All in the Family

Annual summer reunions - and the family cooking that happens with them - are a popular way to bring generations together.

By Elizabeth S. Bennett

Every year, families across America take to cars and campers, airplanes and trains to meet and gather in backyards, parks, campgrounds, resorts, church cellars, and other outposts for their annual family reunion.

"From my point of view the number of family reunions is growing," says Edith Wagner, editor of Reunions magazine. She points out that the publication's website receives thousands of unique visitors daily, a number that keeps growing.

According to Wagner, no matter where the reunion is held there is almost always a picnic or outdoor grilling event of some kind, even when it is largely a catered affair.

"For these types of events, family members who live in the town bring salads and desserts and have someone come in and do the barbecue meats," says Wagner.

Others, like Marilynn Stewart, a great-great-grandmother from Brigham City, Utah, believe in cooking together at family gatherings. Every summer, she spends her reunions camping with her six children, 19 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren. Together they do most of the cooking on an outdoor grill or over a campfire.

"We usually bring three or four Dutch ovens and an ice-cream maker, which the kids love to take turns cranking,” she says. "We also make homemade root beer and fried chicken."

Along with barbecue and fried chicken, coleslaw, cookies, pies, and cold macaroni and pasta salads are all traditional reunion fare. Families often have an heirloom recipe of their own on the table and whether it is Aunt Tillie's oatmeal cookies or Grandma's peach cobbler, these recipes help grandparents tell the story of their family and talk about the characters and the ancestors. Getting to know what went before, it seems, is every bit as important as getting to know each other a little better at a family reunion.

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