This is a post which relates to the work I did in February 2014 on the 75th anniversary of La Retirada – the retreat from Spain at the fall of the Republic in 1939. It relates to Abuela’s (grandmother’s) improvised kitchen on the platform at Portbou Station, where in flight from the fascists she made rice to feed her family after an agonising three day journey without food. I work on the studio floor (as she did on the platform) and the tea lights I light in remembrance, once melted, become part of the recipe for sand flans. Cinnamon flan was Abuela’s signature desert during my childhood and here I make cinnamon sand flans, which also refer to the infamous French internment camps on the beaches, on which the fleeing exiles had to improvise shelter and food. As ever I use Robert Capa’s photographs, and written testimony taken from the exiles to allow me to imagine the conditions. Of course the exiles didn’t eat sand – but shockingly we know they drank sea water.
My technique is developing – the ingredients are basic, sand, cinnamon and wax. The single flan is the first in which I add the cinnamon and I’m happy to observe a crumbly texture, absent from the first six – made only with vanilla tea lights and sand. I have to work quickly before the wax cools.
The six sand flans shown together represent my family group, Abuelo (grandfather), Abuela, my mother and father, my sister and I. At family meals in Abuela’s flat the table was always set for six. I call this grouping of six wit the LED tea lights (more permanent and sculptural than the waxy melting ones) FAMILY.