In the midst of all the volunteering, culinary school courses and exams, events coverage, and other things that make up my hectic life, this past weekend, I traveled down to Virginia for a family wedding. My youngest sister tied the knot with her beau of almost five years. The ceremony was low key, taking place at the home that they share in the Piedmont area of the state, not far from the Blue Ridge Mountains. A long gravel driveway brings you up to their doorstep.
This was a chance to gather together the various members of our two clans as well as to sit around and chew the fat, literally, while catching up with family and friends whom I don’t get to see all that often. We’ve often relaxed around piles of steaming crustaceans at our formerly annual crab fest where my aunt, her son, then girlfriend/now wife, and various friends assorted other relatives, and soon-to-be in-laws would rotate around the dining room table at my parents’ house vying for their spot at the bounty. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that this hanging out thing is pretty integral to our family, so I was glad to see it take place as an important component of celebrating their wedding day, which I never should have doubted as the happy couple is very into eating and cooking together.
As small children, we would listen to our parents and older relatives tell stories about their childhoods while sitting not so patiently, waiting to be released to go play. On Sunday, it was much the same, with batches of crabs coming out of the steamer followed by piles of molten hot shrimp, all sprinkled with Old Bay and a few glugs of whatever beer was open at the time, creating a wonderful seaside aroma. Everything was dished up on newspaper-covered, garbage bag-lined folding tables much the same way as we’ve always done it. As usual, at least in my family, there were kids running around and dogs sniffing after table scraps while the melodic snap-crack of shells took place and people hollered where was the melted butter in which to dip their tender crabmeat or for someone to bring them another beverage.
Even the wedding cake symbolized some of this same enjoyment of life and food and family. The bride and groom are both avid boaters and fishers, hence the decorations on top of the cake. The cake itself was baked by the groom’s sister, who works in a bakery, and when it came time to carve it, the groom allowed his nephew and my niece to cut their own pieces of cake, which were as large as you can imagine a child would make them. In something that I can only guess was either an accident or a huge stroke of genius, the chocolate cake was incorporated into the vanilla part as a separate layer, blending a traditional white wedding cake with a groom’s cake, much like the coming together of the two families.
With very fully tummies and a wonderful afternoon of memories, we bid farewell to my sister and her new spouse. This was not, I should add, before my newest brother-in-law hauled me into the kitchen to talk about the latest recipes that he is cooking and with which he’s experimenting. My sister is his avid food critic and recipe evaluator, a role that I know that she enjoys and relishes. I wish for them every happiness as well as many, many more delicious meals to share. Hopefully, I will also have the pleasure of partaking in some of them as well. Someone has to pick up the mantle of hosting those family crab feasts, and their wedding banquet proved that they are definitely up to that task.