Share Your Family Reunion Recipe

With the long holiday weekend now underway, I am immediately reminded of "Family Reunion," a song by R&B/soul songstress/poet Jill Scott. The lyrics paint a picture of the motley crew that is family, getting together year after year, with food as the thread that connects them:

We at the family reunion, tellin' jokes and playin' spades Uncle Dave is on the barbecue grill Grandma braggin 'bout the blanket she made For the new baby on her way Even though the daddy ain't really ready This child is coming...anyway, yeah
Niecie made her famous potato salad, somehow it turns out green Maybe it's all the scallions, could be the celery But oh, Uncle Jerome loves it (Hmm) Hey baby baby, here comes my favorite... my favorite cousin He says he's doing fine, takin' it one step a day but in my heart I know it ain't that way

It's funny, but it's true. In family gatherings, everybody plays a role in the meal, and more often than not, that role is yours for life. My dad would light the grill, my mom would whip up potato salad. My grandmother usually made the instant iced tea. And like Scott writes, there's always something quirky and memorable about a dish made by family, regardless of how it tastes:

Whoa whoa-o-whoa...What can you say...it's family

Here's where I step out of the ring, so that you can step in. Share that famous recipe that appears year after year at the annual family cookout or shindig of comparable theatrical proportions. Bring it on -- and we'll have the makings of our very own virtual family reunion!

By Kim ODonnel |  May 25, 2007; 1:00 PM ET Family
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Maybe this is very west coast of me, but my contribution to our family gatherings (we don't generally do reunions, since I see all my siblings and cousins and their children and grandchildren at our regular family get-togethers) is a green salad. The green salad I make is actually off the bottle of raspberry salad dressing I buy--mixed greens, diced apples, goat cheese, walnuts, red onion, and of course the dressing. The reason this falls to me is that no one else makes one and I love green salad.

If I need to bring anything else, I add in a cake, which varies by occasion and season. This weekend is our annual Sunday before Memorial Day party (so we can stay late and don't have to worry about getting up the next morning). It is also the family birthday party for one of my nephews, me, and my two daughters. So I'll be making some sort of strawberry cake for my non-chocolate eating daughter, and a chocolate cake for my other one. In the past I'd made the strawberry-banana cake from "In the Sweet Kitchen" (which is also known as slug cake because of the overripe bananas I pulled from the freezer the year my daughter was 3). I've never been able to get that cake to be as light as I want it, though, so this year I'm making the strawberry cream cake from Cook's Illustrated. The chocolate cake will either be the Devil's food cake from Cook's illustrated or the chocolate cake from the Macrina Bakery cookbook. For my dad's birthday it's always my grandmother's applesauce cake recipe, while my mom likes poppy-seed angel food cake with grapefruit curd. I do Thanksgiving, and in addition to dinner, everyone gets their favorite dessert--usually pie but sometimes cake. Last year there were 8 different desserts!

Posted by: seattle | May 25, 2007 3:11 PM

This is ridiculously simple so anyone could make it, but I'm not allowed to show up without it. It really is good--I just get tired of making it every time.

Cook red (must be red and preferably not new) potatoes until *just* done (don't forget they'll continue cooking a little while they cool). As soon as they're cool enough to handle, peel and slice. Toss chopped scallion, chopped parsley and potatoes. Mix Best Foods/Hellman's mayo with black pepper and a tiny bit of water and toss with potato. chill.

Sorry, I don't measure but go by sight when I add onion & parsley. Then, mix lots of finely ground black pepper (to your taste) with the mayo and just enough water to make it easier to mix with the potatoes.

We used to buy this potato salad from a local German deli and they gave us the recipe years ago when they had a problem and couldn't prepare it. They used chives instead of scallions, but both our husbands preferred scallions to chives, so that's what we used.

Posted by: A Nony Mous | May 25, 2007 3:40 PM

There are two "signature" dishes at our family reunions. First is "trash can stew" which varies from year to year but consists of the usual suspects when it comes to stew (potatoes, carrots, corn, etc.) We scrub out two brand new metal trash cans and stick them in a coal pit to simmer, then we dump the contents into large metal containers to serve. We have a lot of people in our family, and when you add all of the friends of the family also in attendance, there are close to 100 people to feed. So trashcan stew is a good way prepare large amounts of food. The second item isn't so much a dish as it is a method...we have this large porcelain bathtub that we build a fire in and put a grate over the top to use for a grill. One of the uncles will cook breakfast, pancakes, sausage, egg, for whoever is up early enough to eat it. It's great times!

Posted by: Sandusky, OH | May 25, 2007 4:39 PM

Cherries Jubilee

Mix a can of cherry pie filling with a can of fruit cocktail (drained) and a can of pineapple chucks(drained). Add can of condensed milk and then stir in a tub of Cool Whip. Chill for 2 hours in the fridge and serve.

This fun and fruity pink dessert thrills everyone in our family.

Posted by: Jade Walker | May 28, 2007 5:22 AM

Coming from a big family that centered in Tucson, AZ, but is now spread from Seattle to Maryland to Germany (and everything in between!) family reunions mean only one thing: Mexican food!

Grandma makes deep fried quesadillas (you dip the flour tortilla through oil until puffed and crisp, make a whole stack ahead of time, then just pop under the broiler with some cheese, it takes no time at all and is delicious)

My mother makes refried beans (The recipe is impossible to duplicate. Fry up some chorizo and onions, add canned beans, then keep adding anything from the fridge until done. My brother once famously revealed a "secret ingredient" of pickle juice!)

Someone usually makes both red and green enchiladas. We buy tamales, if its Christmas someone makes chimichangas.

Posted by: Tucson | May 29, 2007 9:14 AM

While I don't go to the family reunions, this item is requested by my aunt and her daughter. It's my carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

2&1/2 cups self rising flour
2&1/2 cups gran. sugar
1 2/3 cups oil & applesauce (I use both instead of all oil to make the cake a little more moist)
5 eggs
2 cups grated carrots (I like to add cinnamon, OJ, and vanilla to mine and soak overnight)
1-2 cups chopped walnuts (depends on how much you like them)


Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spread into two or three 8" pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 min and check for doneness. It may need a little more time depending on your oven. While cake is baking, prepare your favorite cream cheese frosting or buy a couple of cans of Betty Crocker and add a little vanilla and orange zest.

Never had a crumb left of this after the meals I have served it at. Shoot, half of one disappeared after a family gathering once. No one admits to the theft. :)

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | May 29, 2007 4:17 PM

Well, Kentucky Fried Chicken is always present in abundance at our family reunions. For the family members in their 80s who still want to bring something, or for those who have to travel far, that works well.

But for those who are able to cook, there is always something new in addition to the deviled eggs (no reunion is complete without those). A variety of salads, some simple, some inventive. Fresh vegetables, fruit salads, strawberries with whipped cream. Other than the chicken, there is not a lot of meat. Usually ham biscuits, homecooked fried chicken. Maybe a meat lasagna. Almost always mac and cheese for the youngest.

Desserts are the best. My uncle has a great chocolate cake recipe that is always a hit. Again, the variety ranges from elaborate homecooked to simple home cooked (dump cake) to store bought, depending on who is bringing.

For the drinks we have well water (labeled by county), tea (sweet, unsweet, mint), lemonade, and a variety of sodas.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2007 8:29 PM

Well, breakfast cassarole, for one -- layers of sausage, cheese, eggs, and white bread torn up, let sit overnight so the bread can absorb the liquid, then baked. Also, eggs baked in muffin cups with a strip of bacon around the edge. Homemade watermelon pickles, or tuna pea wiggle made with those little macaroni o's that you can only find in the midwest.

Gramma's famous refrigerator cookies, and all the hot black coffee everyone can drink (usually 6 cups each or so), plus whiskey sours at noon.

Posted by: Rita | May 31, 2007 12:51 PM

most people wouldn't think to bring salad to a family get-together. and this is a pretty common salad, but i think that it would be a hit at any family reunion.

first, use bagged Fresh Express Sweet Butter, or any type of salad and put it in a bowl. (but its best with this kind)
next, put red wine vinegar and canola oil on the salad. use as much as it takes to to make it taste how you like it.
then, add lawry's garlic salt and black pepper untill you like the taste.

see, its just that simple. this salad is delicious.

Posted by: mell_bell_1 | June 23, 2007 10:44 AM

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