Growing up in the South, every summer I attended family reunions on both sides of my family. These were not casual, thrown together events but massive undertakings requiring a state park to accommodate the crowd, the huge quantities of food and all the activities. I loved them. Seeing my cousins, being petted by my aunts and uncles, playing games and eating delicious food was heaven. The women proudly displayed their finest fried chicken, roasts, casseroles and, of course, desserts. It was our version of the county fair with verbal blue ribbons.
Weeks before, my Mother and her sisters came together in person to refine the menu and to gossip. Hanging around in the war room, aka Mother’s kitchen, I learned about my terrible Aunt Sally.
Sally came into our family by snagging my youngest uncle (Joe) who was the darling of his older sisters. She was blonde, with brightly painted nails, and a gorgeous figure. She was pretty and fun. So, my ears perked up when I heard the female tribunal in Mother’s kitchen pronounce her to be spoiled and lazy. As one proof among many, they submitted that her kitchen was too clean. Equating cleanliness to godliness did not apply in her case when the reason for the sparkle and shine was that she never cooked! Poor Uncle Joe had to forage for food in the bountiful kitchens of his sisters. Mother and my aunts chewed on that bone for many days! Over the years, I have forgotten all of Sally’s other transgressions except for one.
Her worst sin was that she brought store bought food to the family reunions. Then, to insure her descent straight into hell, she brought bread and butter pickles and white bread. This to a table that was laden with all kinds of home-made breads, biscuits, and muffins. Of course, Mother, as the queen of home made, incredibly delicious bread and butter pickles, was aghast that anyone would dare place a jar of store bought pickles near her pickles. She could not imagine anyone eating them when “perfectly good home-made pickles were available. I mean, good gracious!”
Then, too, making biscuits was a sacred ritual in Mother’s mind. She made fresh biscuits everyday as well as baked bread weekly. She would not tolerate “store bought” bread or much of anything that was store bought for her family. She canned, pickled and froze produce from her garden. She bought fresh beef on the hoof and had it cut and frozen for the freezer. When she wanted chicken, she went to her sister’s farm and killed one. I used to cringe but by the time supper came, I was ready to eat roasted or fried chicken.
As the years passed and I grew up, went off to college, married and moved away, I seldom attended family reunions. When I did participate, I did not take food since I was still considered a “child” by Mother’s family. Dodged that bullet because I was not the cook that my Mother and her sisters were!
Sally and Joe parted ways so that bit of drama faded only to be replaced by others. Sometimes I teased my Mother about Aunt Sally. Was she really that bad? Mother would give a quick shake of her head dismissing the topic and me for bringing it up.
Poor Aunt Sally…she probably needed to be a blend of Mother Teresa and Julia Child to atone for her sins!