Sunday dinner was always a thing growing up. We ate promptly at 5 and there was always roast chicken or beef for dinner, with mashed potatoes and gravy of course. During the week we would dine on the mainstays like spaghetti or goulash, and of course tuna casserole. But it was on Sunday that mom did some cooking. You have read here that my mother was a lovely woman who could burn water. This is true, I saw it happen. Somehow this did not happen on Sundays, not that I recall anyway. Sunday was always a good meal. I remember dad making a big deal out of sharpening his favorite knife to do the carving. First he would pull down from the cupboard an electric sharpener. This was just a motor with two grinding wheels and a guide for the blade. I remember the sound, and even the smell, it would make when he would grind away on his knife. Then he would do, as you see chefs do, and hone the edge by hand. But instead of using a round sharpening steel he would grab another knife and clickity clack away. “Steel sharpens steel,” he would say. Cool.
I also remember a few Sundays being a bigger deal too. There were some Sundays, which were neither close to the holidays nor in the middle of summer bbq season, when we would all pile in the car and head out to the grandparent’s house for Sunday dinner. Oftentimes my mother would ring her sisters and it would turn in to a full on family affair with aunts and uncles, cousins and . . . cousins. It was these Sundays I remember most. The full on familial Sunday. I always thought it was great because there were more kids to play hide and seek with. Now while you may have heard that I cook, it was not the thing back then for menfolk to be in the kitchen. The men were relegated to the living room to smoke, drink beer and watch the game while the women folk took to peeling, smashing, slicing, dicing and of course roasting.
I want to share a funny memory with you that just popped in to my head. My mother was raised in San Francisco and my father in North Dakota. My mother’s mother, Grandma D came from Reno and truthfully was not afraid to throw down in the kitchen, as it were. But my father’s mother, Grandma Judt, was a Vasseur, French Canadian, who cooked on a farm with some real old world technique. A side story my mother would tell is that Grandma Judt came down to our house one day, shortly after my mother had birthed yet another child, and set about making an amazing meal out of “nothing” in the cupboard. I so distinctly remember my mother always going on and on about how good a cook my father’s mother was. And she was. Her food was honest, flavorful and always covered in gravy.
So the story goes, one holiday meal at my mother’s mothers house, I must have been about 10 years old, while waiting at the table for dinner to be served, I went on and on about my father’s mother’s cooking. Awkward much? Yes, and I was just about to learn that lesson. I went on and on about Grandma Judt’s cooking when Grandma D appeared from the kitchen and set a deliciously browned and aromatic beef roast directly in front of me. “And what about your other grandma’s cooking?” she asked. There was never, ever a time that I can remember when an entire table of cousins went dead silent. Beat, beat, beat. “Oh yeah, her cooking is great too!”
The lesson I learned that day . . . comedic timing. The table roared, my grandmother both fake scowled and smiled at the same time, and the gravy was delightful.
This last Sunday I did a thing which I sometimes forget that I like to do. The forgetting bit makes me a little sad. I invited my across-the-street neighbors over for Sunday dinner. Roast lamb with red wine butter, green beans Thai style and roasted beets with garlic and lemon. For dessert, Strauss Family Creamery Mint ice cream. My neighbors kindly brought a salad of veggies and lettuce from their garden. We sat, drank whiskey and red wine, and visited. Pandora in the background accompanied our conversation both rich and light. The food was good, the company even better. I got a small tear when hugging them good bye, they both whispered, “Thanks for reaching out.”
While cleaning up I could not stop those words from running through my mind: Thanks for reaching out. Our phones, our computers, our books, our kids, our jobs, our commutes, our bill, our aches and pains. They all get in our way sometimes. So it seems to me that sometimes we just need to put all those things down and reach out to our across-the-street neighbors. Sounds silly when I read it back . . . but not really.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often