My family is comprised of many storytellers. My husband laughs about how there is always an exchange of stories (many we've heard at least ten times) whenever we have a family gatherings. It's true. I guess trips down memory lane take us to happy times.
It's inevitable that my parents' stories involve a tale which includes some reference to Granny's sausage gravy or chickens whose lives were lost when my Mamaw whacked their heads off and de-feathered them in front of the kids as she prepped Sunday dinner. I love the stories about my Papaw Roscoe, the prankster in the family who would play tricks on guests who came over for dinner. One prank included a contraption that he'd hide under their plate which was connected to a long tube which was run beneath the table cloth to Papaw's place setting. He had a button at the end of it so he could make their plate lift up and move around while they ate! Apparently he had an entire box full of such pranking gadgets.
My dad's early memories of Sunday lunch gatherings don't always conjure those warm and fuzzy feelings, though they are pretty funny. As a preacher's kid, he recalls long Sunday afternoons being entertained by church members and being threatened to behave, not to touch anything, where he needn't dare think about leaving the room where Mamaw couldn't keep a close eye on him. He recalls how ecstatic he and his sisters were when they would be invited to lunch at a church member's house who had kids and the chances of them breaking something weren't life threatening! :)
It's occurred to me that so many of our family stories stem from Sunday lunches or dinners. Sunday was different; there was no work, you went to church, you went to your grandparents' house (unless you were the one doing the entertaining or the preacher being entertained) for a long afternoon which always included a big meal.
Sundays felt different to me growing up. It was the day of the week when church was the centerpiece. It was the only day we napped in the afternoon and the day Dad would watch "This Old House" on PBS. Mom always made our lunch unless we had a church dinner. There wasn't ever a Sunday at grandma's house for me because my Dad's parents were typically busy pastoring and my other grandparents favored Cracker Barrel or a local diner more than their own kitchen (some things haven't changed!) Nonetheless, Sundays always felt different than any other day of the week. They always felt good.
When discussing the weekend's plans and obligations with my husband, I suggested we invite my grandparents, parents, and brother over for Sunday lunch. It's the first free day we have had in quite a while and Noel loved the idea and we always jump on the chance to entertain. I honestly didn't even begin preparing or planning a thing until 8:30 am, the day of our gathering. There was little fuss. It wasn't fancy. We prepared some good country-style food that my grandparents would appreciate. No chicken murders occurred in the backyard.
The menu was uncomplicated. I picked up a couple of pounds of cooked country ham at the local grocery, seasoned some Yukon gold potatoes which I roasted, sizzled up some bacon for a big pot of green beans, and I baked a loaf of fresh bread in my bread machine (the machine that makes my limited baking skills look impressive!). The prep work was less than an hour.
I failed to think through any type of dessert in advance. And since we abandoned any notion of a heart-healthy meal (bless you, sweet delicious pork!), I felt it was necessary to have a little something sweet. Did I mention we didn't have a plan? So, we finished out our Sunday lunch with French vanilla pudding and chocolate biscotti. Sure, it came from the Jello pudding box but I did add some chocolate extract just to redeem my lazy, unplanned dessert just a little.
Today felt different. It was Sunday. We enjoyed family gathered around our table and in true form we ended up telling stories. I introduced my 84-year-old grandfather to biscotti, which he enjoyed in his Burley Market & Cafe custom blended coffee. (Oh yeah, we worked in some "market research" as well.😊) We ate, we laughed, my kitchen was wrecked, and no one minded my Jello pudding dessert at all. In fact, they loved it. What was most important was that we gathered around the table.
So, I challenge you. If you haven't enjoyed a Sunday lunch around the table, gather soon! Make it simple, cook all weekend, or through together an uncomplicated meal. Use your good dishes and cloth napkins or use paper plates. What matters most is the time together. If we don't make time for gatherings around the table, those stories won't be told. And worse, there will be no more stories.
Need some inspiration? Copy our meal. (Meal for 7 with leftovers for supper!)
✔Country ham... (sliced up at the local deli)
✔Cubed Yukon Gold potatoes.... (Cute, toss in a bowl with a lot of olive oil Old Bay seasoning, black pepper, basil, and coarse salt. Bake on 350 for 45 minutes to an hour.)
✔Green Beans... (Sizzle 2/3 pack of (finely chopped) bacon and pepper in a stock pot. When halfway cooked, add two big cans of cut green beans. Use the juice in one can and drain the juice from the other can before adding.
✔Prepare a plate of bread and cheese.... I baked a loaf but you can always serve with a bread of your choice. I served Havarti, Swiss, and cheddar slices as well (we love some cheese!) Set out any mustard or mayo you enjoy. We offered cranberry honey mustard, mayo, yellow mustard, and horseradish. Did I mention that we have a condiment addiction in our home? It's a problem.
✔Dessert....Set out a bowl of Hershey kisses or a homemade cake. Remember, there is always room for Jello!😊
✔Put on a pot of coffee.
Enjoy each other.
The Burley Market & Cafe will be closed on Sundays so we can spend time with family. We encourage you to shop at our market on Saturday and prepare a Sunday dinner. You'll be glad you did.