I was born into a crowd. My Mom was one of four and my Dad was one of five. Whether it was a Hollon or Cook family gathering we had a crowd. When I was five my parents built an apartment on our house so my Mom's dad could live with us. He shared meals with us but he could get away from our crowd when mealtime was over. After he died Mom and Dad agreed to house my Uncle Paul and his best friend to live with us. Both being single, I'm sure sharing activity around the table and other things only increased their need to find the perfect one! It was a common practice for Daddy to call Mom and declare he would like to bring Mr. Brady for dinner. Mr Brady was his general manager with Chevrolet! Even though she panicked a lot, she could stretch a meal like it was her plan all along! The next decision I made just increased my crowd when I agreed to marry Jeff, who was one of three. Again, his Mom was one of six and his Dad was one of three. Maybe that was why Jeff and I lived away the first few years of marriage! Not really...we were interested in creating our own crowd which in turn would create more crowd breeders! Yesterday, which was thanksgiving, we had twenty nine people at our house! We still had ten short of the usual crowd! It was a great day. Besides priding ourselves as some of the best cooks around, we even brag about our ability to present our menu colors and textures that only enhance the palate for the dining experience! Truthfully my side of the family is the same way. Dressing is such an important dish and for the family member that is the designated dressing maker, the pressure mounts. My eighty two year old Mother and mamaw twila, eighty six, are the chefs on the Cook side and Chandler side, respectively. Pressure mounts for holding this status, as most dressing makers don't even know the exact measurements of the ingredients. They know what tastes they prefer like too much sage, or too dry, or not too gummy. Many have tried to put pen to paper to ensure they can imitate the recipe to assure they can create the same flavor and texture when it falls on the next person to take over the job. Now back to the crowd part! It is common to include others to our already crowded event. One year we invited Rebekah's third grade teacher! For a few years, we had several couples that were in med school who for numerous reasons couldn't leave Little Rock. What's a few more people, right?
One of my favorites was a Christmas get together at Mammaw Ouida's and Papaw Winston's house at Christmas eve. Dr. Stephen Tucker was thrown into the mix. I was a purist when it came to sneaking food bites in baby Rebekah's mouth. That night I allowed an exception. Dr. Steve sat Rebekah by the punch bowl and he commenced to dip her pacifier in the treasured recipe of egg nog punch! Yes she immediately began to kick her little feet with white ballet slippers that buckled around her ankles. She was wearing the first smocked dress I made her with all white smocking on white batiste except for one green vinelike row with red french knots that looked like holly berries. We still have a photo to remind us of her first taste of sugar!! Our philosophy is why leave others out of the mix when we have so much to share?
A colleague of mine from California noticed a term I frequently used to describe my family or friends. The phrase is "my bunch." He was literally a standup comedian and as we got to know each other during the two weeks of training, he incorporated that phrase often. I am so thankful for my bunch! I encourage all of you to do the same!