Thoughts, musings and trail mix s’mores blondies: The Kunkle Family reunion is a time honored tradition, and this year, I finally baked a contribution.
I wish I had written down the words or solidified the quote in my head, but I didn’t. I left myself with only a fleeting paraphrase: “they did nothing of particular note, but they were good, earnest people.” It was a line from a binder of family history, a detailed preservation of branching family trees, stern looking portraits and tidbits connecting all the reunion attendees to the many who came before them. This family reunion, after all, goes waaaay back.
The notion of a simple life well lived struck me. Don’t we all just want to leave some piece of ourselves, to know that we added value, or that someone appreciated our efforts? Isn’t it why we pass on our names, establish heirlooms and [should] dive into protecting our natural resources?
Earlier this year, I made a resolution to speak my gratitude. Admittedly, I have a long ways to go to thank all those who have left an imprint on my life, but I did kick off this resolution with a very heartfelt note to a former teacher. I thanked him for the extra time he took, for the way he empowered me in a sea of male peers, and mostly, I wanted him to know that I think of him all the time. He may not be famous, but he’s a good, earnest person who left a mark. It’s so simple: people can’t feel the gratitude and appreciation we keep locked in our heads.
These little tidbits of gratitude and impact are all around us. This was the reminder I received at the Kunkle Family Reunion. I first joined this family reunion as an observer, following the Urban Farmer as he led me through the time honored schedule of events: base races, the old truck ride, water balloon tosses, creek swims (with a rope for jumping of course). I fell in awe of the details, the commitment to tradition, and simply put, the heart that goes into the planning and the hosting. The reunion came to epitomize summer for me, to slow me down just in time for those last few hot spells.
As we drove down the bumping, winding road this year, I couldn’t help but notice something new– a handmade sign alerting drivers to the “jostle” of the road, made even more jostle-y by the recent rains. There was so much jostle, in fact, that I couldn’t even snap a photo of this new reunion element.
As I sat, taking in the reunion, Bill Harder, pulled up a chair to chat. In reunion terms, this is like having the mayor choose to shake your hand. He’s the heart and soul of these reunions, the host whose attention to detail merits a dipped hat and a round of applause. To him I say, thank you for protecting such a good, earnest place!
But then, Bill told me something that made me dance a little inside. “Did you see the sign?” he asked me. Of course! “That was from your blog post. You said the road defined the word ‘jostle.'” Thanks to Bill, I had left my mark on this place, and I assure you, magic marker on poster board had never made me feel so warm and fuzzy.
Good and earnest and fun. This family reunion is where the most doting grandmothers wait and hope that this will be the year he enjoys the vintage truck ride (he did!). It’s where corn grilling is an honor and a privilege. It’s where the stories circulate about parents/grandparents with so many humorous, personality filled sayings, they still make the children/grandchildren reminisce fondly. This place is a celebration of all the little marks we make on each other.
It may have rained. It may have been too cold for swimming in the creek (not for the purple, pruney kids), and it may have been cut short in an effort to make it up the rocky, bumpy, winding road, but this family reunion was memorable and left its mark all the same.
Here’s to Bill. Heres’ to “Gigi” and Pappy. Here’s to laughing kids, competitive adults, old truck built to last and the finest little details. Here’s to good, earnest fun and those lasting marks they make.
Your turn! How does your family preserve tradition? Who has made an impact on your life? How do you share your gratitude?
Whole Grain Trail Mix S’more Blondies
About this Recipe: All the elements of camp in one blondie, made with healthier ingredients. I baked the marshmallows right on top of my blondies, but I’d recommend adding them last and broiling, so I’ve listed the directions accordingly. For the trail mix, my favorite is the Whole Foods blend that includes mini peanut butter cups (!), but you can also use your own mix of nuts and dried fruit.
4 sticks (8 ounces) organic unsalted butter, melted
2 cups organic dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
2 teaspoons smoked sea salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 ½ cups organic sprouted spelt flour (One Degree Organics)
6 Smash Mallow Root Beer Float marshmallows, quartered
2 cups trail mix with dark chocolate
1 cup organic dark chocolate chips, optional
2 organic cinnamon graham crackers, roughly chopped, divided
Preheat oven to 350℉. Line an 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper; set aside.
Combine melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until light and creamy.
Add eggs, and beat well.
Gradually add the flour, and mix just until combined.
Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, then add half of the marshmallows, trail mix, dark chocolate chips, and graham cracker crumbs. Top with the remaining batter, trail mix, dark chocolate and graham cracker crumbs (not the remaining marshmallows).
Place pan in oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the center is just set. Do not over bake, as they will continue to harden in the pan.
For a toasted marshmallow top:
Set oven to broil. Top the blondies with the remaining Smash Mallows, and return pan to oven for about 2-3 minutes. Watch very carefully as the marshmallows toast very quickly.