Some of my friends thought I was a bit crazy; others seemed impressed, regarding my tradition of serving Sunday dinner. What was the norm in earlier years has often been replaced by fast food. When I was a child, restaurants were closed on Sundays! 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.
A couple of years ago I packed up and moved from Wilmington, North Carolina to Columbia, South Carolina. I realized that I’d really miss Sunday dinners! These days, when we’re visiting Wilmington I try to scrounge up a meal on Sundays— any opportunity to see our loved ones! It’s not the same as it once was, but change is good, right? Nowadays we often order pizza, make a salad and serve ice-cream for dessert. But I still enjoy home-cooked meals when possible; I think everyone feels special when you take time to feed them well.
Our Sunday dinner tradition 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 friends would join us around the table. I’d try to remember what I’d 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 nourish other people.
Awhile 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 believe that our children 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. Many 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
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!)