Some of my friends think I’m crazy and others act impressed regarding my tradition of serving Sunday dinner. What was the norm in earlier years has been replaced by fast food burritos and sandwiches. When I was a child, restaurants were closed on Sundays! What??? I may be old-fashioned, but I think it’s nice to incorporate some good stuff from previous generations. Nothing against restaurants and supporting local businesses, but dinner around your table with folks you love is pretty much the best.
As I pack for our move to another city, I realize weekly Sunday dinner is something I’ll miss most. Our habit probably started in earnest when my mother-in-law, Billie, prepared a mid-day meal every Sunday for our family and passel of friends. I wrote about a typical Sunday at her house in an earlier post: How to Celebrate the “Lasts”. Of course, like all good memories, what was typical then is now very special.
As Billie became unable to handle the preparation, I took over. For many years she would work hard on Saturday to prepare the meal for the next day. I think her practice probably stemmed from a traditional belief that Sunday is a day of rest. Also, it was easier for her to spread out the work.
My prep work is not as organized as hers. I’m a bit more haphazard and last minute sometimes. The main goal is just to be together. Our immediate family and often friends join us. I try to remember what I’ve learned from Billie. She always had plenty for the random group that showed up, even when there really wasn’t plenty. Sometimes I actually wondered if the food had miraculously multiplied!
Friends comment that I must love to cook. I reply, “I don’t really love to cook; I love to gather people”. Nothing is more satisfying to a parent than having her kids join together in conversation and laughter around the table. The reward makes the effort worth it. Adding friends is the cherry on top because more folks and personalities bring interesting dynamics and deepening connections. Plus, it’s a good way to bless other people.
I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve resorted to ordering pizza, making a salad, and serving ice cream for dessert. When possible, I enjoy preparing larger, more time consuming meals. I think people feel special when you take time to feed them well.
A few weeks back as I was preparing a meal, the notion of “comfort food” came to mind.
1. food that is satisfying because it is prepared in a simple or traditional way and reminds you of home, family or friends. 2. food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.
I realized that I felt comforted in the preparation of the meal, knowing how fun it would be to have my people together. I wasn’t even thinking about the eating part, just the serving.
As a mom on the empty nest side of parenting, I encourage parents to open up their homes and tables. When you have little ones, it’s the busiest season, I know. But children gain so much from such a gathering. Watching you make the effort to create a special meal for loved ones is something they won’t forget. Also, we always thought our kids benefitted from meeting a variety of people.
One Sunday dinner favorite is a chicken casserole that I’ve made so many times I no longer have a recipe! I’m terrible about writing recipes because I so often “throw them together” and alter according to ingredients I have on hand. Thanks to my sister Diane for sharing it with me so long ago!
CHICKEN AND WILD RICE CASSEROLE
2 boxes of Uncle Ben’s traditional wild rice mix
2 small cans of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup (alteration: for those who dislike mushrooms:)
shredded chicken from 2 – 4 boiled chicken breasts or a rotisserie chicken from the grocery (skinned and deboned)
cream cheese – about 3 ounces (my addition when I was out of shredded cheese; it became official after that!)
chopped green onions (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese
Prepare rice according to directions. Add chicken, cream cheese, soup and green onion to taste. Mix well.
Spread in casserole dish and sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese atop.
Bake until bubbly. (If I’m in a hurry, which is usually the case, I warm it in microwave and then finish off in oven!)