Gina M. Brown
Recipes By Gina M. Brown
My mother recounted her first Christmas with her Italian in-laws as a non-stop party: people always coming over to visit, food always on the table, and drinks always on tap. I imagined an antipasto platter shaped like a wheel that automatically refilled on the way up, which later turned into tire tracks and roads. So I drew the antipasto roads on six of the hills of Rome. The seventh hill is dedicated to the luminarias. At my first Christmas with Nonnie and Nonno, I helped fill the bags for the luminarias and everyone who lived on their hill did the same. When they were all lit on Christmas Eve, I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful!
I used three inspirations for this panel:
1) In the mid 1980's, my friend Maria invited me to assist her in preparing her family's holiday tamales. After all these years, I can still smell and taste her pork and garlic filling!
2) In the mid 1990's, my husband and I went to Cancun. Instead of staying on the strip, we opted to shop, dine and stay downtown. We ate dinner at a friendly neighborhood restaurant, had the best tortilla soup with a clear chicken broth base, and were serenaded by musicians.
3) My sister makes a deee-licious Mexican cranberry cosmopolitan!
My aunt and I traveled to Portugal and I totally fell in love with the country! I took an unusual delight in photographing shaped breads in the shop windows (and mourned for the poor crocodile who lost its arm!). As I recall, I always ate chicken for dinner while my aunt always ate sea bass. I'd go back in a heartbeat!
My grandfather was Finnish. I would have liked to feature one of his favorite meals, but he didn't like Finnish food! I remember that when he and Grandma were planning to travel to Finland (they, and others in the family were world travelers), he was SO worried that he wouldn't be able to eat. However, Grandpa did have a sweet tooth. So, I incorporated traditional holiday cookies and mulled wine into this panel. Also, it's my understanding that mistletoe is not a custom in Finland, so for my "sweetheart sphere" I used a ribbon-wrapped, clove-studded orange that is commonly used for holiday decorating.
One day my sister and I came home from school to that overwhelmingly delicious scent of turkey cooking. Mom, however, explained that her friend Ina's oven had broken down. And since Ina had a thawed turkey that HAD to be cooked, Mom baked the turkey as a favor to her. ?!? Who knew Mom had such a sense of humor! She continued to surprise us with turkey off and on, but we didn't fall for the "It's for Ina" trick again. I never did discover her super secret turkey thawing station, though she finally spilled the beans to me last week!
Fave Memory (or, more accurately, based on a memory).
My dad had very strong opinions about food (i.e., is it sweet or is it sour...decide!). But I didn't know that he had equally strong opinions about serving dishes. He HATED my two rabbit tureens that had heads made out of bell peppers, etc. I always thought it would be fun to prepare him a meal of "animals" constructed of other foods. So I drew up these three animals and composed a short poem about each one, as if it was a Halloween potion. Because the poems reference the body parts of the animals, I decided to show the organs of one animal via an "organ x-ray". I do think that Dad would have liked that part, since he was always up for a good pun.
Occasionally Dad would have to work out of town for the weekend. Since he didn't consider pizza a "proper" meal, the first thing that my mom, sister, and I would do is get a pizza from Genii's. Then we'd bake and decorate cupcakes all night long while listening to music (Mom loved disco!) and dancing in the kitchen.
Fave Memory (of my husband and in-laws).
Seriously, I love my mother-in-law. She raised five kids as a single mom while working full time. However, seriously, who believes that their kids LOVE soggy cooked spinach and eggs, dotted with bits of cheese? OK, I would love the cheese and today I would eat the spinach, but not as a child!
It was Thanksgiving at the farm. Since I fancy myself to be a baker, I volunteered to make the pumpkin pie. The meal proceeded nicely, and then came desert and the awful realization that I forgot to add the sugar to the pie filling! Oh, well, the chickens deserved a nice Thanksgiving, too, right? So we gave the pie to the chickens. Despite the fact that they frequently eat raw squash, every single one politely declined their Thanksgiving treat!
You can see that Dad was quite rigid about keeping a tight schedule on the farm! Well, the fun thing about rules is the exception to the rules. Dad's hard and fast rule on the farm was, because it was a working farm, not to get attached to the livestock. Well, somebody forgot to tell that fact to Oscar the turkey. Oscar was persistent and insistent on winning Dad's affection. Before long, the two of them were inseparable, doing chores together and riding together on the Gator. When Oscar finally left this life (as I recall, not due to activities related to the farm), Dad kept a bunch of Oscar's feathers and attached them to the tractor like a hood ornament.
One of my aunts made a wintery fairyland scene out of penguins constructed from hard-boiled eggs and olives for a family gathering. She put the penguins on a mirror and sprinkled fake snow around the "ice". So pretty! But my actual memory extends later into the evening of the festive event. When the extended family would gather, the four adult sisters talked long into the night. As a youngster, I had to scrounge a place to sleep and would conveniently choose the room where the talking occurred. I then pretended to sleep while I eavesdropped on the adult conversation, which usually included a discussion on how they should combine forces and open a catering business. They would map out the entire business plan, including what contribution each person would offer and criticize the meager efforts of existing businesses. What a fun introduction to pipedreams!
When this camper was new to us, we decided to pay a visit to my best friend from high school, who lived in "the city". We arrived at the campground, and the host excitedly told us that she had saved "the site with the tree" for us. ?!?!?!? Up to that point, we had only camped in forests, etc., and were shocked to discover that this city campground did, in fact, have only one tree! Well, we settled in nicely, had a wonderful visit with my friend, and I made a hearty Polish stew with apples and sauerkraut for the somewhat chilly day. All was right with the world!
This memory goes back to 1979 when my aunt and uncle were married in northern Michigan during that magical week between Christmas and New Year's. She was beautiful and wore a simple white dress; instead of flowers, her hands were concealed in a white fake fur muff. He was so handsome in a dark green velour tux. I don't remember if there was a cake, but there was a desert table, on which the bride had made a wreath constructed of leaf-shaped cutout cookies. I took the liberty of adding wedding bell cookies.
The first year that I was married, my mother-in-law came for an extended visit over Christmastime. I was so wrapped up in planning the entire visit that I completely forgot to plan a "nice" Christmas meal. When we woke up, she innocently asked me what I had planned. Oops! So we spent the day making peanut butter balls, and for dinner, we had my old stand-by, spaghetti and meatballs. She was a great sport! Spaghetti and meatballs remains one of her favorite meals (whew!). Love you, Nancy!
Fave Memory (actually two)!
1. When I was little, our Italian grandparents came to visit for a week every August. Each time, Nonnie brought a HUGE tin filled with biscotti and pizzelles. Because this annual treat was just so special, we all individually snuck into the tin to steal "just one". And yet we were collectively surprised when the HUGE tin was empty after only a couple of days!
2. As a youngster, dad was served soup with every meal. We regularly make the cappalletti at holidays, but the pasta fagioli somehow fell by the wayside. My sister painstakingly recreated all of the nuances of Nonnie's recipe. I rarely saw strong emotion from my dad, but he was simply overcome when he tasted my sister's soup, exclaiming that he never thought he'd taste that flavor again. Good work, Sister!
Our pets have always been our muses, but it was my sister who suggested that we make Zinger (older Golden Retriever) and Officer Mike (Mini Schnauzer) cutout cookies, though our dog pack has grown since that day. For the outlines, we used both the "trace around an image" strategy as well as the "fashion a permanent cookie cutter from hardware" method. Each method worked equally well. But our biggest discovery was that black frosting is quite inedible - yuck!
This drawing began as a somewhat darker panel to the tune of "Celery Stalks At Midnight". However, it morphed into a musing about the "hidden" geometry of corn, i.e. 1) how the geometry of the corn stalk might change over the course of a growing season and 2) the infinite possibilities of the geometry of the corn maze. Perhaps there's another panel for the celery at some future date!
One of Mom's many famous deserts was her individual Baked Alaskas. She usually made them with French Vanilla ice cream (Dad's favorite), but I thought it would be fun to pair the pineapple and coconut with raspberry ice cream instead.
Well, I thought I was done drawing panels for this challenge...until my husband went fishing with his friend. The fishing buddy caught a salmon and brought over some cut pieces of fish for my husband to smoke. I now attribute the inspiration for two panels to my husband. Thanks, Scott!
Since Officer Mike (Mini Schnauzer) was a puppy, he wanted to do everything that his cousin Zinger (Golden Retriever) did. That included swimming in Nonno's (Grandpa) pond along with the resident turtle and the many beautiful koi. What a brave boy!
This panel was inspired by an obscure sentence I read many years ago, in which a mother stated her expectation that every day her child was to bring home a tale of a new discovery from the great outdoors. In my version, the child had to wait until night-time in the forest to be honored with this rarely-witnessed event!
Super Food Entry.
I dedicate this submission to my father, Farmer Gene, who loved both growing vegetables and opera. He never lost his inner twelve year old and looked forward to a great guffaw over a pun...the cornier, the better!