by James W. Petty

It’s that time of the year, Family Reunion Time! Families get together at a favorite camp or picnic site. Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, and of course Grandpa and Grandma. We start off greeting people we haven’t seen in, possibly…years, and reminisce about the last time we saw each other. A family picnic is laid out, with salads and casseroles set in pot luck formation. Soda pop is available in a big cooler full of ice. Potato chips scatter everywhere, and the kids are eyeing the array of chocolate cakes and apple pies sitting on the dessert table. Those will be served with melty ice cream after the family ball game. Later in the day, while the kids are off playing with all of their new found cousin friends, the adults kick back and rest; and talk about old times.

“Do you remember going to Great Grampa Willie’s home in Odgen Canyon? He was a Dentist, but he always wanted to be a sheep rancher. Great Grandma used to fix a Hash that was out of this world!” “Did you ever get to try her special Roast Beef? It just melted in your mouth.” “Do you remember Uncle Darrell? We’d go to his house for New Year’s and at midnight he’d get his rifles out, and we’d fire them at the mountains! What a great noise they’d make!” “His wife Verda made wonderful Jello salads!” “When I was a kid, I remember Grandma Winter serving chicken gizzards. Every other time that I’ve tried gizzards, they were tough and rubbery, and quite unappetizing. But hers were so tender you could cut them with a feather, and they were so savory and delicious. I’ve never had anything like them.” “Cousin Jim cooks the best steaks I’ve ever tasted. He loves to cook, and I’ll let him cook any time he comes to visit.” “Yeah, I’ve had his Pepper Steak. Wow, was it good. He said it was a recipe handed down from his Mother.”

The talk would get around to Lewis’s amazing skill as a Fly-Fisherman, and a disgusting thing he would do with cherry pits. Or stories about Grandpa Jerry and Uncle Paris and their adventures during the Depression. But in the end the high point was always Grandma Wilda’s Carrot Cake. It was a bit of heaven in the memory of every person in the family.

Eventually, a family meeting is held, where the family genealogy is discussed. Genealogy is often the “old maid aunt” of the family. Everyone loves her, but no one wants to go out with her. Most of the family didn’t realize that while reminiscing about the “good old times”, and Aunt Mary’s fabulous Pumpkin Pie (made with Banana Squash), they were doing genealogy. Ellen recalled eating “Battered Rabbit” at the home of Great Grandma Emma Melissa. It sounded like a case of abuse, which is just what it was in reality. Great Grandpa Rob raised rabbits because they multiplied so rapidly and were a good source of meat. He would “batter” a few in the barn, and Great Grandma would “batter” them in the kitchen, and drop them in a deep fryer. The family would then enjoy a delicious meal of Bunny and Broccoli.

Someone then recalled seeing an entry in Great Grandma Wilda’s diary that she kept when she was a young girl, which stated that Wilda had found a recipe for carrot cake, something like “Mrs. Carlisle’s Carrot Cake.” Alarmed family members recognized heresy when they heard it. Grandma Wilda may have learned off of someone else’s recipe, but her carrot cake was unique. No one else made anything like it. No dime store recipe had the taste, the texture, or the love in it like Grandma Wilda’s Carrot Cake. No, we wouldn’t discuss this blasphemy any further. It was alright to gossip about that thing Uncle Richard did with fish, or Aunt Deborah’s dark little secret; but casting doubt on the origins of the ultimate family treasure was forbidden.

Herein lies the key. Almost every favorite family recipe was found in someone else’s cookbook in a previous life, but delicious dishes aren’t remembered for the recipe; they are remembered for the love put into the meal by the cook, and the love returned by the family for the cook.

These wonderful stories and memories, along with the recipes can be preserved in a Favorite Family Recipes Book (create your own title). This can be a delightful experience for the whole family at a reunion, or any family get together. Each recipe should be included with a picture of the person associated with the given recipe, and a brief biographical sketch, and a personal story about that person. For each recipe pertaining to that person, a different personal story should be included. This way those favorite memories and recipes are passed on in a unique flavorful telling of family history. If the recipes are put into a three ring inder, new recipes, as they are prepared, can be added. There can be a section for “Murphy’s Law”- “If something can go wrong, it will.” This can include the recipe for “Uncle John’s Flaming Franks” (put 18 hot dogs on a barbecue and set them on fire). No one will care about the recipe, but Uncle John will be remembered forever. Or the time Wilda prepared four large trays of carrot cake for a wedding, only to discover she had used salt instead of sugar.

With a Favorite Family Recipe Book, future family reunions will add new recipes and forgotten stories to the family history. A loved granddaughter may develop her own select version of a favored old recipe, and get a page with her picture overlaying that of Grandma Marion, a special honor. But in the end we always remember Grandma Wilda’s Carrot Cake.

G’ma Wilda’s 14 (Kt.) Carrot Cake

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

} Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon together.

4 eggs
2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups salad oil

} Add sugar, oil, eggs and mix well.

2 cups finely grated carrots
1 can 8 1/2 oz. crushed pinapple drained
1 cup chopped nuts (walnut or pecan)

} Stir in carrots, pinapple and nuts.

Put batter into 3 nine inch layer cake pans,
or 1 thirteen by nine inch pan greased and floured.

Cook 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees till top springs back.
(Check at 20 25 minutes, until you know your oven)

Frost with cream cheese frosting when cake is cooled.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter,softened
1 8 oz pack philadelphia cream cheese softened
1 tsp vanilla (up to 1 Tbl)

} Combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla.
Beat until well blended.

1 lb. (about 4 cups) confectioner’s sugar sifted

} Add sugar gradually, beating in thoroughly.

If frosting is too thick, thin with a very small amount of
milk until it is your desired spreading consistency.

2002 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.