Do you wonder if size really matters? Is bigger always better? If you think that is the case I would like to dispel that belief. In fact, I would propose that sometimes a smaller size can be more comfortable, and if handled properly a smaller size can provide experiences that are more difficult to achieve with a larger one. Well, at least that is my opinion.
My cousin Ken stood in front of the group. He welcomed everyone and offered a freestyle blessing that ended with the classic, “Bless us Oh Lord, and these Thy gifts.” It was the kick off for Droby Fest, year 18.
What is Droby Fest? I guess you first have to know what a droby is. A droby is a Slovak fresh sausage made of rice, potatoes, and various meats. It is usually seasoned with salt, pepper, and sage. It is most often baked, typically with bacon wrapped around it. Like many ethnic sausages it sounds terrible, but tastes delicious.
The droby sausage is a connection to my ethnic past. It is something that you can’t buy in a store, it has to be made. The process is fairly labor intensive and involves grinding all of the ingredients several times, and then stuffing them into sausage casing. Apparently, there are multiple recipes for droby. At least that is what my internet research has indicated. My family’s version contains pork and various organ meats in addition to the starches.
Growing up it was expected to actively participate in celebrations with my extended family. Major holidays, Communions, Confirmations, they were all events to be shared with aunts, uncles, and cousins. As our families grew the mass get togethers ended, and for decades I lost contact with my cousins.
The generation before ours was dying, and it seemed like the only time that cousins would see each other were at funerals. Those contacts consisted of a few minutes of catching up. At one such event my sister Nancy was talking to my cousin Ken. “We should have a family reunion picnic,” she said. And we all started to reconnect.
We now get together multiple times a year. My cousins Ken and his sister Kris have become the event organizers. There is the monthly Bunco game, the summer Kuna Kampout, the fall KFR (Kuna family reunion) picnic, Pierogi making day, and of course the Christmastime Droby Fest.
We usually do have droby sausage as part of the buffet style Droby Fest meal, but the title is more about getting together with family and celebrating who we are. I used to be embarrassed to be Eastern European, I so wanted to have a surname that reflected a more Anglo heritage. However, I now am grateful for who I am and proud of my extended family who are sophisticated and accomplished.
The attendees for Droby Fest can vary. All are welcome, and any relative of anyone is invited. Really, anyone is invited to partake in the conversation and food. The only request is to bring a dish or two to pass. Some people will cook, others buy. There is always plenty.
I expected a big turnout this year. The weather was mild and there wasn’t a hint of snow in the forecast. I was surprised to discover that the crowd was smaller than in times past. Some of this was accounted by the lack of my first degree relatives. Several were vacationing, others had obligations.
This fact was a potential problem for me, introvert Mike. I naturally gravitate to my immediate family during such events, but most of them were missing.
Dear reader, as I had told you many times, take a disadvantage and turn it into an advantage. I really like my cousins and the smaller size of the group plus the lack of my usual cohorts gave me the opportunity to have more in depth connections with them.
I had a nice long conversation with my cousin Ken. Ken is one of those people who the more you know him, the more you like him. His delightful wife, Kathy happily gave me a photography lighting kit that they were no longer using.
I got to chat with my cousin Steve (always “Stevie” to me) and his wife Sharon. Stevie talked about his father’s experience in WWII, and reminisced about growing up in the 1960s and 70s.
For the first time in memory I talked with my second cousin Victoria and her Brit husband, Paul. We shared stories about how we met our respective spouses.
Cousin Kathy recounted her recipe for mock clotted cream (something that you can’t buy in the states, due to some sort of pasteurization rule). Cousin Rudy told me that his photo was on the Portillo’s web site… and so it went.
By having a smaller group I was able to mingle more, and touch base with a lot of wonderful people in a way that I usually would not.
Large groups are great, but sometimes a smaller sized group is just what the doctor ordered. It can be easier to do some things with a smaller size.
On the way home I commented to my wife, “I really have a nice family.” “I always thought that,” Julie replied.