OK, I'll admit it. I had an ulterior motive.
Naturally, I scheduled my book-signing this past weekend in Delta County because I needed to launch my book there--the setting for Way Back in the Country Garden--the place in which the main characters, The Three Little Red-Haired Miller Girls, grew up.
Eight years ago, when I launched my first book, Way Back in the Country, the prequel to the new one, we had a fantastic party on the Cooper square at a gift shop there. It was a fitting way to kick off my new book in the locale in which the book's events happened. Of course we'd want to do it all over again in 2010 with the birth of the new title.
Debbie Grider and the folks at The Prairie Rose Flowers & Gifts, Cooper's dynamite new shop right in front of the Delta County Courthouse, were thrilled to be hosts for the 2010 launch. On Saturday they extended wonderful hospitality and gave us a great place to serve cookies made from recipes out of the new book (and Sparkling Holiday Punch from Way Back in the Country).
But truthfully, my sub-reason for heading to Cooper this past weekend went well beyond that of any book promotion. Basically I just wanted an excuse to experience just one more Delta County summer day. The place had been the locus for a thousand childhood summer memories as I grew up (described in the Way Back in the Country Garden chapter, One Smart Indian.) Each year as school ended, I'd start packing my bags to head for the farm of Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Bill, who lived about six miles out from Cooper. For a city kid this "summer idyll", as I called it, brought days of sitting on the back porch helping Aunt Bonnie peel peaches, making mud pies with my cousins in the back of Uncle Bill's pickup, and breathing in fresh country air that the typical Baby Boomer of that day didn't get to experience.
Even though the farm long ago was sold and I couldn't return to the exact spot in which I passed those halcyon days, Saturday's stint in Cooper helped me walk down memory lane a bit and reminded me of those pleasurable, lazy mornings in a rare rural setting.
I also knew that the family gathering at my cousins' house after the book-signing likely would be a great place to pick up a new family recipe. Always the time to sample some wonderful and inventive cooking, I almost always emerge with new ideas for something to try--something usually fresh from the garden. I was not disappointed, as on the buffet table was a new item--Pasta Salad. The recipe actually originated with Elaine Wible, the mother-in-law of my cousin Marleene. Back in the spring Elaine had brought the dish when Marleene's baby, Mia, had her first birthday party. The blend of flavors, along with the crunchy bell pepper and celery in the mix, made it memorable. As with many other "in-law" dishes that have been appended throughout the years, this one would be incorporated into our family's regular fare, I felt sure.
The time in Cooper was precious indeed. Among the guests at the book-signing (some guests, I might add, braved a heavy downpour that morning to crowd into the florist shop) was a family friend who remembered my Granddad Wheeler when he (at age 98) was preacher at the Klondike Church of Christ. As though they happened yesterday this sweet visitor could cite lines from his sermons and jokes he often told. She also recalled stories that "Bandad" told on me, his only grandchild. Bandad died in 1978--32 years ago. To imagine that someone, all these years later, could have recalled his exact words astounded me.
I returned from my Delta County book launch feeling a very blessed human being indeed. Great fellowship at the signing, great family memories, a wonderful memory-lane walk, and a terrific recipe to share. Doesn't get much better than this.
4 boxes vermicelli, cooked according to instructions on box
3 tablespoons seasoned salt (or salt substitute, such as Mrs. Dash)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons oil (we use olive oil)
Mix together and refrigerate overnight. If mixture is sticky add a little oil.
Next morning add:
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small jar chopped pimiento
1 small can black olives, chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (we use fat-free)
Makes a large, tasty salad.