As a kid, growing up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, the Memorial Day weekend was a declaration of ”let the summer games begin”. School had just let out, swimming pools in town were open for the season and summer softball leagues were in full swing. The horseshoe pit in the back yard was open for business and June bug wars with the cousins was in full swing. Three action-packed months lay ahead of us before school started again around Labor Day.
However, growing up on a farm, Summer meant very long hours of hard work for my parents. Tractors were buzzing in every field every day but Sunday. I remember my mom and I would deliver a cooler of lunch to my dad in the field. Mostly white bread sandwiches filled with bologna or ham salad, or nothing but butter, with some potato chips, and always dessert. Usually a square of chocolate sheet cake, or a slice of homemade pie. Sometimes he’d sit in the car, which was always a Dodge or a Pontiac, and visit with us while he ate, and sometimes take it with him on the tractor, which was always a John Deere. He would however, come back to the house every evening, calling us on the CB Radio to let us know he was on his way, to have supper around the dinner table, only to return to the fields to take advantage of every minute of daylight.
Memorial Day also marked a whole change of food that appeared on our table. I don’t remember any of us owning a grill until my high school years when Dad won one at the local John Deere dealership. A black kettle grill with a big green John Deere logo on the front. He assembled it and promptly placed it in the corner of garage and looked on it as a suspicious, exotic and confusing contraption. I finally drug it out one day determined to grill burgers, which ended in disaster and confirmed the piece of equipment to be new-fangled and useless. So Summer food for us consisted of lots of fried chicken, baked beans, potato salads, bean salads, boiled fresh sweet corn dripping in butter and a never-ending array of desserts. Iced tea and Kool-aid were consumed by the gallons.
Sundays were reserved for all the aunts, uncles and cousins to gather at our house after church for a big pot luck. My Aunt Lena was famous for hauling in enough food for an army and as soon as their Buick roared into the driveway, we’d rush out to help carry in the arsenal of Tupperware containers, hovering as she uncovered them in the kitchen. Man was she a good cook. Aunt Alice never disappointed always bringing her famous macaroni and cheese along with even more Tupperware containers filled with “Summer Food”. Dad and Uncles would take turns hand churning homemade ice cream in the back yard while us kids ran wild and sticky with slices of watermelon in our hands.
DVD’s, computers or Wii didn’t exist, so the day would end with us gathered around the large dining room table playing board games and cards followed by watching Gunsmoke and Ed Sullivan.
I made Aunt Lena’s Bean Salad recipe last weekend and served it alongside some flank steak that I cooked on that new-fangled out-door grill and some Bush’s Baked Beans. We’ve never had Bush’s canned beans before and I must admit I was skeptical, but we’re pleased to report that their new Grillin’ brand combinations are really good, a new staple for the pantry.
Aunt Lena’s Bean Salad Recipe:
1 can green beans, drained
1 can wax beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can lima beans, drained
1 whole onion, diced
1 whole green pepper, diced
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp celery seed
1. Mix all ingredients
Aunt Lena’s Bean Salad….It’s What’s for Summer Food.
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