Not an Average Stew

Making the Stew

Dave Making Stew

Our neighbors Sue and Dave are the most hospitable and energetic persons I know. They often have some jovial activities happening at their house including many outdoor ones during summer time for which their lake front property is of course just perfect. On the lake there are boat, jet skis, a two storey deck and a huge floating island anchored down next to the deck. Underneath the house is a state of the art picnic area that is built into the ground level with wooden outdoor table-bench units, serving counter, fridge, ping pong and other game tables. In area shaded by the big oak trees, there are a swimming pool and hot tub on one side of the house and a sand volley ball field further back.

We have been invited to many of their events, relative’s wedding, Fourth July Party, weekly volley ball games, etc. The weekly volley ball game over the summer, my son’s favorite, is a rite Sue and Dave have kept up for more than a decade. It started when their son Cary was much younger and they contrived to, in Sue’s words, “import kids”, to this quiet neighborhood for their son’s sake. The plan worked out greatly. Kids in Sue and Dave’s families, their friends’ kids, a few neighborhood kids, Cary’s friends and friends’ friends have been attracted to the games and been coming back year after year.

Sue and Dave have watched these kids grow up, graduate and some of them move away. Cary himself graduated from college this year and moved away to another city after this summer but Sue and Dave stated they would keep the tradition going. I know for sure they will have my son and my husband’s support. Among others, they enjoyed the games, the companies and pizzas afterward that each chipped in $4 for. I’ve not played the games but watched and joined the team for pizzas a few times. When I was not there, I took delight in listening from my house to their vigorous shouts and excited laugh that broke out every now and then.

Two weeks ago, we were invited to and experienced another great tradition of Sue and Dave’s, their annual stew making. I was lucky to have witnessed the whole process of this cherished family ritual.

Stew in the Making

Stew in the Making

It is not any average stew making, it is an all day event and also an outdoor event owing to the huge pot. No one seems to remember the details about how the pot came into the family only that it’s been in the family for approximately eighty years. Before Sue and Dave took it over, Dave’s family had been making the same stew for decades. Dave added that it was inspired by a Native Indian tradition.

It is begun by cooking down tomatoes and onions in water seasoned with salt and pepper. Then chicken and beef or other desired meats are added and cooked till the meats fall off the bones which are removed. Once the meats are cooked down to almost a mash with small texture, corns and potatoes are added into the mix as the final ingredients.

Chef and his Crew

Chef and his Crew

This cooking took about 8 hours and the entire time, the three man crew, Dave, his best friend Brian from Virginia and his nephew Sam, was manning the fire and taking turn to stir the pot continuously with a boat peddle. I, seeing the pot still watery, asked if they had to work so hard and I got a firm “Yes”. They’ve learnt it the hard way, it scorches easily, have to keep stirring. So with Sue and Dave’s Great Dane looking on, the men stirred on while the ladies, Sue and her helpers, were peeling and cutting potatoes and making corn muffins inside the house.

Stew is Ready

Stew is Ready

Finally the stew was ready in late afternoon. Families and friends came in the evening with deserts to share. I too went back to Sue and Dave‘s house with my husband and son. The stew was wonderful with the corn muffins, my husbands and son, ok me too, all had multiple servings. After dinner, we helped fill up jars with the stew which Sue and Dave would freeze and give to families and friends over the holiday season.

We are probably the furthest next door neighbors in a usual setting, not counting farming communities and/or huge estates. While it takes a minute to get to Sue and Dave from the lake, it takes 15 minutes by foot because the only road in this neighborhood circles around a grove between our houses. Sometimes we drive over but it was a good thing we did not go to Sue and Dave’s house in car that day. We were stuffed and needed to walk off a little. We strolled home with our two jars of Sue and Dave’s most special stew.

One Response

  1. Your next door neighbors are extraordinary people. You & Jay & Ben are fortunate to be part of their world.

    Your Christmas tree, and your feelings for your Christmas, are beautiful.

    Love, Mom

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