Friday, September 16, 2016

Potlucks, picnics and family traditions

Feeding an army is something that we Southern women do well. So far this month, my church had an outdoor service and potluck picnic. Then I spent Labor Day hanging out with my family and brought dessert. Then last weekend was the Hunton family (Mom's side) reunion on Sunday. Suffice to say, it's been a busy month in my kitchen!

When I was little, the family reunion was a huge deal, involving descendants (mostly) of my great grandparents. They had five children, and my grandparents had eleven, which means that I have a LOT of family out there. The reunion is always held at the Marietta Campmeeting -- an old Methodist revival campground. As a child, it was a chance to play with dozens of seldom-seen cousins and drink lemonade from a giant metal washtub perched at the end of a 20-foot long picnic table that was literally packed end-to-end with fried chicken, ham and every southern side dish you could imagine.

The pic is my great grand-father (kneeling) and his brothers at a family reunion in the 1930s, me with my cousin Whitney in the late 80s, and the campmeeting church today.

Potlucks aren't about fancy food, or things that don't travel well, or that just don't "go" with other foods. It's all about pure southern comfort, and for that, here are two great models, and two great recipes that I've made for these recent events.

For the church potluck, it was corn pudding from Pat Conroy's cookbook.  My all-time favorite southern writer, that cookbook is as much of a treat to read as it is to cook from.  This particular recipe has become one of my favorites - it's not gummy or heavy, like the corn pudding most people make from a boxed cornbread mix. It's light, fluffy and absolutely delicious. 

Pat Conroy's Corn Pudding

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 12-oz bags frozen corn

Melt butter - whisk in sugar, flour, milk, eggs and baking powder until smooth. Stir in corn and pour into l2-quart casserole dish (spray with pam or melted butter first). Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes -- firm and lightly browned on top.

For the reunion, I pretty much HAVE to bring buttermilk pie. The recipe is from my Aunt Gladys, and I remember it from every family-get-together growing up. If you're not southern and think buttermilk pie sounds weird, just wait until you try this sweet and tangy custard.

Aunt Gladys' Buttermilk Custard

3 eggs
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted
2 tbsp flour
dash salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
uncooked deep dish pie crust

Cover pie edges with foil so they won't over-brown and preheat oven to 350. Beat eggs, then mix in butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, vanilla and buttermilk. Pour into pie crust and bake 30-40 minutes until golden. Cool completely before eating (it's actually better the second day).


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