Martha Hortensia Villegas Rollano was born to Hernan and Maria Luisa Rollano on April 14,1931 in Sucre, Bolivia SA and considered herself not just to be my momma, but THE MOMMA! She came to these United States with my father in 1958 now in her mid-twenties with my big sister Patricia – literally on her hip. She didn’t speak a lick of english when she got off the plane but did eventually learn her new language like so many immigrants, through television.
With prime time programs like I Love Lucy, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Jack LaLanne coupled with her favorite daytime dramas, One Life to Live, Days of Our Lives and General Hospital gave the young surgeons wife a wealth of vocabulary along with more than interesting dramatic inflections. She eventually mastered her new language yet never shedding her thick Spanish accent. Up to the day she passed she accomplished more than she ever thought possible yet surprisingly never learned to drive a car. The closest she came was driving a golf cart into a sand trap – much to the good doctor’s horror.
My family’s love of food and entertaining spans generations in Bolivia and they brought that same culinary passion to their new life and home. Like so many immigrant families my mother cooked and baked daily. In the beginning it was all South American recipes that could be recreated in her new Michigan kitchen. As time went on she became more comfortable with her new surroundings and began to expand her repertoire.
I was a sophomore in high school when my 44-year-old momma suffered a massive stroke that left her partially paralyzed for the remainder of her life. Looking back on it now I can’t even imagine how it would be to have suffered such a traumatic physical and mental shock so young. That being said, the momma never complained and pushed on like it never happened. I highly doubt I could have matched her strength if the same had happened to me. Necessity being the mother of invention I took over many of the kitchen duties at home and found out in time that was pretty good at it ;-)
At one point in her later years for whatever the reason the momma decided to reinvent herself even if only by name. Not quite comfortable with just being just “The Momma” she felt she needed a new moniker and from that day on she was to be called, “Peaches” ;-)
In the kitchen Peaches favorite’s were desserts accompanied by properly chilled French Champagne or Sauternes and one of her favorite desserts was flan. I have fond memories of her trusty Mixmaster at the ready with the stainless steel mixing bowl and dual beaters chilling in the freezer for that final dollop of freshly whipped cream.
The culinary eggheads can date the history of flan back to ancient Rome. Their research found flan in savory forms chock full of deep-sea creatures like eel and cuttlefish as well as more familiar sweetened versions flavored with honey and the like.
Fast forward to Medieval times where flan had survived the fall of the Roman Empire to find itself still a custardy treat, but now generally considered a sweet course.
Now flan can be found worldwide with Mexico, Central and South America being mainstays. Interestingly enough England also has flan with a twist. With the Brit’s love for pastry crusts, they make use of pastry shells filled with the eggy custard usually mixed with nuts or fruit.
Before my Peaches passing she dictated her flan recipe from memory to my sister Patricia in her Illinois kitchen that she immediately input into her computer database. A bit of sleuthing on my sister’s part also found my grandmother’s recipe that my mother penned so many years ago and put into her database, a well-worn metal recipe box via an index card.
I have taken the liberty to offer you dear readers the versions of my family’s flan recipes along with a very close approximation culled from the TOH recipe archives, CREAMY CARAMEL FLAN.
I hope you enjoyed this little insight into my families history and perhaps even learned a bit of culinary custard history. Do you have any family food stories to tell?
Flan By Momma
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 4 cups milk
- 8 whole eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Boiling Water
- Preheat oven to 350
- Grease 2 qt casserole or individual ramekins
- Make syrup: melt 3/4 cup sugar over medium heat
- pour syrup into casserole dish
- Whisk 8 whole eggs with 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla (remove any solids)
- Bring 4 cups milk to boiling point without boiling
- carefully stir hot milk into eggs and avoid whisking in air bubbles
- Carefully cover caramel with eggs, let sit to remove bubbles
- place round casserole into a long casserole and add water to reach halfway up the side of the flan dish
- bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until set
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
- 5 eggs
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a heavy saucepan, cook and stir sugar over medium-low heat until melted and golden, about 15 minutes. Quickly pour into an ungreased 2-qt. round baking or souffle dish, tilting to coat the bottom; let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour over caramelized sugar.
- Place the dish in a larger baking pan. Pour boiling water into larger pan to a depth of 1 in. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until center is just set (mixture will jiggle).
- Remove dish from a larger pan to a wire rack; cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.
- To unmold, run a knife around edges and invert onto a large rimmed serving platter. Cut into wedges or spoon onto dessert plates; spoon sauce over each serving. Yield: 8-10 servings.