Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I would gladly share the recipe, but there isn't one

A couple of days ago, my husband and I drove home on swiftly moving interstate highways, finishing a week of visiting family in several different locations, and completing a 2366 mile loop, as it turned out.  We slept in so many different beds, every morning it took me a few moments to reorient myself to our location.

I love my husband's family.  As many members as there already are, I feel like they have embraced me as one of their own.  The very first time I had supper with them,  we devoured a cardboard barrel of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  That experience was hardly indicative of the culinary adventure I have had with them since. Most family events bless me with at least one new coveted recipe.  At a family reunion about ten years ago, the evening meals became highly competitive events as cooking teams, comprised of members of different families, worked feverishly attempting to produce the most memorable supper of the week.  Even the little ones were involved in decorating the tables and providing the dinner music.  Each night was not dinner but an extravaganza in itself.

This family rallies around at the least possible hint, appearing to look for any excuse or opportunity to get together. A couple of quick last-minute phone calls convened almost the entire family this year for the Fourth of July -- schedules adjusted, travel tweaked, and the entire countertop of my sister-in-law's kitchen covered in foil-wrapped dishes, showing off new recipes and old favorites.  Four out of my husband's five siblings, their spouses, parents, children, and even their DOGS attended.  As it was raining -- make that still raining-- people balanced paper plates laden with food throughut the kitchen, dinng area and family room.

And it wasn't until dessert was eaten and the kitchen was finally cleaned up, that we discovered the watermelon and the potato salad forgotten and uneaten in one of the ice chests. We were all disappointed.   My mother-in-law's potato salad is like the Hope Diamond of cuisine.  I would gladly share the recipe, but there isn't one.  Mamaw has never written it down.  And despite all of our many attempts to replicate it, there is nothing like it, or even close.  It is THAT good.

And so, with the potato salad forgotten and alone, out of the running, first place at this event was taken by my sister-in-law Maryam's carrot cake, its cream cheese frosting literally bathing the moist cake on a hot and humid North Carolina afternoon.

The only thing better that day was being surrounded by this beloved family who devoured it.

Maryam's Carrot Cake (adapted from Saveur Magazine)

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