Family, Reunions & Food Legacy

1 Sep

by Charla L. Draper

Family reunions have  become a tradition of summer. They’ve evolved beyond picnics, to include week-end celebrations, and week-long cruises. These days reunions bring biological kin to the table or the reunion may be a non-traditional gathering of unrelated “cousins” sharing the bond of community and common interests.

One of the brightest spots in my summer 2012 was the 40th Annual Britton-Crim Family Reunion. The B-C group more than 100 strong,  gathered for the milestone in Washington, D.C.  Marking the occasion in the District of Columbia where so many significant events have occurred since the family’s first gathering in Cleveland in 1973 was extraordinary.

Mom boards bus with Britton cousins.

Our host team put in plenty of hours to organize the reunion, along with a visit to the White House, making sure that each member of the family submitted the essential information to be vetted so  that everyone attending  could be included on the official WH tour. (No easy task there)  Next stop the MLK Monument—I ‘m pretty sure  that at the very first reunion our family members never imagined that the historic National Mall would include a monument of Dr. King gazing toward the horizon, or that  the most prestigious address in the District would be the home of an African American family whose patriarch was the President of the United States.

Most often during reunions the emphasis is placed on ancestor searches, old wives tales and family heritage, but it is important to include family medical history in these anecdotal conversations.  Family members need to know when diseases run in the family, and of those affecting  relatives if they are lifestyle related or genetic.  Two of my cousins reminded the family how critical this is. This element of family history can be life-saving.

Cucumber Salad is always on hand at the Drapers’.

Now you know I ‘m a food enthusiast and all families have signature recipes.  You know the recipes that folks keep asking why they aren’t on the menu if they’re not included.  We have several in our family from cucumber salad to pasta to pie.  Whether it is Mom’s Apple Pie or my grandmother’s  peach cobbler, if one of those are missing—there will be a lot of chatter that the favorite dessert was left out.  Make sure you ask how these recipes are made; if more than one person knows how to make them or has the recipe, this will guarantee that your family can keep the recipe as part of your food heritage.

As my family gathers for the last barbecue of summer the menu includes peach cobbler made with Chilton County peaches .  This was about the last week for  the fresh local peaches  so it was all about cobbler for the week-end.  The recipe is  from my grandmother Alice Qualls Watson Walker,  sister of Louise Qualls Britton and Clara Qualls Mitchell. When my grandmother baked cobbler she didn’t always have Alabama’s Chilton County peaches, but with  the fruit she had on hand she always stirred in plenty of love.

Whether it’s a big reunion or smaller gathering take full advantage of the time. Use the  time together wisely  learning all you can about family history, traditions and legacies.

Alice’s Peach Cobbler

This recipe is part of our family food heritage; what are some of the “must have” dishes in your family?


31/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 cup shortening

3 tablespoon light brown sugar

11/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

6 to 8 tablespoon ice water

1. Pulse first 4 ingredients in a food processor 6 to 8 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal.   (Do not overprocess.)

2. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture is moist enough to shape into a ball, pulsing once after each addition.  Divide mixture in half; shape each half into a ball.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Peach Filling

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

71/2 cups fresh or frozen sliced peaches (about 4 lb. fresh peaches)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon milk

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Roll half of pastry dough  between two sheets of wax paper to fit 11 3/4 x 7 1/2-inch baking dish.  Remove top sheet of wax paper; invert pastry dough into baking dish Remove remaining sheet of wax paper. Gently fit dough into dish

2.  Combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl.  Stir together peaches, lemon juice, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Add sugar mixture, tossing gently to coat.  Place peach mixture in prepared pastry crust in baking dish.  Top filling with butter.

3.  Roll remaining half of pastry dough to cover 11 3/4 x 7 1/2-inch baking dish between two sheets of wax paper; remove top sheet of wax paper.  Invert pastry onto top of pie; remove remaining sheet of wax paper.  Trim off excess pastry along edges.  Fold edges under and crimp to seal.  Brush top of pastry with milk, and sprinkle evenly with remaining Tablespoon  granulated sugar. Cut slits in top crust for steam to escape. Place baking dish on a baking sheet or over aluminum foil.

4. Bake, on second rack from bottom of oven, at 400° for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly, shielding edges with aluminum foil after 40 minutes to prevent excess browning.  Remove to a wire rack, and let stand at least 45 minutes before serving. YIELD: 8 to 10 servings

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