In spite of figures citing escalating numbers of women working outside the home, trend-watchers have noted a rise in family or home-oriented activities.
"Cocooning," where people work all day, then stop on the way home at the gourmet deli and the video rental outlet, go home, close the blinds and tune-out in front of the television set, is one example. Recreational cooking, as well as casual entertaining--simple but elegant get-togethers featuring menus of quick and easy recipes supplemented, again, by gourmet take-out food--are two others.
Product manufacturers have been quick to take notice. They have created everything from one-step cleansers to convenience foods for the microwave oven to make entertaining easy on the working woman.
One recreational activity that once enjoyed enormous popularity, then experienced a slight decline and is now returning to favor, is the family reunion. According to a survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens magazine, nearly 60% of the Americans polled said they had attended a reunion in the past five years, and one-third have a family reunion planned for 1988.
Time for Families
In 1986, a presidential proclamation declared that the first weekend in August should be set aside as National Family Reunion Weekend, a time when all families, whether they enjoy the time-honored tradition of full-scale reunions or simply share activities during small, informal potluck dinners, come together. But Labor Day weekend is another popular time.
Since there's so much to consider when planning a large-scale family reunion, we've compiled a list of suggestions to make contemporary gatherings less chaotic. In addition, Better Homes and Gardens is offering a free pamphlet, "Gathering the Generations," with reunion-planning tips. For a copy of the pamphlet, write to: Family Reunion Guidebook, Better Homes and Gardens, P.O. Box 10237, Dept. T., Des Moines, Iowa 50336.
Another free pamphlet offers step-by-step instructions on gathering the family's favorite recipes into a cookbook. Write to: Reunion of Recipes, Better Homes and Gardens Magazines, P.O. Box 10237, Dept. 88, Des Moines, Iowa 50336.
Setting a Date, Time
According to the magazine, the first order of business should be to determine the size of gathering desired, be it the average (attended by 37 family members) or a large scale event (100 guests or more). Next, determine a meeting place, date and time that will be convenient and comfortable for everyone invited (children and the elderly included). Then, form committees of family members to handle such tasks as food coordination, entertainment, finances, equipment, invitations, activities, lodging reservations (if necessary) and clean up.
Here are some planning tips:
--Suggest a special date in your family's history (when your ancestors arrived in America or the birth date of a grandmother or special relative) on which to hold the reunion.
--Develop a master list of family members, asking older relatives for help, and compile in a loose-leaf notebook that will provide flexibility to add or delete names and addresses in future years.
--When selecting a public site, consider size, acoustics, kitchen facilities and restrooms and always confirm at least a week prior to the event.
--Look into group rates through YMCAs, campsites, hotels and some colleges during summer term, if lodging reservations are necessary for out-of-towners.
--Invitations should be inexpensive and personal, bright, warm and friendly. Highlight (even illustrate) special activities to stimulate interest and enthusiasm, and be sure to include all basic facts: date, locations, travel information, contact telephone number and food category (for potlucks).
--Mail invitations early and follow up with those who neglect to RSVP.
--Assign responsibilities for non-cooks such as bringing paper goods, non-perishable snacks such as nuts, chips, popcorn, relish and olives. They can also be recruited to serve as bartenders, waiters and waitresses, to provide entertainment during the meal or to help with clean up.
--Be sure to have extra cooking and serving utensils on hand and make sure lenders clearly label everything with first and last names since there are likely to be many members with the same surname or initials.
--Speed up cooking time by partially cooking the food for the grill, then transfer to the barbecue at the event.
--Have every family member bring a certain type of food; one brings the appetizer, another brings a casserole or dessert. This will encourage variety.
--Freeze plastic jugs of water or juice and use as ice packs in coolers. Drink when they thaw. Also, ask relatives who are bringing cold dishes to supply ice-filled coolers.
--Consider those on special diets: Plan on menus for dieters, children, the elderly, those with allergies, dentures or other conditions.
--Be careful about increasing fats and seasonings when doubling recipes for a crowd and stick with three-bean salads, macaroni and potato salads, coleslaws and fruit salads that can easily be made in large quantities.
--Have plenty of large plastic garbage bags on hand to collect food and plates.
--Keep these beverage quantities handy: 1 gallon orange juice offers 32 (4-ounce) servings; 2 gallons lemonade or iced tea provides 32 (8-ounce) servings; 8-gallon keg beer gives 85 (12-ounce) servings; 1 pound coffee yields 56 (6-ounce) servings; 1.5-liter bottle wine makes 10 (5-ounce) servings.
--Some snack yields: 16 ounces potato chips serves 16; 12 ounces cheese curls serves 24; 12 ounces pretzels serves 12; 16 ounces corn or tortilla chips serves 16; 8 ounces sour cream dip serves 8; 56 ounces mixed nuts serves 56.