I love truth in advertising, although “Good” was an understatement. It was a most wonderful day. Let me fill you in on the details. Come on you are invited:Community Potluck Picnic Celebration at the Orchard at Altapass in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.
The invitation said 11:00 and I made sure we were there a few minutes early. I didn’t want to miss a thing. It is a good old-fashioned community potluck picnic, like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, except it is real people in a real beautiful place. Everyone brings a dish to be shared- mine, confetti corn: smothered corn with onions, green chilis, cabbage, and carrots. Imagine a community all coming together to share a meal and celebrate this wonderful country (All veterans are recognized, applauded and hugged!). As a bonus there’s bluegrass music and dancing. (I must take a second to thank my dance teacher, Mr. Bill Carson, Mr. Apple Orchard himself, his advice, “just tap your feet to the music and smile!”-great life advice, too!)
Let’s talk about the food. The start of the feast begins with a 1841 cannon shot, that in itself signifies the significance of the feast! -Much like the old-fashioned dinner bell out on the range for all to hear! (Yep, that’s my hubby, Mr. History Buff, with an up close view!)
There were two long tables FILLED with food, (except for one tray of deviled eggs that was devoured before it even made it to the table) with just about anything and everything you could possibly imagine and many with different variations to choose. There was even a jar of pickles. Save room for dessert. (Couldn’t get close enough to those tables for a picture, that tells you everything.) The conversations at the tables seem to center around food and who brought the dish or what was in the dish-the deciphering of ingredients. At my table we finally agreed that the dressing on a spaghetti salad was Catalina dressing. This wonderful conversation was abruptly stopped when I heard someone from the table behind me ask, “Have you tried the tomato watermelon salad?”. A what? I immediately jumped up and went to the food tables to see if there was any left. To my good fortune, there was….then came my mission, for with the first bite, I knew I had to find the person who brought this amazing refreshing salad.
And so it began, my quest of asking everyone; even recruiting others on my mission. A few hours had passed and my hubby knew we were not leaving until I found this person. By now, in my mind I had concocted a story of a woman eating a salad that a piece of watermelon accidentally dropped into and a dish was born. We watched the Tupperware dishes get claimed one by one, no luck. Finally, an announcement was made over the microphone by one of my recruitments (told you I was on a mission), “Who brought the watermelon tomato salad?” I waited with bated breath scanning the crowd for a hand to go high in the air…a man in the back hesitantly raised his hand as if unsure if he should, and when asked “did you make it?” he said, “No, my wife did.” By this time I had already rushed him and asked,”where is your wife, I need to talk to her!” He pointed me in her direction and off I went with him in tow. (Afterthought: Guess I should have said I loved the dish first.) By this time, I felt as if I knew her, I had been thinking of her for a few hours now! Finding her was like finding a long lost friend. She shared her story of first tasting the salad with some friends at a cookout in South Carolina. She said, “it sounded weird to me, but tasted great”, agreed, we could be sisters! She said it has become a family favorite that she takes to most summer covered dish gatherings. I, for one, am so happy she did. She said she would send me the recipe and I am so grateful she did. Mission accomplished! Thanks to Mrs. Barbara. She said she is not known for her cooking, but to me she always will be.
The recipe was originally published in Southern Living. Here is the coveted Tomato Watermelon Salad: (I reduced the size of the recipe and made some minor changes-know I can’t follow a recipe exactly.) The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a potluck.
In a bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups seeded watermelon cubes (Don’t forget to save the leftover watermelon juice after cutting the watermelon for a refreshing flavored water) and 1 1/4 cups ripe tomatoes, cubed. Sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar and 1/8 tsp salt. Toss.Let stand for 10 minutes. Toss. Let stand for additional 10 minutes. Look at all that delicious juice already. Meanwhile, in a separate container, mix 2 TBSP plus 2 tsp red wine vinegar and 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (the same dressing I use in my Rice Salad http://wp.me/p57UhS-qU) and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Add 4 TBSP minced purple onion (freeze any remaining for seasoning or add to “stock” pile) add it to the oil and vinegar. This gives the onions a little head start and softens them a bit more. Let it hang out while waiting for the watermelon and tomatoes. Stir everything together and toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Mrs. Barbara said she lets hers sit overnight in the fridge, so I do the same, after all her recipe was what got my attention in the first place. That’s it-simple, refreshing, and delicious.
I added some feta cheese and black olives and enjoyed it over spinach. My hubby,who did not get a chance to taste the dish at the picnic, understood my mission clearly after his first bite. He said it was well worth the wait. It will be one of our family favorites, too.
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: As my hubby and I were devouring the incredibly delicious salad, he asked, “I wonder what other melon would be good in this?..honeydew?”. I was so excited my hubby put on his TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap! What other items may work in this salad? I thought some fresh mint would be good. What about balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar? What about adding a protein? I’m thinking of boiled shrimp. How else could you serve this salad? Over shredded cabbage, cole slaw mix, kale? Don’t forget the watermelon rind: Remove skin, grate, and toss with oil and vinegar for a tasty slaw on a hot dog!
FOOD FUN: The day was all about FOOD FUN. My new friend Ray told me that “weekends start on Wednesdays” there at the Orchard referring to their musical celebrations. The Orchard’s love for music and community was evident. It was such a pleasure sharing in this day with the volunteers, employees, and friends of the Orchard at Altapass. I cannot say enough about how much fun I had. Does your community hold a potluck picnic? Does your neighborhood? If not, how about starting the tradition? Don’t forget to add music and dancing. It is a good mix, means more dessert can be eaten! The Orchard at Altapass has been doing it for over 60 years, that’s a wonderful tradition. I know where I’ll be next year!