Artist captures flavor of family recipes

by Don Bingham

How many still have their grandmother’s iron skillet? Sure, we may have our Le Creuset hand-me-downs, but the family’s iron skillet remains the most treasured possession for homemade biscuits and heartwarming memories of time spent with family.

Parilee Croft remembers her mother, Colene Croft, making anything and everything that was good in her iron skillet.

Colene made biscuits in her skillet and Parilee’s favorites — her mother’s Chocolate Fudge and the Peanut Brittle.

“We made fudge and peanut brittle every holiday,” Parilee said. “My sister Nina (Baker) and I beat the fudge until it began to thicken, then Mother would have to take over.”

She recalls how heavy she thought that iron skillet was. “It isn’t quite as heavy as I remember! We never complained about the weight though because it was used to our benefit.”

Parilee still has the skillet and has preserved the recipes. As artist-in-residence for Art on the Green, Parilee has been painting original watercolors of family recipes for her family as well as the Gallery’s customers.

“It was such a wonderful way to stretch our memories and have the recipes framed to pass down for generations. We have also taken the original watercolors and made them into notecards, like the Sweet Pickles recipe of Marvine Robinson Ely of Fort Worth. She has the original watercolor to pass down to her family and friends who were always asking for her recipe. We are also selling these recipe notecards in the Gallery, so everyone can enjoy a little 501 food history.”

An original, commissioned watercolor recipe is $25, and notecards are 10 for $15. For more information or to place an order, call Parilee Croft at 501.205.1922.

“We try to get an idea of the cooking tools that were part of the family’s permanent collection, and we incorporate those into the art. It’s a way to honor those who paved our way, and I love every minute of the work.”

Colene Croft’s Chocolate Fudge

2 cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 or 2 squares chocolate, grated
1/8 teaspoon, cream of tartar or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the sugar and milk and boil. Then add the grated chocolate and cream of tartar or cornstarch, stirring until the ingredients are well blended. Boil to the soft-ball stage, 280 degrees. Remove from the stove, add the butter and vanilla, and beat until it is creamy and the shine disappears. The fudge will hold its shape when dropped from the spoon. Spread it in a buttered pan, and when it hardens cut into squares.
Mother’s Peanut Brittle

Cook to soft ball stage:
2 cups white sugar
1 cup white syrup
1/4 cup water
Add: 2 cups raw peanuts and cook until brown.

Add: 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
Spread in buttered tray.


Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and previously served as the executive chef at the Governor’s Mansion. He is now the director of special events at the University of Central Arkansas.


Don Bingham
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