Barbara Miller's reputation precedes her. Literally. I've been lucky enough to see takes and daily rushes from Welling Films' New England shoots long before the public. I've been fast friends with the canine cohorts who people these films for nearly three years, since I started working with Shawn Welling when I was still just a college senior. I've even been blessed with the opportunity to write a few of Welling Films' motion pictures. But I've never been fortunate enough to meet Barbara Miller.
Mrs. Miller is known for being gregarious and kind, a loving and generous family-oriented person, who livens her community with her warmth, not to mention her renowned cooking.
In preparation for writing this piece, in addition to talking extensively with Shawn Welling and his wife, Michelle, I also intended to read one or two posts on Mrs. Miller's blog ( http://www.barbarasbistro.com ), where she posts her recipes, accompanied by relevant family stories. I found the site, proverbially, impossible to put down, and I read, not one, but each and every one of the three pages of recipes!
I found, in talking to the Wellings, that Mrs. Miller writes as she is. Friendly, big-hearted, and compassionate. Generally, in a film production, craft services is disregarded as an expensive have-to. While lunch may be ready at 11:30 AM as called for, the crew will continue on until their schedule calls for lunchtime, often hours later. For Mrs. Miller's meals, Shawn, Michelle, and camera lead Jena Willard, would break on time to have lunches with Don and Barbara Miller.
Of these meals, Shawn remembers most vividly the cornbread. Drenched in butter and Vermont maple syrup, Shawn would forgo the other dishes on the table and go back for serving after serving of Mrs. Miller's perfectly baked New England cornbread, washed down with home-brewed iced tea. Getting a little sweet respite from the hard days, looking out at the Millers' beautiful farm, made that repast very valuable, indeed.
One of the cutest stories from the whole production is that, after the shoot had concluded and the Wellings were back in Texas, they received a package, express delivered from Vermont. Inside was a whole cornbread, with all the fixings Shawn liked on his. This story is typical of Mrs. Miller, and oh, so touching.
Michelle remembers fondly Mrs. Miller's kind regard for Michelle's dietary restrictions. Although it presented a challenge for Mrs. Miller, she always made sure to have a fish or vegetarian dish for Michelle. And these, Michelle remembers as being delicious.
"She never cut corners," Michelle told me with a smile, remembering a particular meal with a wistful look.
Mrs. Miller would serve meals with course after course jumbled onto the table.
"There would be like eight things at the table!" Michelle reminisced. "It was like Thanksgiving at every meal."
It may not have been Thanksgiving, but Mrs. Miller made these pilgrims from far away feel welcome in the New England winter. And for that, they are obviously very grateful.
Of course, Ranger Welling (pictured, above), the baby of the family, is often at the center of cute stories. This expression was a common sight at the table, with all these delicacies piled high.
At this moment, Ranger and the whole team are eagerly awaiting the premiere screenings of "The Last Ride" and "If I Could Bark," which were primarily filmed on the Millers' property and at their hospitality. My previous post in this blog was on the production schedule of these films. This screening will be at the AMC Stadium theater, as part of Worldfest - The Houston International Film Festival, where we await a jury decision to see if the films will be award winners.
This festival has discovered and cultivated a good deal of important talent, boasting having given early awards to Spielberg, the Coen brothers, Ang Lee, and others. The entire Welling Films team hopes that their executive producer Don Miller will journey to Houston for this event.
Maybe then, I'll get to meet the legendary Mrs. Barbara Miller, the cook and hostess who made the team feel at home, 1,800 miles from home.