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"Grand" Memories - Life Lessons Learned from Grandparents - Part 2 in a Series Plus An Original Flan Recipe

Updated on February 8, 2013

My Paternal Grands

Grandma Eva & Grandpa Willliam Cunningham  Early 1950's
Grandma Eva & Grandpa Willliam Cunningham Early 1950's | Source

My Paternal Grandparents

It seems since I became a grandparent I have grown to appreciate my own Grands even more than my pre-Gramma days. The memories of the times spent with them have become more than just a sweet recollection in my memory banks. Their involvement in my life, especially until I was about 18 years old, shaped me in ways that will always be a part of who I am as a person.

On my paternal side of the family there are eighteen cousins. The guys outnumber the gals 13 to 5. I was the first granddaughter, preceded by five grandsons. So by the time I came along my Grands were overjoyed to finally get a precious little girl in the family. I held that special place for five years before having to give up my princess role to the next girl cousin. While I was knocked off my pedestal for a while and was a little jealous of the newcomer, I never felt inferior to her for my Grands always made me feel special whenever they were around.

Grandpa passed away, very unexpectantly, when I was 17 years old. One of the last things he said to me, after hugging me good-bye on a Sunday afternoon visit and running his fingers through my long hair, was something about how pretty my hair was. He always thought my hair was so pretty. Nice words of acceptance to a teenager who thought her hair always needed…something. I never saw him again after that Sunday afternoon. He was only 67 years old and I still miss him today.

Fortunately, Grandma stayed with us for twenty plus years after Grandpa’s death. I don’t think she ever thought of remarrying for Grandpa was her one and only love. She didn't dwell in her grief for him, for she was not built that way, but she often spoke of him with love and affection in a way you knew her heart belonged only to him.

They where married young at only 17 and 18 years of age. While we consider that young, by today’s standards, it was perfectly acceptable in the early part of the 20th century. They were a couple, a duo and a pair for almost fifty years. They knew each other’s strengths and supported each other, even though sometimes they might disagree. The respect for each other they witnessed to those around them was ever present.

Grandpa and his chickens.

He must have thinking "Look at all the eggs to be gathered". Have often wondered why he has on a sport coat in the chicken house? But, he did always wear a hat. Guess he was just being dabber.
He must have thinking "Look at all the eggs to be gathered". Have often wondered why he has on a sport coat in the chicken house? But, he did always wear a hat. Guess he was just being dabber. | Source

Children Becoming Steadfast Adults Without Them Even Knowing

Throughout his life, Grandpa did several things to provide income for his family from farming to insurance to raising chickens. If anything, he was always a salesman and was a convincing one at that. In his later years he raised chickens and sold the eggs to the local grocery stores. Most of us cousins, occasionally, got to help with gathering and packaging the eggs for market.

There was a gentleman named “Red” who worked with Grandpa. I refer to him as a gentle man for he was a sweet, soft spoken man and was very patient with us kids when we were there to “help”. I’m sure our helping was somewhat of a deterrent to him, but he would always find a job for us to do and we always knew we where a huge help at getting the eggs to market. Sometimes though, Red and Grandpa would get into headed discussions. Don't know what they where talking about for their discussion was always done out of ear shot for us kids, but, their mannerisms where a sure sign something was being discussed. They would resolve the issue and go about the work. You know, I never did know Red’s real name.

On Friday’s the eggs where loaded into the station wagon and delivered. Very often one of us grandkids would get to make the trip into town for this adventure. There could only be one of us kids to tag along for there was just not enough room in the car for more than one grandkid, with all the eggs of course. Grandma would also go to town as well. The course of action would be thus … Grandma would first get dropped off at the Beauty Shop to get her hair done while Grandpa and his helper for the day would deliver the eggs. At each stop along the route there was handshaking and story telling between customer and vendor. I can just see Grandpa, with a cigar in the side of his mouth, standing there with his customer. Often there was a little treat of some sort at one of the stores. Friday was an important day in their lives. At the time, we considered it a privilege to get to be the “helper”. In retrospect, I see how all those times, helping Red and those Grand Friday adventures, we where being molded into responsible adult members of society.

Being Older Can Sometimes Be A Good Thing!

Sometimes being one of the older ones in the family is a good thing. Some of the younger cousins, my sister being one of them, who is ten years younger than I, and will never let me forget it, missed out on these Grand adventures I have just been sharing. But those cousins, who made up this time capsule in our family, witnessed first hand countless life lessons such as …

  • Team building, hard work and completion of a task
  • Marketing, branding and customer service
  • Assertiveness does not mean aggression
  • Patience should always be present when children are
  • Traditions are necessary for family life
  • And let’s not forget self worth and improving one’s appearance.


Eggs, Eggs and More Eggs = Great Desserts

Another important lesson came from the Egg Adventures too. Because eggs are fragile and cracked eggs could not be sold to the markets, the family usually had an abundance of eggs to use in the kitchen. I guess it was a lucky thing that egg custard pie was one of Grandpa’s favorite desserts and Grandma was a good cook too. When I was a teenager she taught me how to make her egg custard. That’s been more than forty-five years ago and I've long ago discovered my family prefers custard pudding to a pie. And then about five years ago I got brave and attempted Flan, so that has now replaced the regular pudding. However, three important elements of the custard, learned from Grandma, have remained the same. You must always use fresh eggs, each egg must be beaten about 20-30 seconds when adding to the milk mixture and you should always use a water bath when baking.

When I developed this Flan recipe and saw the reaction with my family, I knew this was going to be a new regular at special gatherings. Someone actually says “this stuff is better than sex”. What better compliment can one get for a dish? Most of the recipes I have seen for Flan are usually done as a thinner version than what I make. But when you’re feeding a crowd, thicker is better and goes further. Hope you and yours enjoy this culinary delight. Please let me know how your family likes my version. I believe Grandma would be proud.

Get Your Spoons Ready!

Flan-My Version.
Flan-My Version. | Source

Flan - Luscious - Flan aka Fancy Egg Custard with Caramel Sauce


2 cups sugar

3 Cans Sweetened Condensed Milk

3 Cans Evaporated Milk

1½ Cups whole or 2% Milk

12 large Eggs – at room temperature

2 teaspoons good Vanilla

1/8 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground Nutmeg

The Caramel Sauce - Get two 6-8 cup glass casserole dishes ready. Be sure they are dry. Place them close to stove top. In a cast iron skillet add the sugar. On medium high heat melt the sugar. This takes a little time so be patient. It must be stirred continuously or it will burn. Best to use a flat sided wooden utensil. This helps in scrapping the bottom of the pan often. As the sugar melts it will very quickly turn caramel golden brown. Very carefully but quickly pour part of the caramel into bottom of each of the dishes and swirl around to coat the bottom and up the sides a little bit. It will quickly harden. Interestingly, once it is cooked in the oven the hard caramel becomes and stays a sauce.

The Custard - Preheat oven to 400. In large mixing bowl add the canned milks. Use the regular milk to rinse out the condensed milk from the cans. Begin the electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each one about 20-30 seconds (Grandma’s hint). Add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat another 30-60 seconds. Pour mixture in caramel coated dishes. There may be some crackling but that’s ok.

Cooking - Place the dishes in a large pan (s) with about 1 inch water and put in oven. Once on the oven rack add more water to almost fill the pan. Cook for 20 minutes at 400. Change temp to 350 and continue cooking 30-45 minutes until knife inserted in middle comes out clean (check it after about 30 minutes). Carefully remove from the water bath and place on cooling racks. As a safety precaution, leave pan of water in the oven until the water cools off. After about 2 hours the cooled custard can be covered with plastic and placed in fridge until well chilled, preferable overnight. To serve, set at room temp for about hour, run a knife around the edge and place a large plate or platter upside down on the dish and invert. The caramel will be a thin sauce. Be cautious when turning over so the sauce does not slosh off the plate. Savor and Enjoy!\

NOTES: This recipe makes 2 large custards, because that’s the size of pans I have and I always make it for a gathering of some sort. Don’t think it would cook correctly if using one larger pan; however, sometimes I have made 1 large and several small individual servings.



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    • PaisleeGal profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Materna 

      8 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      FSlovenec ... Thanks for stopping by today and reading my story. So glad you enjoyed it. It really wasn't until I became a grand myself that I starting realizing how important these special people can be in our development. There's nothing quite like being a grandparent either. I've yet to come up with a description for it ... when I do I will do a story about it. Hope you get a chance to read the other 2 hubs in the "Grands" series. I think they'll bring you a smile too. Thanks again for the sweet comments and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 

      8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      The affection you have for your grand parents is obvious in the Hub. It is surprising the things we remember about grand parents, aunts and your hub I can place myself in your reminded me of my grand mothers, I never knew grand fathers as they died young long before I was with a grand child and one on the son in law asked why I was keeping myself in such good shape ... I said I wanted to be around for little Aspen's wedding and her children..thank you for the is special at Thanksgiving..


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