Thursday, July 16, 2009

A buffet plate to celebrate our nation

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For this year's Fourth of July, I was invited to spend the weekend in Woody Creek, a small town right outside of Aspen and the former stomping ground of journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson. (We passed by the entrance to his estate, and there were all sorts of "Keep Out" signs plastered at the side of it.) WP's aunt and uncle were throwing a combination family reunion/engagement party for one of WP's cousins at their house, and any good friend of the family was welcome to come. Their house is pretty magical; not only is it surrounded by vast stretches of their own land, they've taken that land and installed a wonderland of things to play on, play with, or sit around: a rope swing, normal swings, a zipline, a treehouse, a fire pit. The actual Woody Creek gurgles right next to it, and in winter, their son creates a homemade ice skating rink in what's essentially their backyard.
As might be expected, there was plenty of food waiting on the table when RM, KS, and I arrived, and plenty more would show up all weekend. I was tickled by what seemed like some truly American and regional dishes, such as a salad of peas and shredded cheese in mayonnaise, a salad of fruit pieces swimming in condensed milk, a salad of shredded green cabbage, nuts, and broken-up ramen noodles, and a dish that consisted of baking together a mix of canned pineapple, white bread, and butter. These were recipes I had never grown up eating but which are probably common to many people's childhoods. I was glad—and also bemused—that they were part of my experience that weekend. Is it weird to say that it actually made me feel more American?
We mostly spent the weekend hanging out: at the creek, around the fire pit, on the wraparound porch. Hummingbirds flitted around us constantly, and the dogs were always ready for a game of frisbee. There were many more plates of food like this one.
Both nights we slept in tents or in the treehouse, the sound of the creek a lullaby in our ears. When finally it came time for us to leave on Monday morning, we were all tired but also all happy and relaxed from a weekend spent outdoors. A better Fourth of July would have been hard to pull off elsewhere.