Just when the prevailing thought was, “it doesn’t get any better than this,” it does.
With little public fanfare, 12 Bishop relatives and several guests assembled at host Tom Bishop’s cozy abode in suburban Perkasie, Pa., for the fourth annual ScrappleFest.
These male first cousins, descendants of Walter S. and Priscilla Bergey Bishop of Doylestown, Pa., representing six states, did their best to consume generous quantities of scrapple provided by Blooming Glen Pork Products, four dozen (scrambled) eggs, fried potatoes from cousin/brother Bob Bishop – the potatoes, grown by Bob, were Katahdin and Yukon Gold, the same kind grandfather Walter raised on Harmony Hill Farm. The 55-cup coffee urn was quickly drained. Those still not satisfied had their choice of homemade wet- or dry-bottom shoo fly pie.
For the first time this year, a Bishop women’s group met at the same hour at the home of Judy Bishop Cronice in New Hope, Pa. Wife Anna wasn’t able o attend, but rumor has it that the ladies spent the time discussing the idiosyncrasies of their spouses while nibbling grapes and orange slices.
As in previous engagements, banter and zingers bounced off the dining room walls as the men shared much ado about nothing while enjoying the fabulous fare. It was information overload, but no one seemed to mind. Participants observed the Bishop standard “boarding house reach” with one foot remaining on the floor at all times.
For the first time, the scrapple was oven-baked rather than fried. Slices emerged from the oven with a crisp finish. More grease was excised in the process, thus allowing the partaking of an extra piece or two with no guilt attached.
Hmmmm… scrapple… topped with syrup … ahhhhh! Homer J. would be proud. But, can you top that? Yes, Rosenberger’s cottage cheese or Bauman’s apple butter were other options on the table. But no ketchup, please, we Bishops do draw the line somewhere.
Following the breakfast banquet, we sang, in melodious accord, this year’s hymn, “Faith of Our Parents,” words by Rev. Mike Bishop, pastor of worship and music at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, adapting the melody, “Faith of Our Fathers” – or “Martyrs,” more politically and historically correct:
Gertrude and Franklin, George, Vernon, Edgar,
We hold them dear, our memories stir,
Sense of the common, and critical view
Learned in our homes and caught from the pew.
Refrain: Faith of our loved ones, lived with zest,
Faith that lives on in ScrappleFest.
Now in this gathering we celebrate
All that has been and all yet to be.
Stories and laughter, good food and food friends
Richly combine, their blessing to lend.
Praise to the father and praise to the Son
Praise to the Spirit – the three in one.
Bringing us comfort and light from above
Sustaining hope and treasures of love.
For good measure, we followed this with last year’s golden oldie, also words provided by brother Mike, “Blessed Be the Pie That Binds.” We’ve no shortage of crust in this group.
This year’s guest speaker was Harvey J. Bauman of Bauman’s Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Butter company in Sassamansville, Montgomery Co., Pa. The business was founded in 1892 by Harvey’s great-grandfather, John W. Bauman, and remains a family operation in the third generation.
Cousin Don Smith, our resident genealogist, pointed out that Harvey is related to the Bishop freundschaft, a sixth cousin, once removed. We’re also fourth cousins to our corporate sponsor, Bob Moyer, who also attended this year’s fest, providing the scrapple – much appreciated – and supervising its preparation.
Harvey, a mechanical engineer by profession, is also involved in the Bauman family business in customer service and maintaining equipment. Wife Kathy is the one who really shakes the apple trees and makes things happen, he said.
Harvey showed the group a series of archival photos detailing the growth of the company, while noting that “the process and product has changed very little over the years.”
It takes five pounds of apples to make one pound of apple butter, Harvey explained. “We still use firewood whenever possible to heat the boilers. The trademark dark color of Bauman’s applebutter can be attributed to the type and quantity of apples used and the process employed. The apple butter contains no preservatives and doesn’t require refrigeration,” he noted.
Applebutter is made September through January, cider is pressed once a week and Harvey estimates that the company goes through a million pounds of apples a year, all coming from area fruit growers.
Bauman’s markets its products to about a 50-mile radius, many going to farm markets. Many of the small jars wind up in gift boxes; some sales are made on their web site.
“This really is a labor of love,” Harvey stated. We really aren’t making a lot of money doing this, but recognize this is a niche market and we take pride in our products.” He left samples of the various spreads that were quickly snatched up.
While we sported nametags with logo and even had a printed agenda, we left some “unfinished business” – a proposed mission statement to guide the group’s future ventures. My brother J. Eric Bishop suggested “We Approve of Pork Spending” – how’s that for truth in advertising? – and I offered “We Came, Saw, Debate, Ate (Burp!) and Sate.” No formal action was taken – for want of a second (helping).
Official minute-taker cousin Bill Bishop observed, “We never seem to come to any decisions . . . the new becomes old and then the old becomes new. It was finally confirmed, however, that ScrappleFest is the correct spelling for this event.”
After a group picture taken at what once was great-grandfather William D. Bishop’s dry goods store in downtown Blooming Glen, participants raised their glad voices in acapella harmony, singing favorite selections from the Mennonite Brethren Hymnal: A Worship Book,” led by brother Mike, who is minister of worship and music at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church.
Still basking in the afterglow of another ScrappleFest (or is it heartburn?), this gastronomical gathering reminded me anew of the goodly and godly legacy provided by our Bishop forebears that has been passed on to the next generation. Eating and enjoying comfort food may have been the excuse to assemble, but the love of family is what binds us together.
As scrapplemeister Bob Moyer rightly declared, “You can’t buy heritage.”
– Column by Jim Bishop