2006: Blue Grass neighbors, Pike County, Ill., 'sitting till bedtime' sharing stories

Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Author: MARY LOU, MONTGOMERY

KINDERHOOK, Ill. - Wendell Berry writes - in an essay titled "The Work of Local Culture" - that evenings in front of the television have replaced neighbors "sitting till bedtime" and telling each other stories. It is these stories, Berry contends, that traditionally held communities together for generations. Television reinforces commercialism, Berry writes, by "submitting every few minutes to sales talk." That talk convinces viewers they "should spend whatever is necessary to be like everybody else." What is lost in this materialism is what makes people unique. "To have everything but money is to have much," Berry writes. What riches are there besides money? To have each other, to exist in a local economy in which people help each other, to share comfort, and to share stories, "their history together in that place." A neighborhood exists in Pike County, Ill., where neighbors are re-establishing the custom of "sitting till bedtime." The neighborhood centers around the old Blue Grass school district in the Hull/Kinderhook, Ill., region. Tuesday evening, Sept. 12, neighbors gathered at Sprague's Kinderhook Lodge for their quarterly get-together. Within the confines of the renovated and expanded 1860s farmhouse, neighbors shared their favorite pot-luck dishes, recipes, memories, concerns and dreams. Neighbors come from all walks of life - educators, public servants, farmers and retirees. Some are natives, some are imports, and others have moved away only to return to their ancestral land. Encouraged to gather together by Pat Sprague and Andrew Sprague - mother and son proprietors of the lodge - the talk during the evening turns to topics of common interest: The upcoming hunting season, the potential consolidation of the local school districts, a beloved puppy lost in the woods, who owned what farm and when, and the 30 or so trains that pass through the neighborhood each day. As the sun sets it casts a golden glow to the nearby cornfields awaiting harvest. As evening replaces afternoon, it's time to gather around oak tables for a community meal. Everybody contributes something - whether it be beef for the burgers, brats, tea or lemonade to quench the thirst, vegetable dishes and homemade cake and ice cream for dessert. Around the tables, neighbors get to know each other. For one night four times a year, a true neighborhood exists. Berry writes: "As the children depart, generation after generation, the place loses its memory of itself, which is its history and culture. And the local history, if it survives at all, loses its place." Surrounded by history, and encouraged by a few folks determined to continue a tradition, the Blue Grass neighborhood is bucking the trends found elsewhere in America. People are sharing their stories, and by doing so, strengthening their neighborhoods and their sense of place. Broccoli Tortellini Salad Pat Sprague Kinderhook 7 ounce package cheese tortellini 1 cup fresh broccoli florets 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley 1 tablespoon chopped pimiento 1 (6 ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained 2 green onions, chopped 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 cup prepared Italian dressing 5 to 6 cherry tomatoes, halved Sliced ripe olives, if desired Grated Parmesan cheese, if desired Cook tortellini to desired doneness as directed on package. drain; rinse with cold water. In large bowl, combine all ingredients except cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Cover; refrigerate 4 to 6 hours to blend flavors. Just before serving, add tomatoes; mix lightly. Garnish with olives; springkle with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 (1 cup) servings. Tip: Salad can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. To avoid discoloration, just before serving add broccoli with tomatoes. Easy Pumpkin Pie Lacy White Kinderhook, Ill. 8 ounces cream cheese 2 graham cracker pie crusts Milk and sugar 1 15-ounce can pumpkin 16 ounces Cool Whip 2 packages instant vanilla pudding 1 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice Mix softened cream cheese, one half of the Cool Whip, 1 tablespoon each sugar and milk and spread carefully in both graham cracker crusts. In another bowl mix pumpkin, both boxes pudding (dry), spice and 1 cup cold milk. Beat till smooth and divide into both pies. Refrigerate. It will set up quickly, then you put the rest of the Cool Whip on top or garnish with it later. Cover with the lid from the graham cracker crust. This pie will keep for several days and gets better with time. Crunchy Cabbage Salad Suzanne Lanchester Kinderhook, Ill. 1/2 head chopped cabbage 1/2 cup chopped green onions (or other sweet onions) Mix: 2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 cup olive oil 3 tablespoons herbal vinegar Powder packet from Ramen Noodles Pour mixture over cabbage one hour (but not more than two hours) before serving. Add: 2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds Crumble package of Ramen noodles over nixture. Toss and serve. One cup of finely chopped chicken or shrimp may be added to make a main dish meal. Wonderful Peach Cobbler Anna Clark 1 stick margarine 1 cup flour 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup milk 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 (29-ounce) can yellow cling peaches in light syrup, sliced, or 3 cups fresh peaches, sliced 3/4 cup fresh blueberries (optional) Melt margarine in a 9x9x2-inch glass baking dish at 350 degrees in the oven. Mix batter of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and milk. Pour over hot melted margarine. Do not stir. Pour peaches with juice, and blueberries if using, over batter. Bake until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Hot German Potato Salad Rich and Rose Bonebrake 4 to 5 pounds potatoes, sliced and diced 6 eggs sliced 2 medium onions, diced 16 ounces Miracle Whip salad dressing Place above in large bowl and sprinkle black pepper on top. In skillet, fry 1 pound bacon that is diced, leave grease in skillet. When bacon is done, put in 1 cup sugar and 1 cup dark vinegar and bring to a boil. Pour this boiling mixture onto the above ingredients and stir. I will sometimes use more or less eggs, onions, Miracle Whip, sugar, or vinegar -- it's all up to your family's taste. Enjoy! I learned this recipe from Dave Requet when I worked for the Quincy Fire Department. Kathleen's Cake Anna Borrowman Kinderhook, Ill. Pour 1 1/3 cups boiling water over 1 cup quick cook oats; let stand for 20 minutes. Stir in last: 1 cup white sugar 1/2 cup shortening 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup brown sugar 2 eggs 1 1/3 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking soda Bake in a 9x13-inch greased and floured pan 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Glaze for Oak Cake 1/2 cup walnuts 1 cup brown sugar 1 can coconut flake (1 1/4 cup) 1/2 stick margarine 1/4 cup milk Boil 3 minutes. Put on cake and put under broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, or until you think it's starting to burn. (Anna obtained this recipe from Zora Grady in 1974) Frosty Freezer Pie Lacy White Kinderhook, Ill. 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme 2 cups raspberry, orange or lime sherbet, softened 2 to 3 cups whipped topping 1 graham cracker crust (9 or 10 inches) In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and marshmallow creme until smooth. Stir in sherbet. Fold in whipped topping. Pour into crust. Freeze until firm. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. The pie may be frozen for up to 3 months. Yield: 8-10 servings. Janita's Homemade Ice cream Pat Likes Dissolve 4 Junket tablets in 1/8 cup water. Set aside. Combine: 1 quart whole milk 1 quart half and half 2 cups sugar 3 well beaten eggs Stir together and heatuntil very hoton medium heat stirring very often. Do not boil. Set burner on low and continue heating for approximately 5minutes, stirring constantly. Do not boil. Mix together: One can Borden's Eagle Brand milk One 8 ounce tub Cool Whip Add to milk mixture. Add melted Junket tablets and stir well. Pour into a one gallon freezer can and let set for 10 minutes. Freeze according to freezer instructions. Cure ice cream according to freezer instructions or put into a one gallon container and place in refrigerator freezer at least overnight. May be served immediately, but will be very soft.

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