Family Reunions and FoodWritten by Glynis Neves
The Big Reunion: We’re Talking REALLY Big!
I married into a large family. Really large. My husband is one of 12 children, and those children all have children, and now those children are starting to have children. I think I stopped counting when I learned that on my husband’s side of the family I had 36 nieces and nephews. That was about 20 years ago. Things have just continued to grow since then.
Having such a large family means that we have a tendency to grow apart. It’s hard to get everyone together and do anything meaningful. However, I grew up knowing all my cousins, and spending time on family vacations with them every summer. I wanted something similar for my children. The trick was going to be figuring out how to do it.
The solution that we came up with is fondly referred to in our family as the B. F. 0. (or beefo, for short). What is this? It’s a Big Family Outing. We have set aside one week each summer to get as many of my husband’s siblings, their children, and now grandchildren together. Think of it as a huge family reunion! Each family takes a turn choosing the activities. Some years we go camping, and some years we plan “staycations.” Whatever we decide, we’ve all made it a priority for our family’s to attend.
Something For Everyone at the Reunion!
This year is my family’s year. It’s an exciting thing to be put in charge of the B.F.O! Once we chose our site (we’re camping this year), then it became time to plan some of the other activities. This is where coming from such a large family comes in handy! We have a large number of resources to turn to for help. For example, one niece is incredibly creative, so she is put in charge of a craft or 2 to while away the afternoon hours for the little kids. In the past she’s done science experiments, jewelry crafts, nature crafts, etc. Really, the sky is the limit for her… literally. Last year she had a rocket launching craft!
Another activity we all enjoy is a movie night on the last night of camping. All week long, kids are given tickets or tokens when they are caught following the rules, or being kind. On movie night, they can trade those tickets/tokens in for small treats and popcorn during the movie. Once that is done, everyone settles in to watch a movie together. Our choices have ranged from “The Sandlot”, to “Tangled”, to “Stardust.” Some years, we’ll do a double feature with a children’s movie first, and a more grown up offering after all the children have gone to bed.
Did Someone Mention Food?
My favorite part of the B.F.O. has always been the food! For our family reunions, we have found that the easiest thing to do is for everyone to provide food for their immediate family, and then we set up a communal eating/cooking spot. That way, each family gets what they like to eat, but we are all together, prepping and cooking, laughing and telling stories. However, there are 2 items that we all do together: our Dutch Oven Cook-Off, and the Gourmet S’mores Competition! These are 2 areas where we all try to out-do each other. Our incentive… PRIZES!!!
For the Dutch Oven Cook-Off, we have categories for Main Entrée, Dessert and Bread (Bread always gets the best prize because it’s the hardest!). Winners receive such great prizes as a binder of new Dutch Oven Recipes, or a jar of gourmet spices, etc. The S’mores competition is the yummiest! Each person (or family) creates the best recipe for S’mores that they can come up with, and if they win, they receive a new set of marshmallow roasters, or a basket of goodies. Really, the prizes are not what’s important. The fun part is just all being together and enjoying some wonderful times as a family.
What are some traditions you share as an extended family?
I couldn’t decide on just one recipe for this section… so you get 2 today! One is a prize winning (well, in our family) Dutch Oven Cobbler recipe, and the other is a wonderful dessert that is easy to make for family reunions.
Dutch Oven Cobbler
Recipe by Alan Neves
Line a 12- or 14-inch deep Dutch oven with heavy duty foil. (Don’t skip this step. It will save you many headaches on cleanup!) Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.
In the bottom of the Dutch oven, pour 1 can of your favorite pie filling. You can use more than one can, if you like it really fruity.
On top of the pie filling evenly sprinkle 1 box of dry cake mix. Make it as even as possible. This will give your finished cobbler an even consistency.
Slice one stick of butter into small pats and place those evenly on top of the dry cake mix.
On top of everything pour one- half of a can of Squirt or some other lemon-lime soda. DO NOT MIX!!!
Place lid on top of Dutch oven and place coals on the top and the bottom of oven. Cook until the cake is baked through.
NOTE – If you don’t want to mess around with coals, but you really want to try this recipe, you can use a Dutch oven in your regular oven. Set the temperature to 350 degrees, and start checking the cake after 20 minutes.
This recipe is wonderful warm, with fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This recipe is pretty forgiving with flavor combinations. Some of our favorites are:
Cherry pie filling/chocolate cake mix/ cherry cola
Peach pie filling/ white cake mix/7-up
Raspberry pie filling/chocolate cake mix/Squirt
Blueberry pie filling/lemon cake mix/7-up
Red Hot Candy Fluff
Original recipe found in Quick Cooking Magazine
1 can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 C. red-hot cinnamon candies
2 C. miniature marshmallows
1 (8 oz) carton Cool Whip, thawed
In a bowl, combine the pineapple and candies. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Stir in the marshmallows and Cool Whip. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
NOTE – This recipe can be multiplied easily for large family gatherings. The cinnamon candies give it a beautiful color, and it’s a wonderful, cool, dessert for the summer!
Stories have always been a big part of my life. I grew up in a very theatrical family, and learned the art of storytelling early on. I'm grateful to my parents for teaching me how to express myself through story. Now that I have 5 children of my own, I find that I use storytelling every day. I love it when my children say, "Tell me the story about..." or "Tell us about a time when..." These are the times when genuine connections occur, and in this day and age, we need all the connections we can get with our children.
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