[Sunday] Dinner is Served
Me: I need one thing.
Her: What’s that?
Me: I need us to always try to be home for Sunday dinner.
My childhood memories sometimes feel like an old, tattered patchwork quilt. Something that someone created with no real thought about how the pieces of material would fit together, but knowing that they needed to be placed together for posterity’s sake.
This quilt maker didn’t seem to think it was important to include memories about how old I was when I stopped wishing for the tooth fairy and Santa Clause to remember the address to our house. Nor was it important to remember how I celebrated my 16th birthday.
As I look at the pieces of the patchwork quilt that is my childhood, there are many, many memories connected to food. The first time I helped make Christmas dinner. The countless times I made (and ate) pineapple upside down cake. And, most importantly, the bless-ed weekly ritual of Sunday dinner.
Picture this… Roasted Cornish Game Hen, seasoned to perfection. Scratch-made Mashed Potatoes creamed together beautifully with the perfect amount of milk and butter. French-style Green Beans loved on by butter and a slice (or two) of American Cheese that created a luscious sauce. This feast would not be complete without dessert — Strawberry Shortcake (strawberry sauce atop shortcakes) with a dollop of Whip Cream and drizzled with melted butter (YES! Melted butter!)
In a world defined by chaos, want and a general curiosity about what it would be like to live a “normal” life, Sunday dinner was that thing that was consistent and meaningful. Sunday dinner made my insides feel whole, calm and “normal”.
I can still see my mom in the nook in our kitchen where the stove lived, seasoning meat and stirring pots. It was rare to see her with a recipe. She just went in, knowing what needed to be done and knowing she was going to do it right. And, right it always was. With the exception of attempts at making gravy from pan drippings, she always turned out stellar culinary creations that made my tummy do cartwheels…in a good way.
Now, there were no formalities around WHERE we ate. Sometimes the three of us would pile into my mom’s room, on her bed, and watch Football or a movie while we devoured the meal she had so lovingly prepared. There were other nights when we blessed the food and ate separate from one another. The location was unimportant, the food was what mattered.
And when she died, the one thing that continued to make me feel “normal” was the Sunday dinner I would prepare for myself each week. There were days that I cried into my plate, pained by the feeling of missing her. There were days I couldn’t cook, overcome by the vision of her in that little nook where the stove lived. And there were days when I smiled, grateful for the memories connected to this one special meal each week.
All these years later, while I may not pull out a can of “French-style” green beans or the frozen strawberry sauce, I still make Sunday dinner. Each meal is prepared with great thought and love. With each Sunday dinner, I lovingly give a piece of myself to those who partake, and quietly share a piece of my tattered old quilt with those I love.