My favorite meal is not about a combination of my favorite foods, but of the combination of the people gathered around my table. I grew up with Sunday dinners being a big production, with family and friends sharing my mom’s delicious meals around a table stretched to the max. Often we ate in shifts because there simply was not room for all to sit down at once, but no one seemed to mind. That fact never seemed to deter anyone from coming back every week. The food was always plentiful, along with the laughter, and we ended the day with many good memories. As a result of all these happy experiences, Sunday dinner was one tradition I wanted to continue with my own family and friends.
For me, the food itself is secondary to the relationships I hope to strengthen and encourage at our Sunday evening gatherings. I feel it is even more important in this age of faceless communication to spend at least a few hours a week being able to visit face to face. The grownups gossip, joke, brag, and complain about the week, while the youngsters do what kids do best: play, fight, and make up – all the while zipping about, laughing wildly, and being told to calm down. Friends and extended family members are always welcome to come as well, and they do so frequently. The adage “the more the merrier” is never truer than on a Sunday evening at my home.
Of course, since we have gathered to eat, food does play a part. Mostly the meals are dressier than weeknight fare, and I often cook the tried and true family favorites: chicken and dumplings, beef and noodles, anything grilled, vegetables, homemade rolls, and – oh my, yes – the desserts. Since I love to cook and Sunday is my day to shine. Sometimes I even throw in something new to shake things up a bit. But then every once in a while, I feel a little lazy, and we have takeout pizza. The important thing is that we are all together.
Over the years, I have made some changes to the tradition of Sunday dinner. We no longer eat in shifts because I have added more tables. My mom’s “good dishes” are replaced by Chinet paper products, and I seldom fill bowls of food to set on the table; instead our food is left in the pans, and we form a buffet line in the kitchen. When the meal is over, the older boys clear the table – a way for them to share in the responsibility of the meal. While the boys clean, the little girls and babies play, and the adults linger over a smidgeon more of dessert and a glass of sweet tea.
Words flow around and across the table as we debate topics, and sometimes ruffle one another’s feelings. But we remember we are family and friends. We forgive and overlook and move forward. And we all cherish the best thing about Sunday dinners: the love and time we share.
© 2015 Susan Miller