Monday, November 3, 2008

Ancestor Supper

We ate our traditional Ancestor Supper a day late, on Nov. 2, this year. We celebrate our ancestors by eating foods they liked and telling stories about them. On Nov. 1 we were too beat to cook and Mike declared that our ancestors ate Thai takeout and drank Belgian ale.

But we decided to have another go at it on the 2nd. It's a laid-back celebration, or can be.

We got the idea from my friend Maria. If I remember correctly one of her ancestors liked Fresca, so they share a can of as part of the festivities. I like the easygoing spirit of this holiday. The food doesn't have to be fancy, just meaningful.

Last year we invited a friend to join us. He brought a 6-pack of Heineken in memory of his dad. We had a small glass of Heineken each and a martini onion for my mom's dad, Albert Edward Payne, who used to fish the small onions out of his martini, suck them dry and then give them to us to eat.

This year one of our ancestors cooked the dinner. My mom. And she made it fancy. A real feast: roast chicken with stuffing and gravy, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, broccoli, crab cakes, sad cakes, and rice pudding.

My mom's mom, Ruby Payne, as a child in Liverpool, took a baked potato to school for lunch in winter. Mom tells us that in the morning Ruby put the hot potato in her pocket to warm her hands on the way to school. At lunch she'd eat the potato, plain and cold.

It wasn't much of a lunch.

Her stomach must have been empty and her shoes were too full. Walking to school in those tight shoes permanently deformed her toes. I remember marveling at the toes and the story as a child.

As mom was telling the potato story Clementine took a baked potato out of the bowl and gave it an experimental bite.

For my mom's dad this year we had rice pudding. I remember him making it. But mom recalled that he liked to stir it several times during baking so the browned milk skin that forms on the top got well mixed in. I called Clem away from a movie to stir the rice into the evaporated milk. Tonight when I served the pudding (we were too full last night!) she said, "This is the one I helped make, isn't it? Oh, I want some!"

Mom made sad cakes with her 5 grandkids. Pastry dough with currants, sugar and a squeeze of lemon in the middle. I loved seeing the gran hands with the grandchildren hands making a recipe that the kids' great grandma Ruby learned from their great great grandma Maria. Clem and Greta and their cousins, Amelia and Elliot, made their sad cakes with currants. But Evelyn brought home two handfuls of huckleberries from Huckleberry Botanic Preserve.

My friend Maria's grandfather's twin brother helped found Huckleberry Preserve. Thanks, Maria and your ancestors, for the park, and a cherished family tradition. Wish we could have saved some Huckleberry sad cake for you, but it went fast.


Stefaneener said...

And a thank you from us too. I just finished picking over our huckleberries today. Maybe we'll make happier cakes with them.

patricia said...

Lovely post, lovely tradition. How special to have your mom cook with your kids, to make the ancestor supper that much more meaningful. The photo of their hands is beautiful.