Growing up I remember doing a lot of “visiting” on and around the holidays – in fact, it was one of my favorite parts about this time of year. Visiting in my family typically occurred at one of three places – my grandmother’s house, her sister Mary’s house, or their sister Mag’s (Margaret) house. Later in the evening, after each of the three families had finished their main holiday meal, all the families got together and……well…….ate some more! Not a full meal, but there was always food and drink.
My Aunt Mary (actually my mom’s aunt, but we called her Aunt Mary) had the best setup at her house for the large number of people who gathered because she and her husband – Uncle George – had a basement with a table that I thought could seat about 100 people! Invariably, the women gathered either in the kitchen or the dining room (usually the kitchen), the men around the t.v., and the kids in the basement. If I promised to be quiet, I got to sit with the big girls in the kitchen…..so, believe it or not (and I know this will be a stretch for those of you who know my ability to talk), I was quiet – most of the time!
What I remember enjoying was all the generations being together talking and laughing. Yesterday we had a mini recreation of holiday visiting at my mom’s house. My Aunt Pam (again, not my aunt, but my mom’s cousin – but they may as well have been sisters) came out to visit from Bethlehem; so my sister (Laura) and her girls (Vanessa and Ashley) joined my mom (Connie), Aunt Pam, and me for lunch. It was great to have several generations around the table talking and laughing!
My mom made lentil sausage soup – Ina Garten’s recipe from her book Barefoot in Paris – and served warm bread and rolled provolone cheese & salami. It was a warm, hearty, satisfying lunch with exceptional company and great conversation. Cross-generational communication is always interesting to me! And I am seeing things from a new perspective these days….as I was growing up I was in the youngest or younger generation at gatherings and now I’m smack dab in the middle, so I have a new view of things – I get to listen to the younger generation and be amazed at how smart younger people are these days and occasionally roll my eyes!
Our time together was heart-warming to me….we ate good food and talked about all aspects of life – from work and careers to relationships and life lessons. We also talked some about family history. I love hearing stories about how things used to be; but I also love the exuberance of the generation who is just beginning their own traditions!
For dessert I made an Apple Upside Down Cake – an adaptation of a recipe from Diane Phillips – one of the instructors at the Kitchen Shoppe. In a recent class, Diane made Pear Upside Down Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce – since I couldn’t find nice pears, I used apples and it was a nice twist on the original using ingredients that were available to me in the moment. Luckily, I was able to garnish the serving platter with the most delicious chocolate-covered candied orange peel made by my Aunt Pam – a treat we always enjoy. We also sipped Aunt Pam’s homemade Limoncello Cream, a variation of standard limoncello from Sorrento (which you can usually purchase in a liquor store). Limoncello Cream is made with lemons, grain alcohol, milk, sugar, and water. It warms the body as well as the soul and since it’s not readily available, has to be homemade!
After lunch Laura and the girls left – each going a separate way. Vanessa home to West Chester to have dinner with her boyfriend, Justin. Ashley back to school in Millersville. And Laura home – just a bit down the road in Mechanicsburg.
Mimi (my mom, Connie), Aunt Pam and I left for a little shopping. We went to First Impressions in Linglestown – one of my favorite shops and then to Community Aid and Making Sense in Mechanicsburg. Aunt Pam won the prize for best bargains of the day. For under $20 she bought a Talbot’s down vest, a Ralph Lauren sweater-ish vest, a three-piece velour and wool outfit from Saks Fifth Avenue – with the tag still on, a cute purse and two aperitif (no, Mimi, not “a parakeet”) glasses that I think are Mikasa. Wow – she is a consignment guru!!!
As we were driving along the river going from the East Shore to the West Shore, God treated us to the most amazing sunset…..I just have to share a photo with you, but the photo simply does not do justice to the beauty we saw before us!
In the last several years, time and distance and life (literally birth and death) has changed the makeup of our extended family. Gatherings of extended family don’t happen nearly as often and they certainly aren’t the same as I remember them. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to have a family lunch yesterday and I hope we can use it as a spring-board for more extended family gatherings. I grew up spending a lot of time in the company of my aunts, uncles and cousins and I miss that time. Although it won’t ever be exactly what it was, I hope that we can create new traditions and memories for all the generations!
Photos of the Apple Upside Down Cake w/ Warm Caramel Sauce Garnished with Chocolate-Covered Candied Orange Peel