My sister is getting married this weekend and we are all looking forward to celebrating with the happy couple. I leave my garden with some trepidation, knowing that a few days of not picking cucumbers or tomatoes could promise a pathetic vegetable patch on my return. I have promised the neighbor kids a monetary reward for keeping the vegetables picked and the containers watered. Twelve year-olds, however, have better things to do than maintain my garden, so we'll see how well it goes. No matter. I have put up plenty of dill pickles over the weekend, so if this is the last of the cukes, it won't be a tragedy.
The night before the official nuptials, my sister and her husband-to-be are hosting a pot-luck picnic, with fried chicken and beer. Price of admission is a side dish and I know just what I would bring, if I weren't travelling across the country with a three-year old. So I am posting it here, as a kind of virtual offering. This is a perfect picnic dish and one that, for me, evokes a wealth of childhood memories. And what is the point of family at a wedding if not to remind the bride and groom from whence they came, of their past and of the way it will shape their future? I would bring the dish because it is a bowlful of our younger selves. The taste is of summers at the town pool and playing softball at the park and riding our bikes home from babysitting jobs. One bite and I am back. This is the dish I would bring because it is my mother's recipe, and it tastes of her, and her kitchen and everything she loved about lazy summer afternoons.
My mother passed away five years ago and as the eldest daughter, I feel I somehow need to let my sister feel her presence at the wedding. I could stand up and give a toast, but I would probably cry if I spoke of my mother. I prefer joke-filled, upbeat toasts, and I am loathe to give a damp, weepy speech. Also, toasts weren't my mom's style. She was humble and calm and not given to public speaking. If she was brash and loud, it was in the kitchen, with her food. My mother was an exuberant cook and her summer fare was rich with tomatoes, corn, and basil. This dish, full of onions and bright dressing, is just what she would have brought to the pot-luck. She would have put down the bowl with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. She would have cracked open a cold beer and raised it in celebration. So here's to the happy couple. I give you a recipe that perhaps you will make one day with your own kids, creating their own lazy summer memories.