Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cousin Camp Menu

   As part of the continuing saga of cousin camp, I'd like to talk about the food.  First of all, I'd like to thank my daughters Sarah, Lia, and Beth for the wonderful job they did as cousin camp cooks. In some ways a successful cousin camp isn't too difficult to pull off.  As long as the kids get to spend time with their favorite cousins they usually are all pretty happy.  The only other essential ingredient is the food being both good and plentiful.  The girls hit a serious home run with the food.

     The cooks' task was a little more complicated as we had asked for certain menu items to give the kids a taste of some of the things their ancestors ate.   Some of our requests were pretty easy to fulfill. I know for a fact that all of my ancestors from Arkansas, Iowa, and Missouri enjoyed watermelon in the summer time.  I have memory of a particular watermelon in Iowa when I was about ten years old. I was with my grandfather, Guy Dudley Tunnell, when he bought a watermelon from a farmer.  The cost of the watermelon was 60 cents at a penny per pound. That watermelon was both big and tasty.  That was years before the abomination of seedless watermelons showed up.  Not only are seedless watermelons lacking in flavor, but the also lack the recreational aspect of seed spitting. In the 1960s and  earlier the watermelons came with both seeds and flavor. Its pretty difficult to find a watermelon in the grocery store with seeds.  Occasionally I am lucky enough to find one at a fruit stand.

    We had beans and cornbread for one meal to commemorate what was probably my father's most common meal while he was growing up on a farm in southern Iowa.  I made the cornbread using freshly ground cornmeal from last year's crop of Painted Mountain flour corn. All of my ancestors who were farmers ate a lot of cornbread.  When my mother lived in northern Arkansas with her grandparents, Enos Henry Sinor and Lillie Etta Heiskill, they had hot cornbread every day for dinner (the noontime meal) and often had cornbread and milk for supper.  Their cornmeal came from the same field corn that Enos Henry Sinor grew to feed their animals. He would have a portion of the crop ground into cornmeal. The miller kept about a third of the cornmeal as his compensation for doing the grinding.  I know that the John Maythem family in Ohio also ate lots of cornbread. According to the Agricultural schedule of the 1850 census, indian corn was the primary crop that John Maythem grew.

   One morning we had biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  When my mother lived in Arkansas they had hot biscuits every day for breakfast.  At some point her grandmother decided that Cozette made better biscuits than she did so Cozette inherited that daily task.  She didn't follow a specific recipe. They had a flour barrel that had a big bowl which functioned as the lid.  She simply put an approximate amount of flour in the bowl, mixed in some baking powder, then added some bacon grease and then some milk. If the dough was too wet she would add a little more flour. If it was too dry she would add some more milk.  The biscuits were baked in a wood-fired cook stove so there was no temperature gauge. Her grandma would simply briefly put her hand in the oven to feel if it was hot enough. To this day one of my mother's favorite breakfasts is biscuits and gravy.

    On another morning we had pancakes. That stemmed from a great story about my dad and his brother Johnny.  They were having pancakes for breakfast and my dad (James Wesley Tunnell) thought that his brother (Guy John Tunnell, aka Johnny)had eaten more than his fair share of the pancakes.  Dad added some extra salt into a pancake that was cooking on the griddle.  When  he bit into the pancake with extra salt, Johnny complained that the pancakes didn't taste very good. My dad simply replied that "Nothing tastes good to a pig when his belly is full" as he continued to chow down on the pancakes. You've got to love good sibling rivalry stories and we have a few more from those same two brothers.  Once, when my dad was getting the worst of a scuffle with his older brother, he simply dragged Johnny into a poison ivy patch. Johnny was allergic to poison ivy while Dad was not.  The ultimate sibling rivalry took place when they were both attempting to court my mother.  Both brothers had motorcycles. Johnny rode a Harley-Davidson while Dad rode an Indian.  Johnny gave Mom a Harley-Davidson hat and Dad then gave her a big Indian pin to cover up the Harley-Davidson logo on the hat. Obviously, Dad ultimately won that contest.

    Another morning we had oatmeal for breakfast. This is obviously not the favorite of many children, but our Irish ancestors undoubtedly ate a lot of oatmeal. I suspect the Irish ancestors probably didn't have the luxury of adding lots of raisins and brown sugar to improve the flavor of their oatmeal.  Personally, I really like to eat oatmeal for breakfast, but I like to add lots of raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Sometimes I will even cut up an apple or add some rhubarb to the boiling water before I put in the oatmeal. We also had potatoes to commemorate our Irish ancestors, Cathrine Guckian and Jonathan Calvin Cunningham.  Those are the only two I know off the top of my head to have been Irish.

   I would have added some mealtime photos, but I failed to take any. If someone else did take any relevant mealtime photos or a group photo of our cooks that I can add to this post I would appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cousin Camp Hoedown

  We held our fifth biannual cousin camp this summer during the last week of July. The fact that I am just now getting around to blogging about cousin camp is indicative of just how much fun it was and how tired both Linda and I were at its completion. We are up to 25 grandchildren and all 25 of them were present and accounted for during cousin camp. Even the two youngest grandchildren, Nora and Tommy, were there. They are not old enough to qualify to attend cousin camp (five year old is the cutoff), but managed to sneak in with their mothers who had volunteered to cook.  Much of what we planned to do never happened, but we had a lot of quality time with our grandchildren and they had a lot of quality time with their cousins. It was a wonderfully happy chaos.

    Our theme for cousin camp this year was family history.  Many of the activities, including the meals, were planned with the lives of our ancestors in mind.   One of the fun events we planned was a hoedown, which actually did happen. The hoedown pertained to a story about my mother's father, James Wilburn Sinor.  When Cozette was living in Baxter County, Arkansas with her father, they occasionally hosted dances in their home. The way a dance usually came about was that several teenagers would stop by and ask "Mr Sinor" if they could have a dance at their house. He was usually willing. Preparation for the dance included moving all of the furniture to the outside walls in order to have more room for the dancers. It was also necessary to make arrangements for live music. The band consisted of Uncle Estel (brother of James Wilburn Sinor) on the guitar,  Uncle Estel's wife, Dorothy, on the mandolin, and Uncle Don Haney on the fiddle.  James Wilburn Sinor was the caller for the square dances.  Most of the kids who attended the dances were Cozette's cousins, as she was related in some way to most of the kids who lived nearby (defined as about a three mile circle in rural Baxter County Arkansas).  The square dancing was alternated with "round dancing".  I had falsely assumed that a round dance was some sort of folk dance.  The term round dance actually meant a waltz.  Unfortunately, Mom couldn't remember any of the songs her uncles and aunt played at their dances.  Neither could my Aunt Dolores name any of the tunes the band played. She didn't get into playing music until a bit later in her life. She did tell me that Uncle Don was an incredibly gifted fiddle player.  Dolores said that Uncle Don could have played professionally in Nashville, but for his drinking problem.  Apparently their little country square dances had some serious music.
The hoedown band, i.e. me
    Two granddaughters, Autumn and Chloe Kang,  took on the responsibility of teaching the rest of the grandkids how to square dance.  My job was to provide the music. mainly playing Oh Susanna on my fiddle.  Based on the wide variation in age and attention span among the dancers teaching square dance turned out to be difficult. We still had a great time. Teaching the birdie dance turned out to be quite a bit easier since it didn't depend so much on coordinating movements with a partner.  I also played that tune on the fiddle as well as King of the Fairies. My five year old grandson, John Tunnell, later came up to me and asked me to play a song. I tried several songs before I finally figured out that he wanted me to play King of the Fairies again.  Happiness is having a young grandson that already likes Irish fiddle music.  Since I was otherwise occupied playing the fiddle I passed my iPhone to grandson Jonathan Romero. He was a very diligent photographer and took all of the hoedown photos shown below, along with quite a few others:

Britton Tunnell, Luna Arnett, Chloe Kang, and Autumn Kang promenading

Madelynn Veatch and Hannah Yaden

Sofia Romero, Hannah Kang, Rachel Yaden, and Annika Romero

Notice the severe shortage of male dancers

Conner Veatch intently watching the action

John Tunnell decides he'll pass on the hand holding

Nora Tunnell and her mom enjoyed watching

Rachel Kang with Aunt Beth

Elise Kang and neighbor Sierra

Chloe Kang giving instructions

Not pouting, just patiently waiting for more instructions


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Senior Center Luau

     Yesterday I was very fortunate to be able to attend a luau with my sweetie and my granddaughter Madelynn.  The luau was put on by my ukulele teacher, Auntie Amelia, who teaches free ukulele and hula lessons at the Lake Stevens Senior Center. Auntie Amelia stated that the purpose of the luau was to showcase the talents of her ukulele and hula students. In spite of that stated purpose, she still let me play with the group.

My Sweetie and I at the Luau

     The meal was wonderful. There was a lot more pulled pork and teriyaki chicken on my plate that was probably wise to eat at one setting, along with rice, a salad, and various other Hawaiian delicacies.  One thing I particularly enjoyed was a raw tuna dish called ahi poke.  It was  simply cubed raw bluefin tuna that had been tossed with some chopped onion and other seasonings.  It was really delightful (assuming one likes sushi). I only ate a little of it as they didn't bring it out until I had already consumed a considerable amount of pulled pork and teriyaki chicken.  There was also a wonderful salmon dish but I failed to get its name. I also discovered that I do like poi if its fixed right.  The definition of "fixed right" included the addition of cream, sugar, and a few other ingredients. I feel somewhat sorry for the ancient Hawaiians who didn't have the necessary ingredients to fix the poi right.
That is my hat barely showing over the right shoulder of the hula dancer on the left

   After the lovely meal, I played my ukulele with the larger group which included both Auntie Amelia's beginning and intermediate ukulele students.  Her hula students danced during some of the songs.  After about eight songs, all of the students sat down to enjoy the rest of the show, consisting of the serious musicians and hula dancers.  I am truly amazed by the hula. It is the epitome of grace. And it isn't just the women, who are somewhat naturally more graceful. Even when big burly Hawaiian men dance the hula they look graceful.  I can't add a photo of myself while performing as my grand daughter took videos instead of photos. I'm insufficiently technically savvy to figure out how to add a video clip to a blog post.  You'll just have to take my word that I was playing the ukulele and that is indeed my hat showing over the shoulder of one of the hula dancers.

    I had a great time and I think both Madelynn and Linda really enjoyed themselves as well. They were actually talking about signing up for hula lessons as we left.  I apologize for the lack of a photo of Madelynn. I gave her my phone to take pictures and then neglected to insure she appeared in one herself.