Yellow is a colour of juxtapositions. In the natural world, animals and insects cloak their bodies (often in conjunction with the colour black) to signify poison, danger. Likewise, it is the colour of death, the sallow skin of a sick person and the brilliant autumnal yellow of leaves before they fall to the ground. The colour is derived from a number of materials including some of the most dangerous in the world, cadium sulfide, lead chromate and the pigment named orpiment made from arsenic. Orpiment, or King’s Yellow/Chinese Yellow, touches upon other connotations of the colour, power and wealth. As the colour of gold, the pigment was used to paint the halos of angels and the garments of the Hindu god Krishna. In China, yellow robes were reserved for only the Emperors to wear, hence the name King’s Yellow. As the embodiment of sunshine, yellow was most commonly derived from saffron, the stigmas of the crocus. The deep golden hue was used to stain foods and fabrics alike and is still today, the world’s most expensive spice. There are a number of food connotations with regard to the colour, hues vary from maize to mustard – popular colours in the 70’s appearing on a number of goods including bell bottoms and retro lamps – to the vibrant tones of lemon and apricot. Generally considered a happy colour, perhaps it is the sunshine-like colouration of citrus fruits that in conjunction with the bright flavour, that help to dispel the dark days of winter.

Gustavo Montoya, Still Life with Bananas
oil on canvas, 80 x 119.4cm, Private collection

Still Life with Bananas is a typical still life subject by the artist Gustavo Montoya. He often painted the fruits and sweets of his native Mexico and the bright, monochrome colour palette highlights his interest in abstraction. The layering of colour from the bright yellow, to a light orange and dark brown suggests the colouring of a flan with the rich caramel crust, pool of caramel sauce and light creamy custard. Flan is a custard dessert that is poured over a layer of caramel and baked in a bain-marie. The etymological origins of flan are quite convoluted and can be traced through French, Old French and Medieval Latin before arriving at the Old High German root flado meaning ‘flat cake.’ In Latin American, the dessert is typically called leche flan as it is primarily served with dulce de leche. The deeply sweet and rich flavor components of dulce de leche are echoed in this flan recipe through the addition of condensed milk.

{Banana Flan}

Yields: 6 servings

1/2 cup sugar
250 ml evaporated milk
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs + 4 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 170C. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add the sugar and begin stirring with a wooden spoon. Once the sugar melts, after about 5 minutes, stir only until all lumps are gone and the colour just begins to darken. Carefully pour the melted sugar into the flan mold, or individual ramekins.

In a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mash with the back of a fork or squeeze the banana with your hands. Mix until there are minimal banana lumps and all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the flan mold or ramekins on top of the melted sugar.

Place the flan mold or ramekins into a deep pan that is half full with hot water. Slide the water-filled pan with the flan mold into the preheated oven. Bake for about 1 hour and remove from the oven to let cool. If using a flan mold, turn over onto a serving platter.

The Colour Project