Great Aunt Opal
Last weekend we drove 7 ½ hours to Clinton, Mo., for my grandpa’s family reunion. Though the reunion had been scheduled for nearly a year, my family and I had trouble deciding if we were going to go or not. The event fell during a busy time at my husband’s work and during our 10th wedding anniversary. In the end though, we thought that it would be a good idea for the kids and I to go see people — like one of my sweetest relatives — my great aunt Opal who is in her 90s. We were definitely due for a visit. The last time we were in Missouri to see my relatives was back in 2004 when my husband and I had only been married for a year. Sadly, some of my family there has passed away since then.
So, I blame the last-minute nature of the trip on my packing forgetfulness. Somehow I made it across Kansas without my 4-year-old’s boots (or shoes of any kind). My son has a bad habit of taking shoes off as soon as he gets in the pickup, so I didn’t bother helping him put them on, I just set them on the floorboard of the pickup. Only, somehow the boots didn’t make it to the floorboard. Thankfully we didn’t have many awkward bathroom stops and I was able to get some cheap tennis shoes at WalMart in Clinton.
Clinton is a town of around 9,000 people, located near Truman Lake — the largest man-made lake in Missouri. It’s beautiful there — with more trees and greener grass than my kids have ever seen. Much of my grandpa’s family still farms in the area. We loved seeing all of the cattle grazing on belly-high grass — something we don’t find in western Kansas.
Our relatives in Missouri are hospitable people, known for their great food. My aunt Opal’s chocolate buttermilk squares are one of my Colorado family’s favorite Missouri recipes. Ninety-two-year-old Opal even made them for the reunion picnic. This recipe has been the birthday cake at many of my brothers’ birthday parties — the chocolate frosting background is a great place to decorate with tractors. The recipe has quite a few ingredients, but it’s easy to make.
Aunt Opal’s Buttermilk SquaresColor/Black
2 C. Flour
2 C. Sugar
2 Sticks Butter
3 ½ Tbsp.Cocoa
1 C. Water
½ C. Buttermilk
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour a large baking sheet with an edge (a regular-size cookie sheet is one size too small). Mix flour and sugar, set aside. In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa and water to a boil. Pour over dry ingredients, set aside. Beat buttermilk, eggs, soda and vanilla together and add to first mix. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Begin frosting 10 minutes before cake is finished.
Color/Black1 stick margarine
3 ½ Tbs. Cocoa
6 Tbs. Milk
1 lb. Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
Bring first three ingredients to a boil in the same pan used for the cake. Take off heat. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Spread over cake right after it’s removed from the oven. Color/Black❖
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.