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Family Reunion Meals - revisiting our past

How is your family reunion orchestrated? Each family bring enough to feed their own or do you just bring one big dish of something?

Any special dish that has to show up or it wouldn't be a reunion?

What foods do you like to bring along?

Mine is a German reunion..each family brings enough to feed the number of people in their family, plus a dessert. Meat is provided by one main person & a donation is given to that person for the cost of meats.

I bring along a Sauerkraut salad, pimento cheese sandwiches or some other type sandwich & maybe an oatmeal cake.. None of us really like the "heavy" German foods in the spring time so everybody just brings what they want. One rule is that everyone must bring 2 sides...one year it was 99 percent desserts...you can tell the reunion is being taken over by the younger generation!!

Oh yes, always the three bean salad & pea salad...sure wish Auntie Elza were still alive to bring the "kolackys"... have not found a recipe to match hers ever!

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  1. My mother's family hasn't had a family reunion in years. Isn't that sad? It was a large event, for my papa's side of the family. The fare was modest. We would gather at the last working farm in our family, one that belonged to one of my great-uncles (everyone else had sold their inherited acreage by the time I was born). The farm had a building that contained a full kitchen, and a dining area that could *almost* fit us all--but most of us chose to be outside, on blankets or chairs, under the trees that circled the building to keep it cool in the summer. We would arrive in the late morning, and stay until just dark.

    I remember fried chicken, and ham being carved for sandwiches, and more ham waiting in the wings. Baked beans that stuck to the spoon, bread and butter pickles just out of the mason jar, coleslaw, potato salad, large trays of olives, mixed raw vegetables, and deviled eggs (reviewing this, I admit, my family really loved its mayo). And the desserts were always wonderful, and where my mimmie truly made her presence felt. Her strawberry rhubarb pie was always gone too fast, and then we had to just content ourselves with the cherry pie, the chocolate cake, and the mountain of cookies (I loved the lemon, which she only ever made in the summer). And Papa's sisters always brought a pistachio salad, and something jello. Family parties like this were the only times that a child in our family could walk up to a food-laden table and take whatever suited, and however much that child wanted, and was urged to take more. Those women must have cooked for days (the usual number in attendance was around seventy-five), and there was always plenty of food.

    Like I said, modest fare, but what I wouldn't give to be there again for just one more day, belly full of ham and pie, and running through a stifling hot barn with twenty or so cousins in a game that was sure to turn slightly violent at any moment. We would make up over icy bottles of Vernors, and Towne Club soda (sorry, I mean *pop*) which were kept in large aluminum tubs of ice under the trees. Thanks for the chance to remember, cstout. I can hear a voice in my head asking, "Whose potato salad is this?" and see my great aunts go over to examine the plate, so that it could be determined which of them was being praised.

    3 Replies
    1. re: onceadaylily

      Why don't you try to revive these old times? Someone has to take the reigns & make it happen..get a list & maybe another person to help make calls to round up everyone.

      I always wanted our family members to bring a recipe each year & keep those recipes to put in a scrap book, just as they were written..(always date every thing...time slips away & after awhile there will be an argument as to when this or that happened.

      Do you have a recipe you could share from your reunions?

      Your writing prose was so soothing & comforting to me...I could just see those "pop" bottles sweating in the summer heat & God's blessings streaming down through the trees in the form of warm sunshine. Thank you so much for a glimpse of what used to be.

      1. re: cstout

        You're very kind, cstout.

        So many of the people who were holding the family together in these ways are gone, and the so many of the rest of us scattered across the country. I did always think that someone in my mother's generation would eventually step in, but no one did. And I wish I had those recipes. My mimmie refuses to share a single one (ha, don't get me started on the consternation this has caused).

        Your scrapbook idea is wonderful!

      2. re: onceadaylily

        What a beautiful story. I haven't been to a family reunion since I was a child, but I can remember running around my great aunt Opal's house with a butterfly net and my Grandmother's lemon custards. I can't thank you enough for those happy memories.

      3. I live in Southern California and attend my father's family reunion every few years in New York State. I was there last summer and I remember pulled pork with slaw and chicken and dumplings. I was interested in the chicken and dumplings because I watched as folks served themselves and everyone knew just how to do it. (the dumplings were served in a side dish).

        I hadn't had any and wouldn't have known what to do with them, this is not a dish that is served in Southern California at get togethers, but it was ver common to my relatives, with whom I grew up.

        I made ham roll appetizer (cream cheese, onion, ripe olive filling) and one of the cousin's husbands praised them to the skies.

        We talked about creating a family reunion cookbook, but no one has volunteered yet.

        1 Reply
        1. re: laliz

          Dumplings served as a side dish...very interesting...wonder why they did that? I forgot all about the ham roll appetizer...easy to take along & delicious.

          Well, why don't you volunteer???? Just listing the foods that everyone brought & who brought them will be interesting to remember for the future generations...of course the recipes would be icing on the cake, but that's another story.

        2. I forgot about the other query you made.

          Everyone just brings food for the table, whatever they want to bring. I think my cousins verify and/or insure there is enough main dish, by bringing that themselves. One made the pork, the other made lasagna.

          Each family is responsible for their own table settings and beverages.

          There are TONS of desserts of every description.

          It is held at a community center. There is a pavillion with tables and if it rains, the even can move indoors.

          I could volunteer, and I have thought of volunteering, but it hasn't happened yet. I think I am waiting for my sister to take it on. She doesn't seem to be doing so, however.

          1. Our family often has multi-day reunions. So for that, a different group is usually in charge of each meal, like the "kids" will organize one dinner, Aunt So-and-So the next one, etc. And then use something like www.yourcoconut.com to keep track of the organization.

            For a one-meal reunion, everyone bringing enough food for the number of people they're bringing sounds pretty reasonable. Usually people bring random food items anyway, for those "in-between-meal" times. Come to think of it, we did go to a Bavarian restaurant once - that was pretty good, if I remember.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bryanilee

              Thanks for sharing your reunion days. My friend's family would go to a campground for 3 days & keep the bar b que pit going 24 hrs..some would stay the whole time & then some just came for the day ...sounded like a wonderful time to me!

              Thanks for www.yourcoconut...clever idea! Sounds like your large family needs the coconut thing.

            2. yea, our family reunion extends more than one day for me since I come from way out of town to attend. we meet with the larger family one day, but I like to cook for my family when I visit.

              The past two years I have invited first cousins and my uncle for dinner the day after and I cook for them. makes me happy

              1 Reply
              1. re: laliz

                Yes, love to cook for family too...I know they really enjoy your food!

              2. I don't have a specific suggestion but I do have some thoughts. In my family, there are recipes that some individuals brought to the family like Gerties rice pilaf and Kitties pickled beets. Try to make sure those dishes are present. If Gertie died 10 years ago, hopefully, someone got the recipe and can bring it. All these family recipes will bring memories flooding back for everyone and encourage stories about old Gertie.

                Try to put together a binder of laminated family recipes giving the right person credit.

                I think that would be a wonderful start to a family reunion.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  I don't think my family has ever had a "reunion" in the classic sense of the word, but as far as food goes anytime I find myself at my moms house I MUST have her arroz con pollo. Her chicken soup used to be another one until I perfected the art of it on my own....Also, I remember my grandma making a salad that was basically just avocado and cucumber slices with italian dressing. And she had a fig tree in her back yard. Yes, I know the thread was about "family reunion meals" but I got nostalgic, what can I say?

                  1. re: lilpixy

                    Nostalgic..lilpixy, everytime we meet a loved one, it is a reunion! Treasure those times because one day that is all we will have left..just thinking about when we shared simple food & loving companionship.

                    Arroz con pollo is such a great dish...could eat it every day!!

                  2. re: Hank Hanover

                    Remember old Uncle Fritz..he always made the biggest pan of fried chicken to bring to the reunion? He said, "when I die, I am going to be buried right over there next to the fence so I can be with you all every year. Just toss me over a chicken leg & I'll be happy!!"
                    Well, he kept his word & we kept ours...last thing before leaving we gathered around & tossed over a chicken leg right on his grave. HIs recipe secret was Crisco shortening & soaking the chicken in buttermilk & all kinds of spices over night. We don't meet at the church anymore & have lunch next to the cemetary, but one of the members brings the "recipe" every year & yep, it is just as good.

                    To those of you who had family members from small towns & are looking for their particular recipe, call the local churches to see if they put out a church or community cookbook & see if you can purchase one or just go to the local library in that town, they might have a few cookbooks there. I did that once & was surprised that I found 3 recipes from my relatives..one of them being grape wine, have not tried the wine yet, but am enjoying the other recipes.

                    What, you don't remember Uncle Fritz? He said he would show up at every reunion where there would be fried chicken & he always kept his word!

                    1. re: cstout

                      You are absolutely right cstout....Unfortunately other than my mother and stepfather I see very little of my family (kiddos excepted of course) However, we spend quite a good chunk of time with my hubby's family so we are adapting quite a bit to their traditions...happily so I might add

                    2. re: Hank Hanover

                      Hank, that is a good idea, go ahead & make all the dishes that used to be served even though the original recipe is lost forever. As long as everyone knows Aunt Gertie used to bring the dish, that is what counts.