Thursday, May 9

Food and Art, All in the Family

Emily Wallace guest-blogs for us about food, art, and design. You can check out more of her work here.

When I told my mother I was traveling to Oxford to talk about pimiento peppers at the 2011 SFA fall symposium, she paused dramatically and asked, “Well isn’t everything just coming full circle?”

According to her, my paternal grandmother—Charlotte Heavner Wallace—ate a small jar of diced pimientos everyday that she was pregnant with my father.  In my mother’s eyes, that meant that I was born to deal with the pimiento pepper rather than pimento cheese, which was the topic of my thesis.

Images courtesy of Emily Wallace. Click to enlarge.

Pimientos show up often in my grandmother’s hand-scrawled cookbook—in pimento cheese, naturally, but also in a vegetable casserole and in “Mother’s Chicken Loaf.” These days, however, what interests me most—and what’s recently come full circle—are my grandmother’s drawings. Etched in black ink and pastel colored pencils, they cover the 50-page recipe book that she wrote and illustrated on lined notebook paper for my cousins and me (she did that three separate times, all in cursive with unique drawings, as copy machines eluded her).

Of note, there’s a drawing of orange pieces portioned from rectangular, circular and triangular cuts of cheese (I particularly love this because I only recall my grandmother keeping squares of American, which we draped on steamed broccoli or open faced tuna sandwiches).

There are little round stickers that she colored and used to cover up mistakes.

And there’s a hand-drawn sandwich menu. It’s been years since I’ve looked at it or the portion of her recipe book that it introduces, as I know most of her dishes by heart. But fumbling through the other day, I was struck by the list of sandwiches featured in the drawing, including pimiento cheese, deviled ham, and tuna and egg. It’s just like a hand-scrawled list I recently wrote and checked off for my own illustrations, including a can of ham spread with the caption, “Speak of the Devil.”

I have to think my grandmother would have enjoyed the pun. As the bottom of her drawing states, “No matter the season or the reason, sandwiches are always popular!” I couldn’t agree more, though given the chance I’d like to ask her about her cheese and carrot sandwich recipe. Perhaps I will make a drawing.