Nancy McWhorter – For The Record

I had a dear friend named Oneida Vinecour that passed away approximately 5 to 6 years ago.  Oneida had retired as a surgical supervisor at St. Mary Hospital, Port Arthur, Texas and since then often worked part time as a relief nurse for Texaco Medical Department, Port Neches where I was also employed.

Oneida was old enough to be my mother and we soon bonded together.  Even now as I think about her it brings a smile to my face.  She was a feisty “old” lady and we quickly bonded.  Even away from work, we both enjoyed doing things together, especially shopping flea markets to find treasures for our various collections sometimes even taking overnight trips.  When we were together it was fun and we shared many laughs.

The neighborhood where Oneida lived (Griffin Park) was once an exclusive section of Port Arthur.  It was a beautiful town but as many cities have, it had deteriorated and crime had become prevalent in her area.  Here is an example of Oneida’s spirited personality.  She lived alone but carried her keys on a long dog chain.  One night she had been out late and returned home to find someone trying to break into her house.  She just walked up to him and started hitting him with the long dog chain and the man quickly ran away.  As he was running, she yelled to him, “Don’t come back because next time it will be a gun.”  Another time she awoke in the middle of the night to someone at her front door, trying to break in.  She got her gun, sat down in her rocker by the front door and was ready to shoot him if he had come across that threshold.  He was unable to break in and finally gave up and left…lucky for him.  Another story…Oneida always went to bed at 8:30 p.m.  One night after she had retired for the night was awoken by a telephone call from a photograph marketer trying to sale her a photograph appointment.  She listened to the person’s “spill” and proceeded to tell the person she would like to think about it, took the person’s phone number and promised to call her back.  Then Oneida set her alarm clock for 2:30 a.m. and called her back to tell her she was not interested in the offer.  That was “my Oneida.”  One weekend, we planned a treasure trip to Houston and awoke to cold, freezing weather.  Did we let that deter us?  Oh no, not my Oneida.  She packed us warm snacks and coffee and off we went anyway.  It turned out to be one of our best adventures and a treasured memory.  I loved that lady.  Sure do miss her.

I was recently grocery shopping at Walmart and a man was demoing blueberries.  That caused memories of my Onieda flooding back.  In the summer, there was a blueberry farm about 30 miles from where I lived.  You could go there and buy already picked blueberries or they would provide a bucket and for a smaller fee, you could pick your own.  Those bushes were loaded with huge, juicy sweet blueberries just for the pickin’.  The first time we went, I did not think about the heat but my resourceful Oneida did.  Although the farm sold blueberry lemonade or provided water, resourceful Oneida knew to bring us ice cold water.  What a respite on those hot summer days.

Yes, I purchased a box of those blueberries which amounted to 1 ½ cups and prepared this KEEPER recipe.  For Ava and me, I halved the French toast part but prepared the full amount of the syrup.  The syrup is also tasty over vanilla ice cream and could/would also be good poured over pancakes, waffles or slices of pound cake.

 

BAKED BLUEBERRY FRENCH TOAST

12 slices day-old white bread, crusts removed

2 (8 oz.) pkgs. Cream cheese (do not soften)

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

12 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups milk (I used canned evaporated milk)

1/3 cup maple syrup or honey

SAUCE:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 Tbsp. butter

1.      Cut bread into 1 inch cubes; place half in a greased 13 X 9 inch baking dish.  Cut cream cheese into 1 inch cubes; place over bread.  Top with blueberries and remaining bread cubes.

2.      Whisk the eggs, milk and syrup in a large bowl.  Pour over bread mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

3.      Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Cover and bake at 350○ for 30 minutes.  Uncover; bake 25-30 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

4.      Combine the sugar, water and cornstarch until smooth in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 3 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in the blueberries; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until berries burst.  Remove from heat; stir in butter.  To serve pour sauce over the baked Blueberry French Toast.

YIELDS: 8 servings