Tall and plainly dressed, a young woman stepped off the train that had brought her from Virginia to Amarillo, Texas one early autumn day in 1912. Georgia O’Keeffe was in love with the flat, colorful land of the Panhandle, a love that would last her long lifetime.
“Wait a minute!” you say. “She painted in New Mexico.” Right you are, for part of her life. But this young O’Keeffe needed a job and she’d found one in a place that intrigued her. We can claim her as a Texas artist for she left a marvelous legacy of this young love. During the two years she taught art in the public schools of Amarillo she spent hours roaming the prairie and the orange rocks of Palo Duro Canyon with her charcoal and her sketch book at her side. Later she recalled, “It is the only place I ever felt that I really belonged, that I really felt at home. That was my country—terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness.”
After her time in Amarillo, she headed back east to New York with a portfolio stuffed with those drawings. Some of these may have been in her 1916 exhibit at Alfred Stiglitz’s Gallery.
Two years later, O’Keeffe came back to the Panhandle as head of the art department (of one) at West Texas Normal College in Canyon near Amarillo. She returned to her wandering life, but now she was painting in the abstract style that defines her work. She was not always fully appreciated. The owner of her boarding house remarked after viewing one picture that it “did not look like any canyon that I’ve ever seen.”
Intrigued by O’Keeffe paintings of the lonely prairie and the wide night skies? If you’re driving through the Panhandle, plan your trip to include the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum at West Texas A & M University, the campus where O’Keeffe taught. (You can even spend the night in the Hudspeth house where she took her meals.) And be sure and take the short trek to Palo Duro Canyon itself and watch the sunset. Surely you too will catch the magic.
When young Georgia made those long treks down Panhandle roads and Palo Duro trails, surely she had some sustenance tucked into the pockets of her black sweater. Here’s a long-ago Panhandle recipe she might have taken along.
Palo Duro Picnic Sandwich
1/2 cup softened butter
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 green onions, finely chopped
6-10 leftover dinner rolls (depends on size and how many are left!)
grated Longhorn cheese (about 2 tablespoons per roll)
1/2 pound thinly shaved or chopped leftover ham
Combine butter, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and onions. Split the rolls and spread the butter mixture on each half. Put cheese on the bottom half of the roll, top with the ham and put the two sides together. Put sandwiches in a 350 degree oven (if it’s a wood stove—about baking temperature) for five minutes or until the cheese is melty. Wrap in brown paper and slip in your pocket. Of course, these days, we’ll wrap them in foil. They freeze well; then bake them for about 10 or 12 minutes.
Want to learn more about Georgia O’Keefe’s time in Texas? Start with Georgia O’Keefe in Texas: A Guide by Paul H. Carlson and John T. Becker. For Georgia in the kitchen, try A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keefe by Margaret Wood. For a complete biography of this fascination woman, I recommend Roxana Robinson’s Georgia O’Keefe: A Life.
To see lots of images use Google Images or the search engine of your choice.
This entry is also posted at www.culinaryanthropology.blogspot.com.