Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Making Lemonade

I had an ulterior motive for going to visit relatives this last weekend. My dad's hometown has an annual picnic and they make the best lemonade evah. I've been trying to replicate it here. I use both oranges and lemons and mix it with water and ice but have been falling short of the mark. I think I know now what the trick is. Someone built some fine muddling rigs to make the process easier, but muddling the fruit and rind into the sugar releases extra goodness into the drink.

Campbell Hill Lemonade
  • Get a drink mixer or other sturdy cup of about 16 oz.
  • Put 1/2c sugar in the cup (alter amount to taste)
  • Cut an orange and lemon into large chunks with the rind left on
  • Put 2 lemon chunks and 1-2 orange chunks into the glass with the sugar
  • Muddle the fruit into the sugar for about a minute
  • Fill the cup with ice
  • Pour water over ice to cover
  • Invert drinking glass over mixer
  • Shake vigorously
  • Enjoy!

Since it's a small town and everyone we'd planned to see lived there and goes to the picnic, we didn't have any trouble finding people either at home or at the picnic despite the fact that my dad didn't call in advance to say were were flying several thousand miles to stop by. Yep. I get my training in planning ahead skills from dad and my lack of prioritizing skills from mom. This is why the packing ahead last week caught me by surprise. Didn't occur to me to remind my dad to warn people we'd be by so they could think of things to talk to us about.

As it was, all I really wanted was a quick visit - long enough to say "hi, howareya? Seems like nice weather this summer." while ascertaining that everyone is still going about their business as usual and getting out before uncomfortable silence descends. What was interesting to me was all the varied jobs that people held, mostly to bring in extra income.

My dad's uncle M used to be a dairy farmer, but since he's been retired for 10 years, he only keeps 50 cows. You heard me, only 50 cows! They breed them with an angus bull and sell the calves to someone who fattens them up to be beef. Two of their 3 sons live at home. One works in a coal mine and plants the fields and probably helps with the cows. The other used to live in St. Louis but has grown increasingly hermit like and works from home. The uncles and/or aunts are grandpa's half siblings. I think at least some of our shared genetics tends toward autism, or at least aspbergers... The third cousin wouldn't live at home if you paid him and boy do I relate to that too!

We caught up with my dad's Aunt F. and her son and 3 of his 5 daughters, his girlfriend, and one fiance. We got a couple of pictures because they're the good looking relatives due to cousin D being adopted. I haven't seen them since the girls were all under age 8 or so, so it was freaky to see them as real grown adult humans, and one with a fiance in tow! There were so many people running around getting ready for the evening at the picnic, I didn't find out what extra job Aunt F might have.

The other Aunt M had baked fresh blackberry pies for the picnic. We took them over but kept one for ourselves after buying it for $1.50 a slice. She'd moved out of the last house with the octagonal living room and had a new house built which is decorated in vibrant color. The living room was assaultingly pink, but I loved the acid yellow-green of the kitchen. She runs a consignment shop from the basement in a space she had designed for it. And the view out the bright red (more a fuscia tinged maroon) bathroom is of a neighbor's farm and 5 silos lined up like on a commercial for "more bars" of cell coverage. So I had to check and my cell coverage was great there.

She had a couple of sepia toned pictures out showing my great uncle in his WWII group (platoon?), and one from when he graduated from the police academy that were fun to look at. He used to lock us in handcuffs as kids. I think I remember screaming bloody murder and freaking out when he said he lost the key. Turns out that, at least 20 years ago, a safety pin worked pretty well to break free. Don't know if they've fixed that issue or if the plastic strips have totally replaced them.

It was good to see everyone again, even briefly. I was really struck by the number and type of various odd jobs people held, mostly self constructed and home based, that kept them going. I keep trying to push my parents into making some folk art and selling it at shows during the summer (or at Aunt M's consignment shop!), and I'm wondering if maybe this example of family ingenuity will make them realize they can do something like that without it becoming some overwhelming burden. Certainly less work than only 50 cows.

After swinging by the picnic and running into some more folks who knew my dad as a grubby little spoiled brat, we hopped in the car, a vivid metallic cobalt Camry rental, and headed north through corn country to my mom's hometown. I only recently learned that my dad's family moved there when he was in high school because that's where his mom and dad were able to get teaching jobs at the same school after my grandma finished her degree. I think that's touching. Probably was just practical, but it reads as touching so I'll stick with that.

My mom's mom is still very much in love with my step-grandpa. They welcomed us with hugs and more homemade pie, this time blueberry. Grandma had on some funky gold shoes to match her outfit. She's planning to retire from delivering Meals on Wheels this year after more than 50 years of service. At no point did she act like she was 92, although now that I think on it, how would a 92 year old act? Holding hands and kissing her sweetie, feeding the birds and squirrels (picture to come), beating each other at rummy, going out to eat, whathaveyou. Pop recently had his 88th birthday party and got lots of cards. Now I feel like a poop for not sending one even though my parents reminded me. He also had a button saying, "I've survived... damn near everything" which I liked.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go in person was that my other grandma is not doing as well. When I call her on the phone, she asks how I like CA, I tell her I like it here and she asks me again. Recently she hasn't been answering the phone at all though, and I stopped calling. Which makes me feel lousy even though I do wonder if it helps or not, so I wanted to see her in person.

As far as I can see, aside from having no muscle tone to speak of, grandma is healthy as a horse, but getting forgetful. Not al.zhi.emers forgetful, but just losing focus on the now and irregular short term memory. She recognized us right off even though we woke her up from a nap. We did state our names for the record which helped to jog her memory, but there was no hint of "why are you here?". We had a nice chat containing a few, "Hi, I'm Tom!" elements during which she reassured us that the were taking good care of her. And they were. She was dressed appropriately, and whoever is doing her hair and nails is competent. Grandma is pretty thrilled with the nails since she bit them her whole life and only in recent years was able to grow them out. The closer friends and relatives and in-laws look in on her pretty regularly too.

After a lunch with lots of Illinois corn, we went back for another brief visit. She remembered that we had told her we'd be coming back, but fretted repeatedly about the fact that she hadn't gotten out front to meet us. This is what's weird with the memory - she asked after my mom who had stayed behind, clearly knew we were coming back, but didn't realize she'd already said "I wanted to meet you out front" about 13 times. By the time we calmed her out of that, she got confused between me and my cousin (our fault for bringing up too many topics at once, I think) and it was getting time to go. I fiddled a bit with the pictures around the room, and we took off. It's hard on my dad seeing her failing like this but all in all, she's better off than many. I think too much new-ness throws her off a little. And since she loves being "taken care of" (hence the no muscle tone) it's a pretty sweet deal for her to be taken care of full time, even if it would drive me mad.

Anyhow, there was more to the trip, and I have more to say and pictures and such, but I really should pack for my San Fran trip tomorrow...


Oh, and this isn't postdated, so you know I made it through the earthquake fine. It's the 2nd one I've felt since moving here. The 5.8 earthquake was only minor shakes out this way. I'm guesstimating it was about 60 miles SE from here and there are some mountain ranges in between. It was like sitting in a bowl of jell-o. The tremors rumbled on and on for what felt like a long time but was probably 20 seconds. Long enough though to have a conversation about it while it was happening. We had no lingering effects I know of but probably had to rework a couple wafers.


S said...

"Muddling" -- is there a precise definition for that cooking term, or does it just mean mashing everything together really well?

CrankyOtter said...

Back from a brief San Fran interlude...

Muddling as I know it is mashing everything together really well. In this case, it releases the oils from the skins into the sugar as well as the juice from the fruit. Also done with mojitos. Fun fact - the first time I ever heard of a mojito was on a Mart.ha St.ew.art show, one of perhaps 4 of them that I ever saw, then I started seeing them everywhere.