Tuesday, January 22, 2008

mlk jr.day fish fry at the farm

My dad started having his General Motors buddies to the farm when Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a paid holiday for them eighteen or so years ago.

Cass County Cousins

The gathering has evolved (yes, I said evolved) from all men to a fascinating mix of Boone County (where the farm is located) farmers, the mayor and the priest, Cass County (both of my parents are from there) cousins, GM co-workers and friends of ours.

Ann Herr Mitchell and Nora

My little restaurant/food safety heart could not stand for re-using the fry oil for years at a time (you read that right - they would pour it back in the jugs and stick it in the basement 'til next year) and Cousin Benny's cigarette ashes floating in the grease.

I took over the cooking a dozen years ago. At the time I was the only woman 'allowed.' I think the women were just smart enough to stay away. I hate to be told 'no.' The guys used to fry the fish in the same room they were eating in. You can imagine the cloud of old oil, cigar smoke and fish that formed in the room. I started introducing women in to the mix by inviting my best friend-since-we-were-six, Ann Mitchell to help with the cooking.

Some folks arrive at lunch-time to dine with the Mayor and the priest. Others come by after work for dinner, story-telling and euchre. They can expect fish, Dad's stew, little fried balls of dough, tater tots and homemade wine*.

Over the years I moved the cooking area - from the chicken house to the cow barn. I enjoyed the uncertainty of cooking in a pot filled with oil heated over the flame of a propane tank. The occasional fires added to the thrill of the day. I have to admit being nervous about the open pots of boiling oil, the uneven floor of the old cow barn and people who insisted in hovering close to the flames with a glass of Dad's wine in their hands. I was a little nervous – this year we borrowed actual fryers from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lebanon. I pictured the potential of an even bigger and more spectacular accident. I have a wicked scar on my foot from a fondue pot incident in the 1970s.

As it turned out was brilliant! Much safer (you could control the temperature) and there was always a line of guys waiting to do the 'cooking.' After years of working in restaurants with fryers, I'd honestly be happy never to dip a basket of anything in hot oil. Ann and I did all of the breading and prep work with a little help from the next generation.

John and the June Bug

Dad has fancied up both barns with reclaimed lumber from barns that were being torn down. He's added floors and walls to both structures. The old chicken house is now his workshop.

I'm guessing that over 100 people attended the party. I always love being the cow barn (or production kitchen as I was calling it). Its warm from the fryers and the spirit of the cousins. I love the feeling I get from looking around the room and being related to most of them.

brother J.R.

J.R. demonstrating the lifting skills of the old John Deere B

*Dad makes wine. I always joke that I'm not old enough to drink it. It tastes like Kool-aid and is very high in alcohol.

Dad is an amazing restorer of old things. He rescued a sleigh from a barn haymow several years ago. He researched the colors of that time at the sleigh museum in Connecticut. This photograph does not show much of the sleigh. Hopefully we'll get enough snow for a sleigh ride around the farm this winter. Dad does not pull it with a horse, he uses a Deere (I can hear the groans from the farmers in the crowd).

Several of my friends made the trek from the City (the farm is about half an hour from Indianapolis). I didn't do a good job of photographing everyone - but I have tons of goofy things, everyone loved wearing the fur hats that Mom brought sister Beth and me from Russia).

fellow bloggers Tammy and Cara

MLK Day at the farm ranks up there with one of my favorite days of the year. My top three are Tonic Ball, MLK Day and St. Valentines Day- in no special order. The common thread is the gathering of community.

Mark your calendars for Monday, January 19, 2009. I'll be the one with breading mix on my hands and bright eyes from holding back the happy tears.


Granny Annie said...

You are certainly poetic when it comes to describing events. My belated wish was to have been there this year. My anticipated dream is to be there next year. My mouth will be watering for the next 52 weeks!

Tee said...

You are so incredibly blessed. What an amazing group of people you connect with and call your family and friends. You're always attending such cool events and making such great use of your life. I think you're fantastic :)

Jerry said...

It is SO unfair that I can never attend one of your MLK Day festivities. It looks like so much fun. Plus I would know almost everyone there.

J.R. looks like the deranged pyromaniac who sets off fireworks at Herr's every 4th of July.

I'll be there for V-Day, though!!!