Sunday, June 16, 2013

Picnic Suppers Under the Pine Trees

Funny how we never know how great something is until we are looking back.
On warm, summer days at supper time when growing up in the country with those four houses full of relatives all in a row, each family would bring whatever they'd prepared to eat together under my aunt's pine trees in her backyard. It became a smorgasbord of hot and cold dishes with all the trimmings. Back then it was the food that I thought about-potato salads, macaroni salads, baked beans, tossed salads, fruit salads, of course hots and hams and all the trimmings plus an assortment of chips. I don't remember many desserts-except for strawberry shortcake with real dumplings made soggy by berry juice and home-made whipped cream smothering the bowl. Of course it all tasted even better because we were eating outside. After everyone was finished, the younger ones would sometimes play baseball as the others sat around and talked and family dogs would see what they could find in the grass or get that look on their face so someone would feed them leftovers.There was no rush to pick up. No cell phones ringing. No one looking down-more interested in texting outer space than enjoying what was all around that backyard-family taking time.

No matter what my father was doing he was dressed up-sometimes a little more so than other times-even when sitting and eating his picnic supper as shown in this photo. Back then he was always on call. Funeral Directors served as rescue squads 24-hours a day besides their regular hours-which were never regular as dying still doesn't happen just between 8-5.When he was with the rest of us, he thoroughly enjoyed it. All the adults got along. They helped each other. They appreciated each other. I think that was due to my grandmother (sitting near my father)-a kind, funny, and very strong woman who kept us all in line just by her presence-and cooking!

I now realize those evening suppers in the summertime under the pine trees had nothing to do with the food but were all about the moment-families gathering at the end of a day.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Squeezing Lemons in the Squeezer Thing

The season of squeezing lemons for lemonade is back again! Granted-these days all you have to do is go to the frozen food aisle, pick up some cans, bring them home, open them up, put the frozen concentrate in a pitcher, add water, stir, add ice if you want, and there you have it-Lemonade. You can purchase pink lemonade or limeade-even ice tea. Or-You can buy all those varieties packaged in a carton or glass container. No concentrate to bother with-it's ready to serve. Even the Paul Newman brand offers lemonade, limeade and ice tea.

But my favorite brand remains Homemade Lemonade. My grandmother made it as did my mother and aunts. They each had a favorite glass pitcher for lemonade that never came from a can or container. It came from slicing real, hold-in-your-hand lemons and squeezing the juice out by using a thick glass-lemon-squeezer thing. It was odd-shaped but it worked.That's what they all used. You'd hold on to it with one hand and with the other put a lemon half in place one-by-one. By moving the half lemon back and forth, around and around-out came the juice. After squeezing a few you'd dump the juice into the pitcher and repeat the process. You could leave the seeds or take them out. They knew how many lemons equaled how much water and sugar to add. I know they did because every single time they made their lemonade, it was as perfect as the time before. I don't remember a measuring cup being used. They just knew.

My mother sometimes added lime juice-after squeezing limes. She'd even slice a lemon and maybe a lime and place the slices on top of the freshly-made lemonade. Best part about that was sucking on the slices after they'd absorbed the lemonade while sitting in the refrigerator. On a hot, muggy summer day nothing tasted better than those naturally flavored slices Back then we never drank soda. We were lucky and didn't even know it- the adults never bought the stuff!

Of course, the finishing touch was a home-baked cookie or two and if you were outside enjoying the day with your lemonade and that cookie or two-life was absolutely-no questions asked-perfect!