Saturday, March 28, 2009

food nostalgia

Now that I haven't updated my blog in about 36 hours, I know you all must be worried about me. Actually, I've been hanging out with some real people. You know the type. The ones with skin.

Eleven of CapableDad's closest relatives came for a visit this weekend. We've all been whooping it up since they got here Thursday night. But everyone must need a break from human interaction, because five of us are sitting around the table right now with laptops. It's a beautiful thing.

I guess we can only handle so much laughter, so many big stories and so much sarcasm before we all have to plug in. But don't worry, it will only be a short break.

The reason for our family gathering is to celebrate the 90th birthday of CapableDad's grandpa. We also have two 50th birthdays, two 40th birthdays and a 3rd birthday that will be included in the celebration.

I love to host. So, we were doing backflips when we heard that my husband's grandparents were going to get on an Amtrak train and journey up to our house for the first time from their rural home in southern Illinois.

Planning the menu is one of my favorite parts about hosting. And with this many people here for three days, I got to have some fun.

Usually, I like to find a new recipe and try it out on my guests. But with so many folks coming up from the farm, I didn't think that would be a good idea. This is a family that knows pork and they aren't picky about how it's served. Shredded. With barbecue sauce. Or grilled.

So, I decided to play it safe.

When we sat down at the table last night, my husband's family was raving about two side dishes that are such staples on my side of the family that we rarely gather without them: homemade noodles and corn casserole.

As I thought about this, I started to get a lump in my throat. Until six years ago when she went to heaven at the age of 90, my Great Aunt "Dee Dee" brought corn casserole to every family gathering. Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving or Fourth of July. You could count on Dee Dee to bring corn casserole.

And Grandma Dot would bring the noodles. She would make hers from scratch and let them dry on her counter for hours before boiling them in a big pot of chicken broth. (I bought mine pre-made at Sam's Club.)

Even when Grandma Dot lost her sight, she could still make homemade noodles. And they always turned out just as good, except for the time she accidentally poured in a big can of pineapple juice instead of chicken broth. Not so good. But worth it for the years of joking we all got out of that one incident.

Sitting at the table last night with my husband's grandparents, who are 90 and 86, I realized that everyone from that generation on my side of the family is now gone. Grandpa Paul left us three years ago, and Grandma Dot went home in February just a few months after celebrating her 95th birthday.

I realized how much I took for granted that the noodles and corn casserole would just magically appear at every family gathering. I was free to show up with a pear and bleu cheese salad or an artichoke dip because I knew the basics were covered.

Thankfully, my mom also makes some mean homemade noodles, which she has been doing for years, so that tradition continues.

But maybe I will have to give up on trying my new recipes when we get together.

Someone has to bring the corn casserole.

What about you? Do you have a favorite food that is a staple when you get together with family? Does one person always bring the same thing? What is your typical contribution to a family get-together?


4 comments:

Maggie said...

Loved your post. It reminded me of my family's gatherings. We have some of those staple foods that would be greatly missed if they didn't arrive at the table. My aunt always makes broccoli cheese and rice casserole for Thanksgiving. Now that we live far away from my family, I've started bringing it to my husband's family's dinners as it reminds me of home. My mom also makes her famous sugar cookies and goodies for Christmas. I think the family would boycott if she didn't show up with them each year. I have started making some of them with my girls as a tradition for us.

I love trying new recipes too, but there is just something about an ol' favorite that you just can't give up. These dishes remind us of people and places we never want to forget.

Jenny said...

Feels so good to read this. Isn't it amazing how we have those foods that just represent certain people we love. I always bring homemade rolls and garlic mashed potatoes. But that is in WA with friends at regular gatherings.

I live so far away from my family that our once a year campout is the one time I actually spend much time with them. Dad always makes Bisquick pancakes. Rob and Doug are Dutch Oven Kings. Jills brownies are requested constantly. Mom made pie from heaven and the rest of the sisters and s.in laws are just plain fabulous cooks so whatever they make new or old is devoured in seconds.

One thing I am learning is that trying new and unusual NW cuisine on my family while at the cabin is not such a good idea. I'll just reserve that for when they are at my house for a visit.

Geosomin said...

That's so odd, as I jsut went through a similar thing with a favourite recipe from my childhood. My grandma would always make johnny cake for breakfast when we came to visit, and if we begged my mom enough she owuld make it on special days - just warm buttermilk cornbread yo uslice and have with syrup.
Heavenly.
I went off for schoola nd grandma passed on and suddenly I wanted johnny cake - and my mum couldn't find the recipe anywehre. None of my aunt's had it as they didn't like it. I kept trying to make it and no recipe I found was the same.
Then lo and behold while visiting my brother the other day I mentioned it to him out of the blue and he said "oh I have that recipe".
Wohoo!
the next saturday I introduced my husband to yummy johnnycake. It was as amazing as I remembered...

I'm now trying to get a family cookbook together so we all have the recipes like this in our family that we all want to be able to make for our families in the years to come...that way we'll be able to always.

everydayMOM said...

I love reading these stories. What amazing warm, fuzzy feelings we get from food! It's so cool that it can bring back memories of people we love.

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