As you can tell from past columns, I had an idyllic childhood, filled with fun, friends and little work.
But I always wished for one of those big family cookouts on holidays like the Fourth of July. In my early years we didn’t have them, for several reasons.
First, we were a small family. Most of my dad’s siblings were dead, since he was the youngest of a hard-living, distant bunch. Even though my mother grew up in town, she was an only child, with parents who died before I was born.
Also, my dad was a “meat and three” kind of guy. No charcoal-grilled flavor for him. Born in 1899, his dislike might have stemmed from his childhood, eating food cooked over a wood stove.
Imagine my delight when my sister married and settled across town. Finally, I had a cook-out clan! Marge grilled the hamburgers, mixed to Mom’s specs with dried onion soup and milk-soaked bread. Other times we’d have barbecued ribs or chicken.
Mom always made enough “inside food” to keep Dad happy, too. She’d set out big bowls of potato salad and cucumbers and onions swimming in vinegar and sugar. (Twice as much sugar as vinegar, according to her recipe.)
Then she’d plunk down platters of sweet corn. Other times, she’d whisk deviled eggs or coleslaw from the fridge.
And there were always plenty of those wonderful Indiana tomatoes, sliced and ready for salt and pepper or sugar, as Mom liked. It was not unusual for us to polish off six or eight of them.
We washed it all down with sweet tea. This was SOUTHERN Indiana, after all.
Dessert was usually homemade ice cream, churned with strawberries or peaches. This was long before the sissified electric ice-cream makers of today.
Luckily, my brother-in-law, Joe, had a good strong arm, as did my dad. So we weaklings cranked for a while, but once the ice cream started thickening, it was time for the A-Team.
Meanwhile, my nephews and I played croquet in our backyard, lit snakes on the pavement, or played cards at the picnic table.
Once we’d consumed enough ice cream to stock a Baskin-Robbins outlet, the adults would collapse in a food coma as the kids and I ran off our sugar highs.
After all the food and activity, lit sparklers were almost an anti-climax. With a good meal and plenty of play, we Old Schoolers pronounced it another successful Fourth of July.
Reach Carol McEwen at email@example.com.