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Growing up with farmers means that there is a predilection toward cooking with tried and true vintage recipes that included
ingredients having a significance related to what kinds of livestock and/or produce comes from your farm.  Both sets of my
grandparents were farmers, and even though my parents chose another way of life and professions that were not farm related, I
still was close enough to the grandparents and their extended families to be familiar with this way of life.  Even though Gram
Irwin and her husband had long given up the full sized farm they once owned, they still raised chickens and sold the eggs to a
select group of customers through once-a-week Saturday deliveries.  My Great Grandmother Wallace and her 3 unmarried
siblings had a working dairy farm which not only produced milk for sale, but also produced the majority of the food needed for
the livestock plus the few food animals and kitchen-bound crops they raised.  Ditto for Grandpa Irwin's little brother, Sammy,
who Grandpa helped to run the herd on his farm several times a week.

Needless to say, the trade among the three groups for needed food items was brisk.  Gram Irwin would trade fresh eggs or
hens too old to lay anymore to the Wallaces' for fresh pork, or to Uncle Sammy for fresh beef from the food stock he raised.  
There were also the jars of liquid milk sugar from the dairy co-op or fresh, pasteurized milk to be made into fresh butter and
buttermilk.  From this beginning, I grew used to always having fresh ground beef, fresh butter, seasonal produce, and fresh pork
sausage for breakfast.  Add to this, the fact that due to Grandpa Irwin's Irish roots, we also ate a lot of potatoes with the evening
The Fourth of July and Other Disasters
(With Apologies to Jean Shepherd)

By Robin L. Wallace
AKA - PenVampyre@aol.com
Freelance website content writer.
A scout group of 28 men and Oneida Indian guides from the Sullivan Expedition was
ambushed on the site, and all but eight of the men who managed to escape were killed by
the Tories and their Seneca Indian allies lead by the Seneca warrior, Little Beard.  Lieutenant
Boyd and Seargeant Parker were the only two survivors out of ten soldiers who were left
alive after the encounter not to escape and were taken to the Torture Tree near Cuylerville.  
There the two, according to legend, were horribly tortured to death by members of the
area's major Seneca  tribe, angry that American soldiers had invaded their valley.  We
always had a moment of silence and brought flowers for those remembered there.  The lurid
details of the massacre and torture were always retold reverently, far better than any ghost
stories we kids could manufacture to tell around the dying fire in the brick grill while we
toasted marshmallows for s'mores at the end of the day.  Recent research has speculated
that much of the story was exaggerated by the white settlers who resettled the amazingly
fertile valley following the destruction of the Seneca village located in Cuylerville.  It was
promoted as a justified retribution for the deaths of the 20 men after the Revolutionary War.  
Not necessarily historically accurate, especially in light of Seneca beliefs, the tales were
always a delicious way for young imaginations to pass the time while digesting the picnic
fare in the late afternoons, especially on windy days when the moaning of the tortured
soldiers' soul could be heard coming from the nearby trees of the park in the deepening
gloom just around sunset.

Gram never missed any of  these reunions despite the fact that Grandpa couldn't be pried
out of the house no matter how hard we tried, even though it was HIS family who was
holding the event.  We could always count on Grandpa's youngest sister, Mary, and her
husband to produce the biggest watermelon they could find for dessert.  It routinely took
the two or three of us kids who were always foolish enough to offer to help them carry it,  
grunting all the way, to precariously lug the precious fruit safely to a picnic table for later
dissection into huge juicy slices.  Grandpa's other sister, Agnes,  a long-time egg customer,
was the baker of the family.  She had inherited her mother's vast talent for producing
commercial-quality breads and pastries which she sold  from her home, like Gram sold
eggs, to a very select group of regular customers who came to her house to pick up the
homemade treats, and she could always be counted on to bring homemade hamburger buns,
scrumptious cookies or other quick breads to these get togethers.

For some reason that I was never able to fathom while growing up, Aunt Agnes was as
dour and humorless an American-Irishmen as Grandpa and her other sibs were witty and
fun loving.  Rather than being justifiably proud of the incredible baked goods she made, she
was insanely jealous of the quality of shared dishes that Gram or one of the others brought.  
Year after year she would resentfully watch as her own dishes of salads or baked beans
were overlooked or passed up, seemingly ignorant of the flurry of praises and accolades that
her wonderful breads garnered her.  The last straw seemed to come one year when her then
3-year-old grandson begged Gram for one of our hamburgers in preference to eating one of
her own.

The following year, Aunt Agnes appeared at the reunion with a serious bee in her bonnet.  
She watched through slitted eyes as the communal dishes were arrayed on one of the picnic
tables to await the inclusion of freshly grilled meats for the main meal.  Unnoticed by any of
us at first, the central  brick grill that we were planning on using had been invaded by a
swarm of nesting hornets, lured there by some old hotdogs that careless picnickers had left
inside and never removed.  Uncle Sammy and Uncle Herb, both aware of the problem,
began to stack wood and kindling in the grill that was farther away from the pavilion located
a greater distance away out on the open field.  Already irritated, Aunt Agnes began to berate
both men for their cussed male shortsightedness and heedless of Grams or anyone else's
cries of warning, grabbed an armload of firewood, which she then dumped
unceremoniously into the infested grill right on top of the nest. In less than the blink of an
eye, she had received five stings on the arm she had dumped the firewood from as the
swarm poured forth from their resting place.

I can't honestly say that she had deliberately provoked the wasps, or that what she did next
was preplanned, but pouncing on the nearby stack of hamburgers that Gram had unwrapped
in preparation of separating them for the grill, Aunt Agnes pressed the raw meat onto the
angry red welts that were coming up where the wasps had exacted their revenge for having
wood so rudely rained in on their heads.  None of the rest of us were stung, luckily, having
beaten a hasty retreat from the area, and Uncle Sammy sent one of his kids back to the farm
for emergency first aid provisions and the wasp spray he used in the cow barn.  Aunt Agnes
popped the stack of our hamburgers apart and continued to apply the rapidly thawing meat
to the stings while she waited for my cousin to return with supplies.

This was one of the few times I had ever seen my grandmother truly aggravated.  Agnes,
we can't use those burgers, she said at last, voice gently chiding.  If you had just waited a
second, I could have gotten you ice from any one of the ice chests we have here around the

No problem, Leonie, Aunt Agnes, replied briskly, handing my grandmother back a now
limp, thawed patty.  I'm sure once they're cooked you won't even notice any funny taste in

Defeated, the wasps beat a hasty retreat that year, never to return , and for once, defeated,
we dined on borrowed hot dogs.

What follow are Gram Irwin's picnic recipes for her potato salad, Waldorf salad, hamburger
patties, and grilled corn.  You can also find her recipe for her sweet cabbage salad on the
salad page of this site.  Here's hoping these vintage recipes make your picnics as enjoyable
and memorable as ours were.
Leona Irwin's Potato Salad
8 large white potatoes (not  the baking variety)
6 eggs, hardboiled, peeled and diced finely
3 stalks celery, diced finely
5 scallions. diced finely
8 slices bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
3 tablespoons stone ground mustard
2 teaspoons salt plus salt to taste
pepper to taste
Gram Irwin's Killer Burgers
2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
2 stalks celery, diced finely
5 scallions, diced finely
2 - 3 large raw eggs, as needed
1 - 2 stacks saltine crackers, crushed into fine crumbs, as needed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar or Parmesan cheese
1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 small can sliced olives, drained and chopped finely AND /OR 1/4 cup green
olives, drained and chopped finely*
ground pepper to taste*
1 slice of desired flavor of cheese per burger (Swiss, Cheddar, Provolone, etc.)
favorite condiments

In a bowl, mix together meat and all ingredients except cracker crumbs and eggs.
When other ingredients are incorporated, add in crumbs and eggs until meat mixture is
cohesive and well-mixed (it should be just moist, not crumbly.  You might have to add a bit
more crumbs if it is too wet - the additional egg if too dry).  Divide into 8 portions and
form into patties of desired thickness.
Grill until interior of meat reaches 160°F or until desired level of doneness is
reached (little disposable thermometers that can be stuck into the burger when grilling can
be purchased in the meat department of most major grocery stores).  Just before serving,
place a slice of the desired flavor of cheese on the burger and allow it to melt slightly
before placing on the bun.  Top with desired condiments.

*NOTE: You can use one or both varieties of olives as you like.  I prefer both, so I always
add both kinds of them in.

Flavored bread crumbs can be substituted for the saltines.

The crackers, green olives and cheddar cheese are plenty salty, so you should only need to
add ground pepper to the mix if desired.

To lighten up the recipe, you can use about 1/2 cup of quick cooking, not instant, oatmeal
(use an equivalent amount to that produced by crushing 1 - 2 long stacks of
saltine crackers) or the same amount of unflavored bread crumbs.

These can be made ahead and frozen for picnics or camping trips.  When making the
patties, place a square of waxed paper in between each patty and stack into groups of 4 to
6 patties.  Double wrap in aluminum foil and place in a locking freezer bag.  Bleed out any
excess air and lock the freezer bag (this will keep the patties from thawing out and getting
waterlogged, as well as keeping the raw meat from contaminating the ice in the cooler).  
After unwrapping the burgers, the waxed paper should allow you to pop apart the patty
stacks for easier grilling.  

Variations:  You can top the burgers with feta or blue cheese instead of sliced

My favorite toppings for these were lettuce, Miracle Whip, sweet pickle relish and A1
Sauce, but they go well with almost anything.

Meatloaf variation:  Make the meat mixture as per above, but substitute blue cheese
for the cheddar.  Pat into a loaf pan and bake at 375°F for an hour, or until juices run
clear when a knife is inserted into the center.  Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes
before slicing.

If desired, ketchup can be spread over the top of the meatloaf and slices of American,
cheddar or mozzarella can be layered over that 15 minutes before removing the meatloaf
from the oven.
Leona Irwin's Waldorf Salad
3 red delicious apples, sliced finely (Jonagolds work very well, too)
2 Macintosh apples, sliced finely
2 stalks celery diced finely
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup pecan pieces, chopped
1/2 cup raisins, boiled and drained
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
1/4 cup whipped cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Boil raisins for 6 to 8 minutes in enough water to just cover them.  Cool. Drain raisins and
set aside.
In a bowl mix apples, celery, and nuts.  Toss thoroughly and add raisins.  Mix well.
In a small bowl mix Miracle Whip and spices.  Fold in whipped cream.  Pour over apple
mix and coat mixture well.  Chill in refrigerator until served.
Gram Irwin's Grilled Sweet Corn
12 ears sweet corn, not shucked
1 bucket or pail of cold water for each 6 ears of corn

Open ears of corn just enough to insure that the ear is free of bugs.  
Remove corn silk and re-wrap husks over corn.  Immerse ears in
cold water and soak for at
least one hour prior to grilling.  Place soaked ears on grill and grill
for 20 minutes, turning once, until corn is golden and slightly
caramelized.  Serve with butter, salt and pepper to taste.
I truely hope you enjoyed Pen's family reunion story.  Isn't she a marvelous writer?  I think so.

I will be adding other recipes for family reunion gatherings, so come back soon.  Look for these and other vintage recipes
taken from places where old recipe want to hide.

Thank you,
Family reunion by a lake.
In a frying pan, cook bacon until crispy and golden.  Drain on paper towels and set aside to cool..  Peel potatoes, cut into
quarters, and rinse with cold water.  Place potato quarters into a pot and cover with cold water.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt.  
Boil potatoes over medium heat in a good rolling boil until fork tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove potatoes from heat and
When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut quarters into slices about 1/2 inch thick, or to desired thickness if thinner
slices are preferred. Add hard boiled eggs, celery and scallions.  Crumble bacon over potatoes.  Toss ingredients until well
In a separate bowl, combine Miracle Whip and mustard.   Stir together until well blended.  Pour dressing mixture over
potato mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix thoroughly until potato mixture is well coated.
Cover and refrigerate potato salad until needed.  Give salad a quick stir before serving.  Immediately refrigerate any
unused salad.
As a variation, you can substitute sweet potatoes for the regular white potatoes.
Large family reunion, circa 1940's, 1950's something
Eating the myriad dishes made of potatoes
suited him just fine.  You see, from lots of
potatoes came lots of potato peels, and that
was an important part of his chickens' diet.  
There was a raggedy old pot that was a
near-permanent resident of the back burner
on the left side of their stove into which
went the peels from all of their potatoes,
leftover stale bread, and whatever leftover
apple peel or fruit meats and vegetables that
were remnants from their daily meals.
When the pot was full, Gram covered anything dropped in the chicken pot with water and boil the living daylights out of
the whole mess until all of the contents softened to mush.  The mush was taken out and combined in an equally raggedy
old pail with the corn mash that we got from the local feed mill.  This mix was then taken out to be fed to the laying hens,
no matter what the weather.  I can't keep count of all the times I would accompany Grandpa Irwin out into the garage
which had been built right over the back porch of the house where he stored the feed and supplies.  There he could mix
the mash before proceeding out to the chicken coop.  This was a special treat to be enjoyed only if my sister and I had
been good. We were allowed to watch as he sang Irish songs or sometimes told us stories while he mixed the chicken
feed using an old long board with a rounded tip that he kept expressly for that purpose.   We were then allowed to  
accompany him up to the hen house to look on as the hens and the occasional duck he kept around for its eggs were fed.

As stay-at-home as Grandpa Irwin was, Grandma Irwin was active in the community through all of the service
organizations like the Grange, Eastern Star and church-based activities like her Deborah Circle's sponsored outings all
during the time I was growing up.   Along with the Irwin family reunion, which occurred right around the Fourth of July,
she was an experienced veteran of the summer picnic season that ran from Memorial to Labor Day in our part of the
country.  Often for these affairs, she had a set of favorite dishes which she had perfected over the years that she brought
to pass, along with her homemade hamburger patties intended for just us.  To share, she always provided homemade
baked beans, potato salad, Waldorf salad, corn for grilling, her cabbage salad, and a large sheet or layer cake of some
variety.  Most of these items were especially requested by the groups she belonged to, and ever generous to a fault, Gram
would always make over-sized containers full to the rim,  just to make sure there was a surplus of goodies in case
someone else couldn't afford to bring anything or forgot to bring their dish to pass.  Somehow she always even managed
to show up with extra dishes, plates and silverware and a surplus of homemade lemonade or orange lemonade and
burgers so that no one went away hungry or underfed.  We rarely came home with leftovers after these events.

The Irwin family reunion was regularly held at a little place called the Groveland Ambuscade.  It was a tiny park on the
western ridge of Conesus Lake near Uncle Sammy's dairy farm and contained a burial memorial dedicated to18 men who
died there, a covered picnic pavilion, a fire pit/grill, a port-o-let and a field that was available to use for a baseball game or
for the kids to play in.  In the event that the port-o-let was unusable, it was just a quick car hop to Uncle Sammy's for the
little kids in the families to use the potty.
Vintage family reunion recipes.
For those curious about the history of the
park, the Ambuscade was originally erected
as a memorial to commemorate the ambush
of Lieutenant Thomas Boyd and Sergeant
Michael Parker in Groveland, New York on
September 13, 1779, during the American
Revolutionary War.
Picnic in the park, circa1940's or 50's
Sugar Candy Treats     History of Candy     Candy History Part Deux.
Celebrities Favorite's    Rice Crispies Treats    Weird Candy Trivia     Growing Candy.
Read, "The Story of the Missing Cookie Jar"
by PenVampyre.  A delightful little Christmas
story with mouthwatering  recipes for the
most wonderful time of the year!

Read "
Santa and the Magic Key", plus
recipes for your holidays.  A story by Robin

Read "
Easter and Where NOT to Hide Eggs"  
Memories of Easters past and a few vintage

Logan's Halloween Story -The original story
won first place in sixth-eighth grade division
of Southeastern Middle School, 2005 by
Logan Lyon

Food and Genealogy.  A story By Robin L.
Wallace.  Our lives, our families, our very
history's are defined by the foods we eat.

short story by Suellen Fry.  Memories of
my father and his version of

Memorial Day Recipes - "For me, Memorial
Day was the day when we went out where
relatives were buried in the tiny, local
cemeteries and thoroughly cleaned up each
gravesite, carrying away branches that may
have fallen in the winter.................."

Grandma Irwin's Story of Courage and Swit
Tater Biskits Recipe.

Home Remedies Medicines Recipes From
Olden Times.

Thanksgiving Day recipes and story from
the past.

College Foods and Other Mistakes I Have
Uncle Jack
Family reunions
Vintage black and white photo, circa 1940's
Baby picture circa 1930's or 40's
Anna Stone and Davy ?