Dining with the Flemings

This photo 0f the Green Mont Dining Room was taken in 1935. I never saw this furniture assembled in one room although quite a bit of it was in Clarissa’s Homewood Dining Room and all the pieces are certainly familiar. The large painting over the sideboard on the right I had always heard referred to as “The Good Dinner”. More about that painting later. 

We have already had some discussion of “special” foods that might want to make an appearance at the reunion. I, personally, never sampled Green Mont cuisine. But I certainly remember dining at Homewood many times, and have enjoyed Clarissa and Harriot’s festive Holiday parties and such. Lots of Iced Tea, and eggnog, and “little cakes”. And then there was that cake of cakes, which I’m sure everyone who was ever entertained at Homewood experienced; Mrs. Beavers’ legendary Caramel Cake.

Marloe Woollett: Yes, Aunt C. did indeed love a good party which always seem to include a large VA. ham, Mrs. Beaver’s huge, luscious 3-layer caramel cake (I have the recipe!), and mounds of ???’s fried chicken (went up to her unpainted, bare-earth-yard house once with Aunt C.), ice tea and PLENTY of spirits, the liquid kind!

Henry Rust: We are thinking of having a meal of these remembered foods and maybe some items from Aunt Roberta’s “Emergency Cookbook” that seems to be filled with Green Mont recipes. That caramel cake has been on every ones list. Have you ever made it?

Marloe WoollettI don’t mean to rain on everyone’s parade, but the big yellow cake with that gorgeous THICK caramel icing that Aunt C. always had when I visited and for her parties was made by a Mrs. Beavers who lived in Marshall, as I recall. I went with her once to collect it. And yes, I tried to make it once and though the cake part is pretty straight forward, the icing is a total Nightmare!  If it isn’t cooked enough, it just rolls off in a sticky mess, but on the other hand, cooked a second too long and it hardens up so fast it is impossible to spread!  There is a real art to making caramel candy/icing!!!

MRS. BEAVER’S 3-LAYER CAKE with CARAMEL ICING

–       Preheat oven to 375 degrees
–       2 cups sugar
–       ½ lb. butter
–       4 eggs, separated
–       2 ½ cups flour, + 2 teas. baking powder, sifted
–       1 cup milk
–       1 teas. vanilla

Cream sugar and butter
Add 1 egg yolk at a time and beat well
Add vanilla and beat well
Alternately add flour and milk, beating well each time
Fold in beaten egg whites
Pour batter into 3 greased 8” cake pans

Caramel Icing
–       1 1/2 lbs. light brown sugar
–       1 cup heavy cream
–       1 cup milk
–       ½ stick margarine
–       1 teas. vanilla

Put all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan
Let it come to a boil, stirring to mix well
Cook until it forms a soft ball in cold water
Let it cool…then add vanilla and beat with a spoon until thick enough to spread*

*Sounds simple, but judging exactly what she means “cool” and “thick” is a super challenge! This is the recipe Aunt Clarissa sent me, but with the use of a candy thermometer, maybe the problems with the icing can be solved!

Henry Rust: We finally found someone who had the courage and expertise to recreate this memorable cake. It was Lois Sutphin; a nurse, and baker extraordinaire. She managed to hit it out of the park on her first attempt.

Aviva and Basil Mutti, Collins and Henley Ann Coffman, and Sam Chin-Rust.jpeg
The reunion buffet and some very interested customers July 15, 2017

We made 8 or 10 of these cakes for the reunion, and then another 4 for the surviving Beavers. I called up Roger Beavers and said that I had something for him. I don’t know what it was he thought I might be bringing him, but certainly it was not caramel cakes. He saw the cakes and started salivating immediately. I think he was rather overcome.

Roger distributed the extra cakes among his two brothers, George and Joe, and his uncle. I don’t believe any of them had eaten this cake since the passing of their grandmother. They all had a nice stroll down memory lane. George’s wife, Pat, asked for the recipe. She agreed it was “just like gran’s cake”. I concurred.

Marloe Wollett: All I remember about Greenmont food is that it seemed everything was fried and all vegetables were in a thick cream sauce! [I wonder if they ever had a salad!?  : ) ] But all that cream and butter in the desserts was a kid’s super delight!
 
A sidelight (you’ve got the funny memories going!): In that book of Aunt R.’s are 2 desserts I absolutely detested, and were an extreme test of my having to show “good manners” by somehow choking them down.  They were absolute favorites of Mamere’s (Frances/Fanny) when we went there for dinner.  One was Wine Jelly and the other was Blancmange which was actually Aunt Roberta’s recipe!  I would probably find them delicious now, but I will never forget the dread that they might appear!  However, your grandmother’s (Mary) Chocolate Sponge was a different matter!

More food thoughts and memories…everyone….Please!  Any requests for the Reunion Banquet?

Dining at Green Mont

My father told me that Uncle Rob Fleming, a life long guest at Green Mont, never spoke a word when at the family table. Harriot (“Amere”), knew that Uncle Rob had a hearty appetite and that he always wanted second helpings at dinner but he would never ask for them. She addressed this by always setting a second glass of milk at Uncle Rob’s place and making sure that he had double portions of food on his plate.

“The Good Dinner”

The first time I remember seeing “The Good Dinner” was in York, Pennsylvania  around 1961 after it had been “restored”. I assume it was somewhere in or around Green Mont when my father purchased the place, perhaps up in the attic. It must have been in pretty bad condition because, even to a 7 or 8 year old’s eye, it looked pretty battered after the “restoration”.

The painting was dark and rather murky, but you could make out the highlights of the face (brow, ridge of the nose and cheekbones) of a very satisfied looking gentleman holding a flagon in one hand and a brimming glass of red wine in the other. Sausages and breads and cheeses and a leg of mutton or something emerging from the darkness. An engaging scene over all. I understood that this had been painted in Italy in the latter 19th century and purchased by the Flemings to hang just there.

After that restoration in the early 1960’s it went back up on the wall in the Green Mont Dining Room. Over the ensuing years, obviously not helped by the fact that the house had been damp and largely unoccupied, the patches fell apart and the painting was again in  pieces.

In about 1990, I happened to see another large oil painting beautifully restored from a similar condition and asked who had done the work. It had be done by a Hamish Stewart-Treveranus of Alexandria, Virginia. I contacted him and ultimately turned the painting over to him for an estimate. It sat and sat at the back of his shop, for years. He finally gave me a quote and I told him to go ahead. It sat again.

In 1995 I moved to Los Angeles and somehow lost contact with both Mr. Stewart-Treveranus and the painting. He had called once, six or seven years after starting on the painting to tell me that it was finished. He sent me an invoice which I paid, asking him to please hold on to the painting until I could get back to Alexandria to pick it up. That was our last contact. The following year his phone no longer answered and my mail received no reply. With my life running somewhat amok, it all slipped through the cracks. This was 1997.

In 2010, I received a call from an auction house in Alexandria. The had received a shipment of paintings from the estate and one of the paintings had my name on the back. As it turned out, Hamish had developed advanced Alzheimer’s. After his death, all the paintings in his studio, assumed to be his personal property as he had not worked professionally for over a decade, were to be auctioned off. The Auction house asked me if I would like to sell it. They were very interested and had had a number of inquiries. I thanked them for treating the issue so honestly, paid a modest storage fee, and recovered the painting.

I am sorry to say that the frame and the original stretchers were no where to be found, but the quality of the restoration was first rate. For the time being, the gentleman is enjoying his repast in sunny southern California.

I almost neglected to mention that since arriving in California, this guy has already been in one feature film. He even gets a close up.  Margaux Rust got him the part. He was on location for about a month out in Malibu. Came back with a tan, and an attitude.

IMG_0464.jpg
The Good Dinner  (39″ x 58″)

 

One thought on “Dining with the Flemings

  1. Aunt Roberta often served us a vanilla custard dessert that I remember as “lamonge”. Whatever it was called, I thought it was tasty.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s