Annabel’s Delicious Summers in Equality, Alabama

We’re proud to welcome Annabel to Team Fairway. Check out her full bio here

How I love summertime, especially my childhood summer days — no responsibilities or expectations,  not a care in the world. Every summer when I was a kid, my mom, sister and I packed our suitcases and embarked on a 13-hour trip from our home in Dallas, Texas, to our home-away-from-home in Equality, Alabama; population 1,212. 

Cellphone service slowly dwindled until it disappeared as we drove down Highway 9,  a two-lane highway lined with pine trees and overgrown with the malignant Kudzu plant that continues to spread alongside Alabama highways to this day. Our farm sits right off this highway on a red dirt road, easily missed if you aren’t paying close attention. As a tradition, when we turn down Bethesda Road, we would roll our windows down enough for the sweet aroma of pine and dirt to spread throughout the car.

My heart would race with excitement, not returning to its normal pace until we pulled up to the most beautiful old white house with a big porch that wraps beautifully around the front and side. You can always find Poppy (my grandfather) sitting out there, probably surrounded by grandchildren (a.k.a., my cousins) who are either bugging him or listening to his words of wisdom. Detached from the fast paced world, it is here that we enjoy the lazy days of summer.

The house is permeated with smells of wood and fresh food that my Mimi (grandmother) is constantly cooking throughout the day, in preparation for delicious family dinners. I know that everyone says that their grandmother is “the best cook ever,” but I truly believe that Mimi is. Family recipes line the cabinets of the beautifully rustic kitchen that I grew up cooking in with Mimi. Fresh fruit and vegetables from the Wetumpka farmers market can always be found in the kitchen, as well as fresh bread, turkey, cheese, and homemade mayonnaise that my family takes pride in making from scratch.

We all gather together in this small town in the-middle-of-nowhere, Alabama, to celebrate family; particularly, my grandfather’s birthday, which falls conveniently on the fourth of July. Mimi loves cooking food from scratch, adding in her little secrets and knowing that the results will be nothing short of mouthwatering.

Grandma Mimi

One fourth of July was particularly hot, so while all of my cousins relaxed by the pool, I found refuge in the kitchen alongside my grandmother as she prepared dinner. The kitchen at our farm is cozy and familiar. I know every nook and cranny like the back of my hand,  partially because this house is like my second home, but also because I am guilty of searching through every cabinet and drawer a time or two, hoping to find the double-stuffed Oreos that my mom had to hide from me.

I can remember her voice saying “you’re going to ruin your appetite if you keep eating before dinner,” a lesson I learned to be undoubtedly true. On this hot summer day, Mimi asked me to help her in baking and decorating Poppy’s birthday cake. She handed me a wrinkled and stained piece of paper that contained the ingredients that would be needed to make the same classic, homemade vanilla cake that her mother had made for her birthdays.

I searched tediously through each wooden cabinet, collecting all of the ingredients. In a yellow ceramic bowl, I mixed four eggs and sugar together with a metal whisk for about two minutes. I then added in 1-½ cups of flour, a cup of milk, ¾  cup of vegetable oil, and 1-¼ cups of baking powder,  mixing it all together but making sure not to overbeat the batter.

When Mimi wasn’t watching, I would dip my finger into the batter, licking away the sticky, sweet goodness. I can remember that this time in particular, I was not as sneaky as I thought;  Mimi turned around just as I licked the last bit from my finger, confident that I had gotten away with it. She laughed, ripped off a piece of paper towel, and wiped off a small bit of batter that was lingering on my upper lip. She jokingly scolded me, then gave me a big Mimi kiss on my forehead.  Memories like this resonate in my mind and remind me of simpler summer days.

While the cake was baking, she helped me make the homemade frosting, and rinsed off the ruby-red strawberries and blueberries that I collected from the backyard. As usual, these would be used to compose an American flag design on top of the cake. The screen door on the side of the house was usually left open, and on this day I could hear the voices of all my cousins as they rushed to meet me in the kitchen to join in decorating the cake, each person adding in their own little bit of personality. Frosting was everywhere: on the floor, in our hair, and lining our lips as we couldn’t resist indulging in the sweetness. As we finished, we set aside the cake and all rushed to get ready for dinner: the smell of fish stew and crusty, buttery baguette filled the kitchen and spilled over to the rest of the house, exciting our taste buds and provoking a deep growl in each of our tummies.

After dinner, the men always disappear into the pasture a few minutes before sunset to prepare for the annual fireworks show while we relax,  breathing in the fresh country air,  appreciating how incredibly lucky we are to live in a land where we are free. The fireworks light up the sky as we celebrate Poppy growing another year older, family coming together, and the freedoms we enjoy every day. We follow the fireworks show each year by bringing out to Poppy his homemade birthday cake (that is practically identical each year), with homemade ice-cream to accompany it. Harmoniously, we’d sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ a perfect ending to another perfect Fourth of July.

I would like to share a few family recipes that, I hope,will bring as much happiness to your family as they bring to mine.

Sandlin Homemade Mayonnaise

Perfect spread upon a summer sandwich with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.

(note: start with a food processor)

  1. Add 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk (use extra large eggs) into food processor with 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard.
  2. With processor running, slowly add juice of 1 large lemon.
  3. Slowly add 2-3 cups of wesson oil (not canola).
  4. Mayonnaise should be fairly stiff, not soupy.
  5. Add 1-2 tablespoons of salt (or to taste).
  6. Finally, slowly add about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice- very chilled with ice cubes (drained).

Dinner is served

Summer Squash Casserole

A delicious, easy summer dish to share with family and friends!

Ingredients 

  • 3 pounds yellow squash and zucchini, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion chopped
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preparation

1. Cook squash in boiling water to cover in a large skillet 8 to 10 minutes, or until just tender. Drain well; gently press between paper towels.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and sauté until tender. Remove skillet from heat; stir in squash, cheese, and next 3 ingredients. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 11- x-7-inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes, or until set.

 

 

 

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