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If winter is the season of casseroles, then summertime is the season for salads. Fruit salads, vegetable salads, pasta salads, lettuce salads, chicken salad. For the women in my family, this can be pretty exciting. My sister and my mother are hostesses by nature. They love bringing people together and relish that with that comes feeding them. For both of them it means trying out new recipes — recipes they’ve gotten from friends or tried at recent parties. Last weekend, the potato salad and fruit salads alone were all the enticement I needed for the drive to Indiana to my sister’s house — never mind the opportunity to spend time with family. Add gourmet burgers into the mix, and it was a regular Fourth of July feast. My contribution to Saturday’s dinner: cookies. Pillsbury, I think. You see, while my mom often is looking for way to tweak old standby recipes and my sister longing to use the herbs from her herb garden, I am looking for a way to leave the house on time to get to these family gatherings with everything and everybody in tow. Often, I fail. But I always have believed it’s polite to offer to bring a dish when you’re invited to a dinner party. Of late, unfortunately, that usually means stopping at the grocery on the way there. I enjoy a good salad – or casserole – as much as anyone and maybe even moreso. But for whatever reason — I blame it on parenthood (and before that, I blamed it on wifehood) — I just can’t find the time lately to devote to creating these dishes that truly are what make gatherings, be they summer or winter, so tasty. Thankfully, though, I still get to spend time in the kitchen with the girls when we all come together. This weekend, while the men sat outside around the grill and my daughter’s clothing soaked up the charcoal smell as she played in her play yard, my mom, my sister and I shared the duties of putting together the salads and side dishes we all would enjoy later. Slicing, stirring, tasting. Chatting, laughing. We've spent a lot of time together in the kitchen, my mom, my sister and I, preparing dinners, cleaning up the mess after. It's gotten so that's what I look forward to as much as anything when we're all together again. So much more goes into these dishes than the ingredients. You can taste it. More than that, you can feel it. And gathered around the table that evening, all of us did. And later, still too full from dinner, we ate cookies. After the table had been wiped clean and the dishes put in the dishwasher, my mom brought out a box of books she wanted my sister and me to sort through — cookbooks. My sister declined. She has enough cookbooks, she said. Truthfully, so do I. I also have a wonderful binder full of recipes given to me by a coworker who is a fabulous cook, and a recipe tin my grandmother used. But that didn’t keep me from coming away with a book of healthy recipes, a test kitchen cookbook and a 1942 copy of the “Household Searchlight Recipe Book.” I know the odds of my using them — any of them or all of them — are slim. But, they’re good to have around, comforting even, so that if and when I can find the reason and the time to use them, the books and their recipes, and all that goes into them, will be there. Holly Tabor can be reached at (270) 505-1745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.