Eating as a social activity

June 20, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Family and eating always have gone together for Pat Kinsey of Williamsport.

Kinsey, 66, grew up nearby in Pinesburg, as one of Edward and Helen Kretzer Miller's 10 children. Eating was the family's social activity, she said.

Her mother always cooked Sunday dinners.

"It didn't matter who showed up, she always had enough," Kinsey said.

Children grew, married, had children of their own. Kinsey said it broke her mother's heart when she wasn't able to do Christmas and Easter dinners for the family that had grown to 60 to 80 people. Kinsey's mother is now deceased but the rest of the family still gets together for holiday meals - now at the Williamsport Community Center.

Kinsey, who retired nearly 12 years ago after 25 years with the U.S. Postal Service, has four grown children and four grandchildren.


The walls of the garden apartment she shares with John Shadrack are covered with framed photos - pictures of her parents, pictures of her siblings, pictures of her kids as kids, pictures of them grown with their families. Every picture in her house has to have a connection, she said. Except for former President Jimmy Carter, who posed with the Miller siblings on their trip to Georgia, all the people are family.

Six of her brothers and sisters visit Kinsey most Thursday nights. The men play pinochle at the kitchen table. At the dining room table, the women play poker, 500 - anything, she said. They come after supper.

Tuesday is the night Kinsey cooks - really cooks. She makes and takes dinner to her sister who lives nearby. She also takes dinner to her daughter Dawn Hockenberry and son Wayde Hockenberry and their families, all nearby.

When she married Jake Kinsey in 1982, Pat was determined to stay close to her children. They started out eating in restaurants. Somehow, the get-togethers evolved to Kinsey cooking and taking dinner to her children's homes and sharing the meal with them. Jake Kinsey died in 1992.

The Tuesday night tradition continues.

Son Steve Hockenberry lives in Union Bridge, Md., and Kinsey laughed that she doesn't drive dinner to him. Daughter Abbe Clark has lived in Indiana for 25 years, so she's also out of the dinner loop. But she calls her mother most Tuesdays - to find out what she's missing.

Staff Writer Kate Coleman recently joined Kinsey in her kitchen.

How often are you in the kitchen? Do you cook dinner every night?

No. No. I cook on the average of three times a week. We eat out a good bit, because it's so much easier.

Usually I fix breakfast here. We very seldom go out for breakfast. And you know, as you get older ... we eat twice a day usually.

We usually eat breakfast late and dinner early.

But I do the most cooking on Tuesdays. And it keeps me in tune, too. You're so used to fixing for two. And that's the way with my recipes - everything is for seven people or more. On Tuesdays, my sister over here, she just waits - just sits there - it's so funny when I walk in. She's just ready to go out there and eat as soon as I take her dinner over.

Where did you learn to cook?

My mom, of course. And this (the Stretch-It recipe) comes from Grandma Hockenberry. (The late Nona Hockenberry was the mother of Pat's first husband, her "mother-in-law forever."

Did you cook with your mom as a kid?

Not a lot. No, not really.

She probably didn't want anybody in the way.

That's exactly it. There were times ... when Mom would say things to us and then just get up and do it herself. She didn't want to mess with how aggravating we could be.

When was the first time you made the Stretch-It?

I would say in the late '50s. That's about as close as I can get.

And you're still making it?

Oh, yeah. I just had it a couple of weeks ago.

What makes it successful?

I think it's just got all the ingredients - ground beef, filling, tomato soup - the staples - what you've had all your life. My kids, one of their favorite things when they were little was toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. They loved that. It has ingredients you always have on hand. Maybe that's why they call it Stretch-It.

Do you have a favorite thing you like to eat?

Yes, I do. And I fix that every six weeks, too. My favorite thing is pork and sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. That's my favorite meal. My sister made and brought it to me on my birthday. They know. They know that.

I really have a second one and that's baked chicken potpie.

Do you make that?

Yes. My mom would make that in a great big thing, you know. When you have that many children, you've got to make a great big thing. And I still make that for them, too. They all like it.

Do your friends or family have a favorite recipe?

That's hard to say. They do like the baked chicken potpie. And Dawn requested Stretch-It. They do request that. Wayde loves meatloaves.

It's really good, old staple eating. They're not really much on trying something new. This is the only time of the week they know what they're getting.

I do enjoy it.

Do you sit down and eat with them?

Oh yeah!

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