It was in July of 1946 when Dorothy came into my life. Dorothy had arrived just weeks before on board the RMS Queen Mary, along with 455 other war brides, from London, England.
Dorothy had married Elmer Olsen, a naval officer stationed in London, and was among the first group of 43,000 women and 21,000 children allowed to leave England right after the end of World War II to join their husbands in the U.S.
From New York, where the ship docked, Dorothy made her way across the States by train and arrived in Aberdeen, Wash. several days later.
Once Dorothy and Elmer settled into married life, they soon became close friends of my family who lived on the same street.
Dorothy — “thin as a rail,” my uncle called her — wore clothes that were different, more sedate and dark in colors; her shoes were heavy and with a lack of current style that young women in the States wore.
Her only jewelry was a thin gold wedding band. War in England was bitter. Food was severely rationed as well as shoes and clothing.
I was fascinated by Dorothy. From the way she spoke, an accent I had never before heard, to the way she held her knife and fork, opposite from the way anyone I had ever witnessed.
The small portions of food Dorothy ate troubled my aunt and uncle. I would watch the way she cleaned her plate … every morsel eaten, and at the end of her meal, she would wipe her plate clean with a piece of bread she had saved just for that purpose.
Dorothy and Elmer’s house was sparsely furnished. In their kitchen, however, was a newly purchased table and chairs, and on the table’s center sat a Brown Betty teapot, the only item Dorothy brought with her from her family’s home in England.
As a child, I would often slip from our house to Dorothy’s; she would greet me as though I were someone special, invite me in, and make the two of us a cup of tea and cut two slices from an English flan that she always seemed to have in her refrigerator.
I left Aberdeen a few years later, and those memories of tea and English flan with Dorothy faded as the years passed.
Many years later, I was in a china shop in Ventura, Calif., when my eyes came upon a Brown Betty teapot resting on a shelf.
What a perfect Christmas present for myself, I thought. Memories flooded back, and while taking the teapot down from the shelf and dusting it off with her hand, the shop owner said that earlier a woman had expressed an interest in it, but hadn’t returned, so it was mine if I wanted it.
I told the shop owner my story and that I would be reminded of my days with Dorothy each time I made tea in “now” my Brown Betty teapot.
Turning to leave the china shop, I heard a woman saying; “Oh no, the teapot’s gone! I just went to get my credit card, and now it’s gone.”
The woman explained to the clerk that she was going to give her elderly mother, who was residing in an elder care home, the teapot for Christmas, thinking that it would remind her mother of the England she had left as a young war bride years before.
Quietly, I handed the shop owner the teapot and I left the shop, smiling that even though I was leaving without the teapot, a little lady would have returning memories of her England homeland.
Three years later I received a package. Unwrapping the Brown Betty teapot, I found a simple note inside that read: “My Mom is gone and I thought you should have the teapot back. Thank you!” There was no return address.
FLAN: Make 24 hours prior to serving.
Preheat oven 330 deg.
CARAMEL….In a small sauce pan over medium high heat, melt
1 cup gran. sugar with 1 Tbsp. water. Melt sugar while swirling over heat until it begins to brown. Continue swirling until the sugar is GOLDEN in color. Remove from heat and pour into a warm 9 in. cake pan. Swirl in pan to coat the bottom and sides halfway up. Caramel will harden.
5 eggs whisked
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Combine eggs with both milks, sugar and vanilla, whisking well.
Pour into caramel coated pan.
In larger roasting pan, add flan and add boiling water half way up pan containing flan.
Bake 60-70 minutes. Flan is done when center barely jiggles.

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Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


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