I wanted to make Spanish Cream today. I knew that it was something my mother made because my dad liked it. My dad ate it growing up and still has a fondness for it. Again, I remembered helping my mother make it but I have never made it all by myself. It was especially delicious when Mom would use the vanilla that my brother Phil and sister-in-law Magda would bring from Honduras. Spanish cream is light, exquisite, and it goes down easily. A lot like grace, you might say, which was on my mind today while I was cooking.
I got to the part where the recipe says, "Stir constantly." I half expected a voice thundering from the heavens, sounding suspiciously like Morgan Freeman, Girl, don't you put down that spoon. There is nothing more important than this, right now. So, stir it. It's a direct instruction, like "pray constantly" or pray without ceasing". I have never felt like I quite have the hang of that. I do strive for mindfulness, prayerfulness, and gratitude but find myself fearful and anxious too often. Maybe that is why Grandma hummed or sang hymns all the time. It was how she prayed without ceasing. She liked to sing Amazing Grace. The last time I saw Grandma alive, she was in a nursing home and had not been doing well. My parents were going to be gone one day and my mom asked to "go visit Grandma." I was 17 at the time. I went to the nursing home, sat by her bed and was surprised to see how poorly she was doing. I didn't know if she knew I was there and I quickly tired of the one-sided conversation we were having so I took her hand and sang to her. I sang all the verses that I knew to Amazing Grace. And I thought then and again today as I was stirring the creamy mixture, that Grandma showed me grace. In fact, life is full of grace. Most of the time, we get second chances, we are given grace upon grace, as so many spoonfuls of Spanish Cream. Both can be surprisingly sweet and clear and breath-taking.
1 T plain gelatin
3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
Soak gelatin in cold milk for 10 minutes. Add sugar and salt and stir until it is dissolved. Heat until milk is scalded. Beat egg yolks slightly and add 1/2 cup hot milk. Stir mixture into remaining milk and cook until slightly thickened (about 4 minutes). Stir without ceasing.
Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and vanilla. Put in a bowl and chill until firm.
It is important to serve this delicacy in a lovely glass bowl. Once when we were eating off of the good china, one of my daughters asked where the china was from. "From Grandpa's family" I answered. "It is so pretty!" she said.
"My mama was poor" my Dad stated, "but she had class."
So, here's to class, grace, and Spanish Cream.
This recipe was adapted from a recipe submitted by Mary Hostetler and Erma Ernst to the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).