Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Dinner

My mom did a lot of things right growing up and now that I have my own child I've been trying to consciously remember these things so I can recreate them for Baby Lawns. 

One of the greatest things my mom did was to make sure that we always sat down and had a real dinner. Most nights growing up, both with my grandparents and with my mother, I had a real, sit down dinner. I think this fostered in me good eating habits and gave me a sense of security and stability. It also gave me quality time with my family where we could talk and share food. I really believe that my healthy attitude towards food came from having a real dinner on the table with my family every night. Not only that, I learned manners and eventually how to cook.  One thing I'm going to insist on is that we have dinners as a family sitting down at a table almost every night. It's not negotiable.

The other thing my mom did right was Sunday dinner. Growing up, we always had Sunday dinner on both sides of my family and it was really important. We couldn't imagine a Sunday without Sunday dinner. I think a long time ago this was the norm, but now the tradition's fallen out of favor. I wonder why? It makes me glad I grew up in a small, rural town that was a little slower to modernize.

Sunday dinner was a special time to stop everything and spend time with family. It gave us a holiday every single week and we all had something to look forward to midweek at work and school. We came together, without fail, every week over a meal.

Sometimes I spent Sundays with my mother's family and sometimes with my father's, but it didn't matter. There were cooks on both sides. Growing up on the Eastern Shore our Sunday dinners almost always consisted of slippery dumplings, which are not puffy and don't contain anything except flour, Crisco, salt, pepper and water. Usually we had chicken and dumplings, but we could also have beef or turkey with dumplings too. Once in a while we'd have a ham and macaroni and cheese, but usually we did chicken and dumplings. When I was very little, my great grandmother who had once owned a legendary chicken and dumplings restaurant, would slaughter one of her own chickens and stew it up. Everyone used to fight over who got the cooked, unlaid eggs that were still inside the chicken.

We still do Sunday dinner at my parents' house. Since the babies have been born we recommitted ourselves to the meal, just like we remember. Each week a different member of the family gets to choose his or her favorite meal. We have a rotation going. Since there are quite a few of us, the meals can be pretty diverse and unpredictable according to our moods, but yes, we still have chicken and dumplings too. My sister chose it last time. When it's my husband's turn we have BBQ or taco night. My brother in law likes Italian spreads and the last time it was my turn I chose fried fish. It seems we all usually choose the foods from our childhoods that we loved the most. Sunday dinner is all about comfort food and that's what makes it special.

I picked fried fish because it was one of my first taste memories. My mother, recently single, lived in a little pink house on the beach. She was poor and would paddle a rowboat out into the bay and fish for flounder, which she'd dredge in peppery flour and fry in butter for me. I loved it when I was a toddler and I still love it the same now.

When it's my next turn to choose I might ask for dumplings again, but I don't know. We'll see what mood I'm in.

Another thing I love about Sunday dinner is that it becomes a bit of a potluck. Each of us has things that we like to cook and bring. We enjoy showing off our specialties. My mom loves coconut custard pie, so for tonight's meal I'm making her one. A few weeks back I made my grandmother's apple cake. My brother in law makes from scratch baked beans and I think he's making them for tonight.

Sunday dinner is in a few hours and I can't wait. It's the best part of the week and it makes me so happy to not only eat my favorite meals and spend time with my family all together, but also to know that I'm giving my daughter the same sense of tradition I had, baked with the flavors of our collective memories. I hope she will look upon her childhood Sundays as fondly as I do.

Tonight we're having a whole roasted beef tenderloin with baked potatoes. We'll all tear into it, eat until we're stuffed and then we'll find room for dessert. When all the dishes are dried and put away and the take home plates wrapped in foil and packed into grocery bags we'll start talking about what we're going to have next week.


Kerry said...

Love it! Makes me wish my family was close enough to get together regularly. We didn't do a regular Sunday dinner, but my little nuclear family did regular dinner every night around a table, with no tv (for the most part). I agree with you that it's a nice way to grow up.

I'm sure your daughter will appreciate it, too.

debra said...

I grew up with nightly family dinners around a table (no TV). My kids also grew up with nightly family dinners around a table (no TV). I added the ritual of lighting a small candle in the center of the table. As the kids got older they would beg for the priviledge of lighting the candle. They've told me numerous times what a good memory that is.

Anonymous said...

With my mother, not much mattered. There was no church, no piano lessons, no expectations of what I would be when I grew up. We had no schedules or plans and no one controlled me. I could make my own decisions. If I wanted something to eat I could go get it. If I didn't want dinner I could go watch TV. On TV, I could watch whatever I wanted and no one cared. If I wanted to run naked, I could. If I wanted to ride my bike all day long, my mother didn't think twice about it. Ice cream for breakfast wasn't a problem.

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