Tomorrow, Sept. 5th, is my parents' 60th "Diamond" Wedding Anniversary.
It seems like only yesterday I was writing in this same column space about our family's celebration of their 50th "Golden" anniversary in 2003.
Sixty years of marriage is a long time and it deserves recognition marked with family memories to cherish for years to come.
One of the first "big parties" I still recall from my youth, though I was only 8-years-old, is the large open house my parents Chester and Peggy celebrated with inviting guests to our home in 1978.
For their 40th wedding anniversary, as both friends and family grew, I helped my two older sisters and two older brothers plan an even larger party in our church's adjoining hall, as an afternoon catered lunch and celebration that followed a family Sunday Mass.
We decorated the party space with plenty of photos, fresh flowers and even displayed my mother's "princess style wedding gown" on a mannequin, which showcased the details and how it was designed similar to the dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier that garnered so much media attention earlier that year, for her marriage to Sen. John F. Kennedy, the future 35th president of the United States, in Newport, Rhode Island. Kennedy's wedding was on Sept. 12, 1953, just a week after my parents' nuptials. While my parents' spent their honeymoon at Niagara Falls, following their 40th wedding anniversary, they enjoyed a 10-day trip to Hawaii.
My parents' 50th anniversary celebration was honored with a Mass at our small town parish and everyone traveled for the dinner reception to Drury Lane Theatre's Martinique Restaurant in Evergreen Park, Ill., for a family feast. The Drury Lane was a local landmark just as old as my parents' vows, having been around since 1953, but torn down in January 2004 to make way for a new Wal-Mart.
After my parents were married at Sorrowful Mother Catholic Church, at 165 South Grace St. in neighboring Wheatfield, Ind., my mother's equally tiny hometown, my mom and dad returned to the family farm for their wedding reception.
My father's sister, my Auntie Lottie, loaned my mother's twin sister, Patty, her bridesmaid gown that she had worn previously at my Auntie Wanda's wedding. My dad's good friend Joe Ruszczyk, who passed away in 1991, was best man.
Today Auntie Lottie, now 90, still remembers how many potatoes she and Grandma Potempa and Auntie Lilly had to peel to feed the hungry guests. An even tougher job was assigned to Auntie Lottie's husband, my Uncle Swede, who had to the kill and pluck the chickens Grandma needed for the crisp and sizzling platters of fried chicken served, a recipe I shared with readers in my first "From the Farm" cookbook published in 2004.
To celebrate this week's anniversary, my sister Pam is joining me to travel with our parents to Las Vegas to stay at Caesars Palace, dining, seeing shows and chancing luck for the latter part of the week, before flying home Saturday in time for the family party at my brother Tom and his wife Linda's farm just down the road, where guests will enjoy pork barbecue, cake and champagne and most of all, the company of family and friends.
This week's recipe is for my mom's simple and delicious homemade "whipped" mashed potatoes, which she still prefers today over Grandma Potempa's traditional "hand-mashed" variation, since Mom insists on "no lumps." One of my favorite sounds of growing up was to hear the ticking and clicking of the tiny metal alert attached to the lid of my mother's "potato boiling pot."
Happy 60th Anniversary Mom and Dad!
Peggy's Simple "Whipped" Mashed Potatoes
6 large or 10 medium Idaho or Russet potatoes
1/2 cup milk (preferably whole or 2 percent), at room temperature
1/2 stick butter or margarine
Heavy on black pepper, light on salt to taste
DIRECTIONS: Peel potatoes and quarter. Place in large pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes test done when punctured with fork. Drain water, but allow steaming potatoes to remain in bottom of pot. Immediately add butter or margarine, with seasonings and milk and using electric beaters, whip potatoes unto smooth and peaks form, adjusting milk and seasonings to create desired consistency and taste. Most of all, assure there are no lumps! Always prepare as final step to dinner preparation and allow to remain covered until serving, ideally as hot as possible and still steaming. Makes 8 servings.