Pass the fried chicken and bring on the sweet tea.

By Valerie Fraser Luesse
April 17, 2018
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Russell Lee

Summertime is prime reunion season in the South, and as we inspect our coolers, hose off the No. 3 washtubs, and stock up on the "Cream Of" soups for all those casseroles, it might be fun to reflect on reunions past. If you think about, you'll recall some common threads—at least, our Facebook Brain Trust did. Let us know what we missed.

MENU FOR A FAMILY GET-TOGETHER

  • Deviled eggs (served on a deviled egg platter)
  • Tomato and cucumber salad (homegrown, of course)
  • Sliced tomatoes, cantaloupe, and watermelon from the garden
  • Squash casserole, green bean casserole, potato and onion casserole, sweet potato casserole
  • Chicken casserole, King Ranch casserole, chicken poppy seed casserole, chicken tetrazzini
  • Congealed salad
  • Banana pudding (the real kind with meringue)
  • Vats of baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese
  • So much fried chicken it's about to topple the table
  • A big bucket of KFC from one of the non-cooks (or casserole haters) in the family
  • A foil roasting pan heaped with ribs or pulled pork
  • Those little "dinner twin" rolls that you don't have to warm up
  • 7-layer cake (chocolate or caramel)
  • Chocolate sheet cake
  • Peach cobbler
  • Great Aunt Martha's prized coconut cake, on a towering cake stand, reigning over the rest of the table
  • Homemade ice cream
  • Soft drinks (aka Cokes) iced down in a No. 3 washtub
  • Plastic gallon jugs full of sweet tea
  • A giant Igloo or Coleman cooler (with "Ice Only" written in Sharpie on the lid) to hold "clean ice" for tea

THINGS YOU'LL SEE AT A SOUTHERN FAMILY REUNION

  • A sea of lawn chairs
  • Quilts on the ground
  • Color-coordinated paper goods
  • Centerpieces in mason jars
  • Flapping hand-held cardboard fans
  • Deep Woods Off
  • Clusters of aunts and girl cousins, huddled up for family gossip and mischief
  • Distant cousins who are related to you on both sides of your family (by marriage)
  • Red plastic cups of iced tea getting passed around
  • The family photographer trying to herd everybody together for a group portrait (and being handed 30 iPhones once he finally gets everybody arranged: "Take one with my phone!")
  • Kids getting into EVERYTHING and sneaking bites of EVERYTHING and chasing lightning bugs after the sun goes down
  • 40-something cousins still sitting together at the kids' table because they still haven't graduated to "the big table"

FAMILY REUNION QUOTES

"My, how you've grown since last year!
"Honey, I haven't seen you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper!"
"You're the spittin' image of your daddy, God rest his soul."
"Are you Myrna's child?"
"Are you Bud's boy?"
"You precious little thing. You inherited the Bishop ears."
"I can't imagine a watermelon rind pickle without green food coloring."
"We better get a piece of that chocolate cake before it's all gone."
"Honey, when are you going to get married?"
"We're not cousins? Well, who are you, honey?"
"Now this picture right here was made on your great-granddaddy's 90th birthday. That little girl in front is your Mama . . ."
"Your Aunt Zella never puts enough salt in the green beans. Here, we'll just add a little."
"Y'all bow your heads while we ask the blessing."
"Now, everybody, be sure you go back for seconds."
"Would anybody mind if I carry home a few leftovers for supper?"
"Her family hasn't been the same since they joined the Methodists."
"I don't care if they DID finish third in the SEC last year—they still ain't played nobody."

WATCH: Nana's Lime Delight

What is it about Southern Mamas and congealed salad? They see it as a deep moral failing if their daughters don't like it and can't make it. Nana, we like yours the best.