Robertson brings artistic flair to holiday traditions

December 22, 2004|DONNA CLORE

The holiday season is a special time of year when we plan family gatherings and reflect back on memories created throughout the years with family members.

Virginia Robertson, who lives with her husband, Bill, in a "late Victorian Cottage" home on Lexington Avenue (as described by the "Homes in Danville" book), keeps many traditions continuing.

"The grandmothers have been gone for years; however, they live very colorfully in the memories of those of us left behind. We resurrect them at gatherings whether it be holidays, birthdays or just a celebration of being together by preparing one of their kitchen masterpieces. Then, we recall occasions when my mother or Bill's presented them in their individual fashion."

Robertson's mother was "an artistic" cook who ventured out of her simple, Midwestern housewife existence with foods such as calla lily sandwiches, checkerboard layered salads and creative birthday cakes.


"Her kitchen was her studio. Mom taught me to take the plunge and adventure with spices, shapes, liquors and colors in my cooking."

One problem with not measuring

She finds one problem with not measuring though - a dish is never quite the same twice. Close, but not the same.

"Here in Kentucky, my mother-in-law, Lucile Robertson, hesitantly spun her magic in preparation of food - plain and simple fare that my grown children still ask for. She went to her grave never realizing what a fantastic cook she was."

Cooking and artistic skills ran in Robertson's family.

"Mom's twin sister was also an excellent cook; however, she showed her creative flair more with painting. They both used an artist's eye in their flower gardens which meandered about, adding a sense of adventure to visitors and a harvest of bouquets for their houses."

Although Robertson thinks that "Bill can not boil water," his artistic flare comes out in his table settings.

"He sets an exquisite table - beautiful with china, centerpieces and table coverings. They are breathtaking."

Their daughter is "a marvelous cook," making a lot of the old favorites and being adventurous in the kitchen as well.

Their son, James, is "pretty much in to sushi and prefers healthful cooking with an Oriental flare."

The other son, Booker, is married to "quite a gourmet cook." They both like to cook together and try new recipes.

Devoting more time to her art

With being semi-retired from teaching elementary students in the gifted and talented program at Burgin, Robertson now can devote more time to her art. She paints in oils, acrylics and mixed media collage. She finds it "extremely fulfilling."

She enjoyed painting the "women of substance" series last winter. And the "Gallery Hop in November was good for me."

Meeting people through her art and feeling the acceptance, appreciation of her work, and "the warm embrace" shared makes it all worth while.

There is an extra bonus for those who purchase one of her paintings - a poem written by Robertson about the painting.

So, as the Robertson family gathers this holiday of 2004, they will again share fond memories of past family members and delight in creating even more memories of art, special times, family and glorious food.


Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

"An experiment that is never the same twice. Put your own signature on it."

6- to 8-pound turkey breast (or one that fits the size of your slow cooker), defrosted

3/4 cup apricot marmalade or syrup

2 good shakes of red pepper flakes

Dash of soy sauce

1 sprinkle of ground cloves

1/2 cup apricot or peach brandy

Cut off the rib section to the joint of the breast/wing bone. Skin the breast in order to eliminate the fat. Place in a slow cooker (crockpot) with nothing else, except maybe a bay leaf. Cook on medium about 4 hours. The time will depend on the weight of the breast. It will cook in less time if you select high temperature.

When done, remove the breast from slow cooker and place in a shallow pan.

Combine remaining ingredients to make a glaze and baste the breast with it.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Baste a second time with remaining glaze and bake 5 additional minutes.

"You just leave it in the oven long enough for the glaze to solidify."

Lucile Robertson's Cranberry-Apple Relish

Cranberries are Virginia's favorite food because of the color and flavor. They go with anything and are "especially good with tuna sandwiches."

1 package fresh cranberries

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 apples, peeled and chopped

Cook apples in the microwave 4 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

Combine cranberries, water and sugar in a saucepan and gently simmer until the berries pop. Fold in the apples. Cool and then place in your favorite dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note: Virginia Robertson buys fresh cranberries while in season and freezes them to use throughout the year.

Donna Clore is Boyle County extension agent for family and consumer sciences.

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