Sunday, June 3, 2012

Heaven: Family Reunion Cookies and Cold Drinks

Every year in June, the John Doe family held their family reunion, and Jane Doe made her wonderful chocolate chip cookies.

But this year, there would be no reunion. John was on his deathbed with only hours to live.

As he listened to the clock tick out the last moments of his life, he smelled chocolate chip cookies. His “bucket list” suddenly expanded to include tasting them one last time.  With his last ounce of strength, he pulled himself out of bed. Falteringly, he fumbled for his canes and pulled himself upright. He struggled across the floor and made his way painfully down the stairs and into the kitchen.

There was Jane, baking cookies. As he reached for one, SMACK across the back of the hand, she hit him with a wooden spoon: "Leave them alone, they’re for the funeral dinner!"

It’s the season for favorite family reunion dishes. From our Swedish grandfather, my family inherited the Midsummer tradition: a reunion for family and friends held on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice.

In Sweden, they eat the year’s first potatoes and strawberries, soused (pickled) herring, chives and sour cream. And they drink beer and snaps.

In Idaho, we eat all the wonderful potluck items that good cooks can muster: Crisp fried chicken.  Specially cured ham. Aunt Jeanne’s potato salad. Crunchy peas from Alan’s garden. Fluffy dinner rolls.  Desserts, including huckleberry-apple pie and sticky homemade cinnamon rolls. Homemade ice cream, churned with snow from a snowdrift on our grandfather’s homestead that stays frozen under straw from March ‘til June.  And of course, chocolate chip cookies!

We never drink beer and snaps—our picnics are non-alcoholic.  Here are some great beverage suggestions for family reunions (with very little high-fructose corn syrup!)

Water:  Stay hydrated!  Place a solid block of ice in a five-gallon drink cooler and fill with water.  Stays cold while family members re-fill personal water bottles all weekend.  Or, fill a cooler or clean wading pool with ice and plastic water bottles—re-cycle the empties.

Dry Ice Root Beer:  Mix outdoors or place five-gallon cooler in kitchen sink as it brews. In cooler, mix 6 cups white sugar and 3 1/3 gallons cold water ‘til sugar dissolves. Add one 2-ounce bottle root beer extract. Wearing gloves, carefully place 4 pounds of dry ice into cooler and cover loosely with lid (do not secure lid—pressure may build up.)  Brew about an hour before serving.

Sutherland Slush: A favorite at family wedding receptions. Boil for 7 minutes in large pot:  one 6 oz. box Jello (any flavor but grape) dissolved in 1 cup hot water; 6 cups sugar; 3 cups water.  Remove from heat, add one 46 oz. can pineapple juice and 9 cups water.  Over the sink, measure into 3 equal parts (about 7 cups each) in Ziploc bags.  Seal, lay bag on a flat pan and freeze.   (These make a great “blue ice” substitute in your cooler!) Thaw for two hours before serving, then mash the slush with a potato masher or hand mixer in a non-breakable bowl or pan.  Add one 2-liter bottle of lemon-lime soda to each bag of slush; 3 bottles total. For a fancy event, serve from punch bowl. Serves 50.

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