Growing up in the South, especially in the ‘Buckle of the Bible Belt’, there were two things that were a given every Sunday: Sunday morning church services followed by the entire family gathered round the family dinner table for Sunday dinner. My earliest memories are inextricably intertwined with dressing up in my Sunday best, fidgeting through the sermon, and then Sunday school, before heading home for my mom’s Sunday roast.
Mom liked to do a pot roast because it was so easy. She could set it in the oven on a low heat before we left for morning services and by the time we got home, the house smelled wonderful and that roast was beautifully tender. Seasoned just right with onions and carrots and would fall apart, right off your fork. Yum. When we got home Mom would whip up some sides, frequently mashed potatoes and green peas or green beans, sometimes other variations. She would top it off with warm dinner rolls and very sweet iced tea.
I was enlisted to help Mom at a very early age. At first, just setting the table; as I got older, helping her cook to take some of the work off of her. Much of what I learned about cooking I learned on those lazy Sunday afternoons. Food was cooked from scratch. No mixes or cans here. Dessert could be homemade banana pudding or a blackberry cobbler (with blackberries picked fresh from the bush in our back yard). For a really special occasion it might even be the family super-secret recipe Chewies (a blond brownie variation that is the ULITIMATE dessert!).
This was our tradition, every week, every Sunday, for years on end. Those memories of our family gathered around that dinner table are precious and rare. The food was comforting, familiar, and always delicious. It was one of the few times our family actually talked to each other. My brothers and I are so spread apart in ages that most of the time we were all going in different directions.
After dinner, Dad would settle into his ‘easy chair’ to watch whatever ball game was on TV. I would help Mom take care of the dishes and my brothers would scatter to whatever they had planned. Sunday Dinner was as much a state of mind as it was an event. After dinner the day was slower, more relaxed, allowing everyone to wind down, before the necessary return to routine the next day.
Many years have passed and times have changed so much. It’s just Mr. Belle and me now; my brothers all have families of their own. Dad passed a few years ago and Mom is living in a lovely retirement home. But I still treasure that long ingrained tradition from my childhood.
Today, it is more likely to be just Mr. Belle and me at a favorite restaurant. I do still cook, occasionally putting on a spread to rival my Mom’s best, but only rarely. Time, careers, and obligations seem to constantly get it the way. But we always take time on Sundays, to stop, thank God for our many blessings, and savor time with each other, as we once more share this ageless tradition together.
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