Kat Barry: Food recipes mark of holiday celebration

Published 8:30 am Friday, May 31, 2013

I spent the Memorial Day holiday weekend surrounded by family and food. The tradition of bringing family together around food runs strong in my family as it does throughout Americana. Most of our holidays, traditions, gatherings are centered around food. Whether celebrating or mourning, we seem to make a meal out of it.
This was particularly the case for my family this past weekend, as we gathered in Michigan from around the country to honor and remember our incredible matriarch. She, along with my mother and aunts, lead by example, demonstrating the power and beauty of feeding those you love.
All the women in my family certainly know their way around a kitchen. Looking back on my childhood, I can see them all buzzing around before holiday meals, working together to serve us an elaborate feast.
In our family, as in most, holiday feasts consisted of some traditional staples, passed down from the generations, along with a couple new experimental recipes. There were always Grandma’s rolls, Donna’s cheese grits, a Jell-O mold and maybe a new way to make green beans, for example.
Over Memorial Day, as our large family came together for a celebration of life, my mom, aunts and sister tried to make as many traditional, family recipes as possible. It seemed fitting since my grandmother was a home economics teacher, cook and lover of food, that we use as many recipes from her era as we could.
One of the biggest hits of the weekend was my great-aunt Helen’s three bean salad, which my mom resurrected from an old handwritten recipe card.
This recipe was such a perfect dish to be served at a summer kick-off gathering like Memorial Day. It’s light and filling and uses some of the best produce we reap in the Michiana summer. I think it was actually better the second day after it had time to marinate.
You can change out the peppers for an heirloom variety and use any kind of vinegar.
No matter how you put your spin on it, this classic American salad will be the perfect veg-friendly accompaniment to any summer BBQ or festivity.

Aunt Helen’s three bean salad

Yield: 6 servings (about 5 cups)

1 cup wax beans
1 cup green beans
1 cup kidney beans
1 green bell pepper, sliced into rings
1 white onion, sliced
½ cup pure cane sugar
½ cup vinegar (my mom uses apple cider)
½ cup salad or olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Clean beans and snap off ends. Drain and rinse the kidney beans if canned.
Combine all items in a medium sized mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Serve as a side at any BBQ, picnic or party.

Really best after marinating for six hours to overnight but can certainly be served right away.