Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blueberry Cobbler, a Memorial Day Weekend Food and Why I Remember that It's not just Summer We are Celebrating.

My parents married later in Life. I mean they were in their thirties when they married and then waited a few years before having children, namely me and my brother. As such they were older than most of my school mates parents. This was unknown to me as a child because my Mother kept her age a secret fearing that having older parents would make kids have strange ideas. Fortunately, my Mother's gene pool was such that no one would have known she was 10 years older than my classmates mothers. In fact she was ( and is) quite a looker!

This age disparagement also went the other way when it came to my Father's family and my relatives on his side. My Father was 16 years younger than his next oldest sibling! That's right, he was what they called "tail-end Charlie". Or in some families a "surprise"! My Big Mama was over 40 when she had my Dad and his oldest sister was 25! So you can imagine the age difference I had growing up with my next  oldest cousins being 14 and 16 years older than me. It was kinda fun cause you were always the young ones. Well, until everyone had kids then we were just sort of in the mix somewhere.

One thing about having relatives that were older was all of my Father's brothers served in the military during World War II. Some were in the behind the lines kinda jobs but some were in the worst fighting of the war. All my blood relatives survived. Only my Aunt Lucy's husband was killed in action. He was killed at the battle on Monte Casino where our army encountered a stronghold held by a battalion of Hitler Youth. A sad and terrible battle and one which should never have happened.

 John Gandy was his name, and growing up I only knew my Aunt Lucy as my Aunt who lived with my Big Mama in the  house Lucy owned in Walhalla, South Carolina. I had never known my Aunt as a married woman, but looking back I sense there was a deep sadness in her life. Never was spoken about, and I never asked about it, but it was something I just sensed. I think this unspoken sadness was a part of many WWII veterans experience. My uncles being no exception, I mean we won the war and being sad or depressed about it seemed sort of counterintuitive to the sense of victory. So many suffered in silence. Unable or unwilling to speak about the deep feelings of anger, loss and depression they might have.

My aunt was always very nice to me and my brother. We spent many a night at Big Mama and Lucy's house when visiting during the summers. Sleeping in the damp basement in metal twin beds with patchwork quilts and cotton sheets and listening to the hum of the air conditioner fan as it whirled around. We would pick tomatoes in the garden and eat fresh corn and ham for lunch. We would go on hikes with our cousins to waterfalls in the mountains and our Uncle Frank would put us to work in his field. We had a lot of fun as little boys will.

Lucy was an accomplished and somewhat well known regional water colorist. We still have many of her paintings gracing the walls in my Mother's as well as other relative's houses. I can just see her coming out for coffee and cereal in the mornings, her short dark hair pulled back and wearing her white robe with pink flowers on it. Then at the large dark wood dining table, lighting up a cigarette at breakfast to go with her paper and coffee and speaking in her purposeful southern drawl about the news of the day. My Aunt Lucy is gone now but I still remember her and the Uncle I never knew.

Not many of my friends growing up had relatives that were directly in WWII. They for the most part were the generation right after the war. So this family dialogue of personal history and involvement, along with the fact that I grew up in a Navy Family, made me hyper aware of what the holiday we celebrate as Memorial Day was all about. I mean growing up I was surrounded by war monuments and military memorials in my neighborhood as well as on every base we lived near or on.

Remembering sacrifice is something the military does well. I think that over the years we as a culture have ceased to look at this reality. I speak of the reality that some people before us died to enable us to live the free and enterprising lives we live today. Not to remember that is a big mistake and flies in the face of history. We may not believe that war is a good thing, and it's not, but even today we have many people in our armed forces sacrificing their lives and limbs to keep our world a safer place. And even if you don't agree with all the politics, you have to agree that sacrifice which is given freely and for the betterment of the common good deserves note. And those people sacrificing deserve some honor.

So lets not just celebrate Summer. Lets also celebrate those people who helped us celebrate life, by sacrificing theirs, so we can celebrate our lives whatever and however we want.

So here's to you Uncle John. Who I never knew except by word. And who gave your life. So my life could be the wonderful strife free life it has been. Knowing little of war and aggression during my time here on the planet. May all people everywhere come someday to know that peace. And may it come in a manner that does not exact the same sacrifice you made. All I can say today is, thank you Uncle John.
I remember you.

In the spirit of the holiday and the unofficial start of Summer it is here's a recipe that makes me think of my Father's Family. Every year I went to Walhalla my Uncle Frank would take my brother and I blueberry picking, then my Aunt would make a cobbler. I have made this recipe over the past few years in homage to that memory I hope you enjoy it!

Walhalla Blueberry Cobbler With Granola Nut crust

3 pints fresh blueberries ( fresh is better or 2 1lb. bags thawed frozen)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups granola cereal
1/2 cup crushed or slivered nuts ( your choice )
1 stick butter melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix sugar and berries and lemon juice in a bowl and pour into a 9 x13 baking dish
Mix the rest of the ingredients and top the berries with a even layer of the topping
Bake for 30 mins at 350 degrees till top is browned and the berries are juicy
Remove from oven and let cool for about 20 mins
Serve while still warm with good vanilla ice cream
Start smiling!
Enjoy ya'll

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