An important rite of summer is cousin-visiting: Audrey in Minnesota and Vivian in South Dakota. Up on the Canadian border with Audrey I indulge in piece after piece of walleye. Down in Sioux Falls with Vivian I eat dumpling after dumpling—perfect dumplings: solid and chewy like mom used to make–none of those fluffy Bisquick kind of fake-dumplings.
Vivian’s my cousin on mom’s side and, since she’s a little older, I’ve known her and hung out with her my whole long life. And, except for her rare trips to Minnesota or New Mexico, our visits have been in the house where she grew up just off Cliff Avenue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Our moms cooked the same foods, basic farm food with a Swedish twist from Grandma Magnhild who grew up in rural Jamtland, Sweden. The second best (lefse being the first) of all foods is the chicken and dumpling dish as made regularly by the Floren girls, Ovidia and Mabel, and passed on to only one of the cousins.
Here it is: Boil a big fat hen with carrots and onions. When the meat is about to fall from the bone, take it out of the broth and transfer to a frying pan where a goodly amount of sizzling butter greets it. Brown. Cover with rich milk or cream, season with salt, pepper and allspice and gently simmer. Meanwhile make dumplings with lots of flour and eggs and milk and salt. Drop tablespoons full into broth. Two large bowl go to the table: one of dumplings in rich chickeny broth and the other for chicken in cream. That’s all. Nothing more. No veggies, salad, or dessert. If you must have bread and butter, well that’s acceptable. Food of the gods. At least of the Nordic gods.
I’m a little fearful on my visits these days. When siblings or cousins or good friends live far apart and we’re old, how long long can we expect to make these journeys of fun and affection and memories? That is the question…for which of course there is no good answer.
Proper visits include as many family members as possible. Even those long ago moved to the peaceful old Pioneer Cemetery.