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.

No comments:

Post a Comment