/2 cup of brown sugar or sucanat on top of that.
Bake for 30 - 45 minutes, or until the middle has risen a bit and when stabbed with a knife or toothpick, it comes out clean.
Serve warm, so the texture of the crispy top, and creamy pudding insides can be enjoyed with your melting ice cream alongside, if that's how you roll.
- i imagine you could use egg replacer or silken tofu in place of the eggs, to make this completely vegan (in addition to using the vegan ingredients for the cream and butter, to be sure).
- don't have bluebell? try breyer's or maybe make your own?
- ingredients in (parentheses) are what I specifically used in this photographed version. Use what you have/what you like/what you're not allergic to.