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The Potter family Reunion

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 8 months ago

    Every two years my father's mother's family gathers for five days of hanging out together, cooking, eating, singing, and telling stories.  2007 was a reunion year, and we gathered in Southern Minnesota on the shores of Lake Shetek, near Currie and Slayton. 

    The first reunion I can remember was at the Isaak Walton League clubhouse on the shores of Lake Herman near Madison, SD.  In 1969 it was a one day deal for my mother and the three of us - a Sunday afternoon of getting together with people that I didn't know.  Mom must have gone with some trepidation as this was her husband's family, and as close as we were to my dad's brother and his family, since my dad had absented himself unexpectedly and apparently permanently in 1961, we didn't hang out much with the rest of the very large clan.  I'm not sure what changed, but in 1971 I attended the first reunion that looked much like the reunions of today.

    This year our challenges were with the facility that we've been using for almost 10 years now.  The shower house - a highlight for many of us as it used to have no roof - was completely out of commission.  It had lost some of its charm with the addition of a roof a few years back making it probably great for camping in the fall but a fabulous daddy-long-legs habitat in the summer, though as it was filled with fire wood this year it didn't really make a difference.  Both of the commercial propane ovens were DOA, though their stovetops still worked.  We were anticipating a smaller crowd this year (25 on Wednesday, 35 on Thursday, 50 on Friday, & 65 on Saturday) and being ovenless was a  problem.

   My sister Liz's menus had many more options for improvising and for vegetables many ways. This was good because we needed it and it worked. My cousin Tim bought the produce and brought amazing eggplant, onions, beets, garlic, and other delicious stuff from the Scattergood School and Farm. Tuesday, Liz and I went shopping for most of the grocery items and she finished up the rest on Wednesday.

    Wednesday night was supposed to be pizza and I made my favorite pizza dough recipe from Anna Thomas's The New Vegetarian Epicure.

I quadrupled the recipe and it made 3 full sheet pans of pizza - I put the cheese only - kid friendly - one in at 500+° oven and then after about 10 minutes when the sausage pepperoni carnivores pizza and the crimini mushroom, sweet pepper, onion, and olive pizza were ready to go in, it occurred to me that the cheese pizza was not almost done (as it should have been). Oven two - out of commission. So we cooked the cheese and vegetable pizzas on the flat top. This was creative, cooked the bottom of the crust nicely, but left the middle of the crust chewier than I love. All in all it worked just fine.  We crashed into our tents - tired and full - even though it was still hot and humid and we were feeling cranky.

    Thursday became a day of invention as we took stock of the supplies that we had and the tools to cook them. While the raw vegan set in the family would have been happy, what the heck were we going to do with all that chicken?  So we fired up the barrel (trough) grills that had these intense rebar-like racks. My cousin Katy and I marinated the chicken and let the stuff hang out for a while. We had to grill up a ton of the Scattergood baby eggplants. After we grilled them (actually my brother Matt, my husband Sam, and my niece's boyfriend Pirc did most of the grilling) making our version of the Silver Palette Summer Eggplant. We serve it room temperature and even non-eggplant lovers love it.

    All Thursday, Sam was on the phone - to the appliance guy and then to every Propane dealer in the area to find the folks who would service the ovens. He had lots of not much luck. The guys from Swish's Hardware (not kidding) a store that used to be owned by a guy named Zen (a name that gave us hope that all would work out) came out and declared, "It's broken. We don't do commercial machines." The propane guy said almost surely it would need a part that wouldn't arrive before Monday - and we kept hoping that someone would make the oven's work. We had five turkeys thawing in the walk-in.

    Friday Sam continued with the persistance for which he is renouned.  Think Swish- Zen -accio part - ovenus repairo.  In his persistent search for someone who could officially declare the stove DOA or in the immortal words of Magic Max only "mostly dead," Sam tracked down the Zen-master through the magic of the phone directory and Mr. Zen came and declared one stove in need of the dreaded part, but the other (and thankfully the bigger) stove he returned to the land of the functioning. Huzzah! Hooray!

    So, happy, sated, and with one working oven, we retired to the nightly campfire to hear Grandpa Tom lead the Bear Song (the other day, I saw a bear, in tennis shoes, a lovely pair) and to witness the teens taking charge of the campfire fruit-filling-white-bread pie making.

    The wood in the shower house did come in handy as we ran out of bagged charcoal with all the unanticipated grilling and had a large group of reunion attendees sitting around in a circle tending to the creation of coals for the grllls (as five turkeys were not going to fit into one oven, no matter how we tried).

    I'll bet you are wondering why I talk about cooking when everyone else at the reunion is playing golf, mini-golf, reading, getting a massage, swimming, fishing, catching frogs, or doing whatever it is that they think is fun - well, I find that spending time in the kitchen with my favorite people is reviving.  We talk, we trade stories, we conjure up recipes out of the air, we share the time with our children who are all drawn to the kitchen and the conversations, and we connect over the cutting board.  Many of the children can not stay out of the kitchen when we are cooking.  We've had to make special smaller aprons for them.  On the sign up sheets for daily kitchen duty, the slots are often filled by the tween and younger set.  They  love to be in the center of the kitchen, chopping and listening to us talk, laugh, confer on preparation, sing [a capella close harmony - gives me shivvers], and taste.  Each year there has been a particular moment - Nine year old Nathaniel making deviled eggs (his favorite); seven year old Maggie telling the ladies that Rachel Ray says to sqeeze a lemon cut side up to avoid getting pits in your guacamole; my cousin Katy making a mash up (jambalaya?) of everything leftover and it being delicious; this year's  oven quest.  The food that emerges from the kitchen is made with love, is delicious, and is one of the legacies from this reunion.  When we wondered who would bring all the delicious cookies and bars that we all remember from our youth, we realzed this year that we are the older ladies that do the baking now.

    Sunday arrived, and because my great grandfather - one of the two progenitors of this gathering - was not only a school teacher and superintendant of schools but a circuit riding Methodist minister, we gather under this wonderful oak tree (see above for photo of tree - not the service - we are ready to hit the road) for a family service.  During the service, my uncle Tom (Grandpa Tom to most attendees) brought us a wonderful metaphor for our family.  The tree we sat under was like the family.  It's been around a long time; it's old and it's vital.  You can't always see every branch from where you are standing, but you know that the others are there.  The tree loses a valued branch occasionally, and we all are saddened by the loss of the shade that it provided, but new braches are always growing and there are always new leaves.  We are a tear-y bunch, so many a tissue was sniffled into during his reflections.

    We had a great time, we worked hard, we ate (and ate - live to eat, eat to live - could be our family motto).  The kids are already talking about what they will do in two years.                   --Kate

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