Family tradition rolls on

March 07, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

CEARFOSS - Rolls and rings of rising bread filled the rooms of Mary Gladhill's home Tuesday, along with the warm chatter and bustle of a family reunion.

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Gladhill's three sisters and some 40 other relatives gathered to make doughnuts, a tradition they said began 32 years ago.

By afternoon, they had rolled, kneaded, cut and fried 370 doughnuts as well as 1,250 "holes."

Flour dust decorated a few faces, a sweet glaze lined many lips and laughter often erupted in the kitchen. More than fresh food, fellowship (of mostly females) marked the occasion.

"It's amazing for me to see how we all stuck together after all these years," said Kelly Patey, the oldest of Gladhill's 13 grandchildren. Four generations were present, including most of Gladhill's six children and six great-grandchildren.


Shrove Tuesday celebrations have been held for several centuries. Also known as Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday," it is celebrated on the eve of Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

Lent, a period of 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter, is a Christian season of fasting. Because some people give up certain foods, for many Fat Tuesday is a last chance to feast. The feasting may involve eating traditional pancakes or doughnuts called "fastnachts."

Gladhill said her family's doughnuts are not real fastnachts because they have a different shape. She lifted white linens to show full trays on tables around the house. "Doughnuts everywhere you look," she said.

Gladhill's sisters, Ethel Drury, Anne Harnish and Betty Boyd, began coming to her house to cook in 1968. They bring spouses and children. On the night before, they make kettles of vegetable soup to offer a healthy food alternative.

The sisters said they have fond memories of their mother's cooking, especially her fresh baked bread. Drury, the eldest at 78, said she learned to cook at a young age. She supervises the yeast mixture.

The group began around 7:45 a.m., mixing the milk, butter, eggs, yeast, flour and water. They toiled over frying pans. They covered each confection in powdered sugar or glaze. They made nine batches, using some 45 pounds of flour.

"The kids like the holes the best," said Gladhill. She said this year is unusual because schools were closed for the primary election. Several young children mingled in the crowded home, a few vying for their great-grandmother's attention.

Ralph Weaver, 5, approached Gladhill and gazed up at her. She asked him whether he prefers to eat a doughnut hole or a doughnut. "Both," he replied.

Some kids gathered in the living room to watch a video recording of last year's gathering. Four girls played with the family's youngest member, 10-month old Evan Izer. He grinned as they gently tapped him with a pillow.

Gladhill claimed to be giving up her role as hostess, but the children protested. "She lies!" they joked.

"I said the same thing last year," Gladhill admitted.

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