Family Dinner

Saturday morning we packed up camp and made our way to where our friends were housesitting. Upon arriving at the house, we disconnected the Toad and I again gave my thanks for being married to a skilled pilot, one who can coax Davista into the nookiest of crannies. Despite the driveway’s steep slope and curving nature, Flight backed in with no issues – it’s like he’s used to flawlessly driving large pieces of gear, which, of course, he is.

Flight took the girls over to the Sundial to check in and Keeper and I followed with my friend and her girls. We were all going to take a welcome dip in the hotel pool as it was solidly in the 90s, rare for Park City. I thought it must be blistering in the Valley’s triple digit heat and was happy we wouldn’t descending below the smog layer until Family Dinner tomorrow.

After grabbing luxuriously long showers at the hotel (in the words of Ruff Ruffman uttered upon unpacking non-frustration-free packaging, “Sorry, environment…”), we rejoined our friends to make dinner and savored our time with them at this gorgeous home (see Flight pics below). As Flight said, their father was out tracking a deer in the desert (we were getting updates through his wife) and wouldn’t be joining us until he had found it so he could return home loaded with venison. I mentioned to her that we’d heard we’d be getting the official contract to sell our house any minute now and she said she’d been saving a bottle of bubbly for when it becomes official.

We grabbed a few necessities for our hotel overnight and headed back to the Sundial Lodge to sleep in proper beds. The next morning we enjoyed a bit of a lie in and popped back to Davista to collect new necessities for this evening’s overnight before heading back down the canyon. We were sleeping at my cousins’ house after celebrating Family Dinner at her father’s.

I should explain what this particular Utah custom entails. When I first moved back to Utah in 2000, my father told me I should make the opportunity to go to Family Dinner. He told me about the weekly Sunday evening gatherings he first went to at my grandmother’s first cousin’s house (the same we drove by in the Avenues a few nights ago) and, the way he described the quaint gathering, there were roughly a dozen people around the table enjoying together dinner, fellowship, and the occasional musical recital en famille. My grandmother’s cousin taught music and everyone in the family played at least one instrument. Wait, what?! My father assured me the musical recital business was likely a thing of the past and I could go to Family Dinner at my second cousin’s (once removed) without any performance anxiety.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in my cousin’s house to find 47 people would be dining together for my first Family Dinner. When I expressed my feeling a little overwhelmed to my 9-year old cousin given there were so many people here, she (rather unsympathetically) added to my flummoxed feeling saying, “Yeah, and you’re related to all of them.” !!! Since the days of my father’s regular attendance, the family has clearly grown exponentially. My grandmother’s cousin’s four children have had 20 children among them and many of them have gone on to have their own children, the oldest of which have gotten married, including the helpful former 9-year old. The years between their family’s generations span far fewer than between ours. I later learned that particular night was so heavily attended because it was the night of the Oscars, which they make into quite an event, and normal attendees numbered only in the high 20s. And they do this every week. Great googlie mooglie!

Flight has expressed the same overwhelmed discomfort in that setting, so I guess it was no surprise when Keeper squirreled himself away in the car for some alone time before dinner. Our girls, however, had no problem blending right in with the chaos and disappeared into the pandemonium upon arrival. Every now and then they’d make a giggling pass through the house to remind us they were still within its walls.

In addition to my eleventy billion shirttail cousins, my parents were able to join in Family Dinner festivities. They arrived about fifteen minutes behind us toting fresh pies (purchased, not made) while I slaved over our appetizer dish of similar requisite preparation time. Flight’s sister shared this recipe with me and it’s so deliciously easy (and easily (and maybe even magically) delicious), I thought I should pass it along. From Trader Joe’s, purchase a package of cooked lentils, a package of bruschetta topping, and a container of crumbled feta. Open all containers, dump into a bowl, stir until mixed, and serve with pita chips. Like I said, delicious. I would know because I ate most of it.

To help illustrate what Family Dinner is really like, I should explain that my second cousin once removed is a contractor. He built their house SPECIFICALLY to accommodate hosting Family Dinner. For example, in the kitchen there are two built-in dishwashers (I have never had more than one in any place I’ve lived, including Davista where I currently serve in that capacity), an enormous stove that would make any chef salivate, and an equally sizable fridge capable of storing Baskin and Robbins sized ice cream tubs in the freezer.   The dining room was built adjacent to the kitchen, separated by a pass-through counter space with cupboards above to hold dozens of plates, glasses, and serving dishes. This space was designed to be large enough to hold an impressive table that can seat 20 (or so), yet still fit other tables where the younger generation can dine.

No matter how many times I have been to Family Dinner, I am still always surprised (impressed?) by the amount of food that comes out in short order. This evening’s menu boasted roast beef (prepared two ways), cream cheese mashed potatoes, salad, bread, and several varieties of fruits and veggies and lined the counter that doubled as a buffet. After saying a blessing, everyone collected dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with my cousins (and my parents) around the table, which meant I was far too engrossed in conversation to take any pictures. :/  However, most fortunately for everybody involved, I was not called upon to play any music.

After loading up on pie, we made our farewells and zipped across town to stay at yet another cousin’s (a third cousin straight up, not removed – you’ve got to keep up, genealogy is serious business in Utah) house where the daughter of the contractor and her family make their home. This particular third cousin and I were fast friends from my previous time in Utah and, as per norm, we were up until the wee hours chatting away.  She is notorious for having some sort of a black hole/time vortex swirling about her, which means time passes at a ludicrous pace in her presence.  We haven’t discovered the exact mechanism by which this works, but we have often been surprised by the sky’s lightening when we had only just barely (Utahism) started our conversation/scrapbooking/etc.  After I awoke from my brief nap, we enjoyed a lovely Family Breakfast before heading back up the mountain to move Davista back to Jordanelle, where the Angel was waiting for us.

More on that in the next post…

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