Jan 9, 2010

Sunday Dinner

I have been thinking about Sunday Dinners for quite a while. Back in the day, folks would go to church and then head home with extended family and friends to eat lunch together. The meal would be "Sunday fare" (like fried chicken, not sandwiches!) and somehow it all worked.

Many years ago my husband was a full-time pastor in a tiny town in the Florida panhandle. The church was small and made up of about three major family groups. There were two matriarchs: "Miss Ruby" and "Miss Edith." I'm not sure what Miss Edith did after the service, but Miss Ruby, et al had a routine that had been honed by decades of practice.

Any and all were invited to come. It never mattered how many--there was always plenty of food. Miss Ruby was a widow and lived by herself on a bay five miles up from the Gulf of Mexico. The view was splendid. On her enclosed porch was a giant table with many mismatched chairs. By the time my husband and I arrived after church, the process of getting lunch was already in high gear. Everyone had a job and everyone knew what to do, from the oldest to the youngest. I tried to pitch in, but they shooed me off to the living room where the men were sitting in their easy chairs talking about hunting. Good times.

Within 30 minutes there was fried something as the main course. Each week was different: chicken, chicken-fried steak, mullet and mullet roe--choice of red or white. (I'll talk about the roe in a minute.) Then there were several sides, one always being hush puppies. Another constant was FRESH scraped corn, sweet and creamy. With that was the tall glass of sweet tea in the heavy green glass (similar to the picture at right). The finale? Banana pudding or some other fantastic southern dessert.

HOW DID THEY DO THAT? It never crossed my mind to ask and now I want to know! (I do know a little about hunting, though, thanks to the living room conversations.)

I am restricted by time and location in a way those ladies weren't. They lived five minutes from church. We live 30 minutes away. They knew that church would be done at 12:00 on the dot and they hustled home. We never know when church will end--sometimes quite late. By then we're starving!

Because of our circumstances of distance and time, we eat out every Sunday. Despite that, I am still intrigued with the idea of making a "Sunday Dinner" once in a while, inviting folks to join us.

To that end I've been pondering menus and came across this book:

It just arrived today. If I manage to gear up and actually accomplish this Sunday Dinner thing, you know I'll blog about it!

Does anyone have actual experience with being in on that level of Sunday food prep? How was it accomplished? Were things done ahead of time? Keep in mind that Miss Ruby never used a crockpot or microwave. Miss Ruby was around 80 at the time. That was over 20 years ago. I don't think I'll be able to call Miss Ruby for help. However, I will always remember her as an example, a standard, if you will.

To Miss Ruby, Sunday Dinner hostess extraordinaire!

(PS--About that Roe. The red roe is fish eggs. The white roe was the other item needed to make baby fish. Each type came encased in a sac which was breaded with cornmeal and deep fried. Though there were no 10-foot poles about, I managed to never touch the stuff. I'm talented like that.)


The Glamorous Housewife said...

What a timely post! I am going to be blogging about EXACTLY what you need this week! You see, I throw either a Friday night or Saturday lunch EVERY WEEK!

I am Jewish and our Sabbath starts Friday night and continues on to Saturday. We are not supposed to cook (though we can prepare fresh salads, so long as no heat is involved)so everything must be made in advance and then warmed in the oven before serving.

My friends and I often throw huge meals- sometimes as many as 20 adults every weekend.

I thought it would be fun to blog about how I prepare so I did my best to take pictures of this week's prep so everyone can learn how it is done! So be sure to check back to www.talesofaretromodernhousewife.blogspot.com for some tips and menu ideas.

Thanks doll,
The Glamorous Housewife

Packrat said...

Roe - I laughed, but I wouldn't touch it either! That goes for what is called caviar, too.

I just wrote this big long reply, but HTML wouldn't accept it. I'll post it on my blog.

Here I'll say that we always had huge meals and lots of people (until we moved far away from all of family and friends).

Mrs Tailleur said...

I was raised by a mother who did NOT work on Sunday's . She fried Chicken on Saturday afternoon ,pealed potatoes and did the whole thing on Saturday. Sunday she would only heat up the food after church. We always had company usually my married brothers and sisters and their children , sometimes people from church.My mother was the best hostess. Her house was always clean , she loved to cook for a crowd. If someone just stopped by she offered them coffee and usually a treat. I hope to be like her someday, everyday i try. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

Civilla said...

Hi, Roxanne! Thanks for coming to my blog and leaving a comment on the biscuits and bacon gravy.

No, I'm not Southern -- I'm from the Greater New York City area, but my husband was in the Army when we married in 1970 and we were sent to Germany. While there, we joined an American Southern fundamentalist sect (we had church in the building belonging to the German congregation, but due to the language difference, we American military people and families had our own separate service).

This is when I was introduced to the big Sunday dinners you mention!!!

There was nothing like them.

Here's how they did it (I think).

Church got out at the same time, pretty much, each Sunday.

It was quite a drive from the church building to the base housing areas where most of our families lived. Some lived in the German economy in rented apartments. Both were far away from the church building, and inconvenient to get to. But, dinner was ready quickly.

The roast was put in the oven before church. So were the baked potatoes and the baked beans. So, they were done by the time we all got there.

I can't believe they never burned down an apartment, but it never happened.

Salads were prepared the night before and Saran Wrap placed over the bowl. Pies and cakes were baked the day before, too. So were the gelatin salads.

The iced tea was already made, too, and THE TABLE WAS SET the night before, or before church.

This took much preparation, of course. Usually 3 or 4 families would eat this dinner together, with the children. The children were served first.

Civilla said...

To continue about the big Sunday dinner:

Once we got to the home of the family providing the dinner, all the ladies would help. Somebody would see to it that the biscuits (usually boughten ones from the store, or homemade ones also prepared the day before) were browned in the oven and buttered.

The coffee pot was put on. The cream and sugar put out.

Somebody else would see to it that the iced tea was poured. Somebody else would see to it that the salad was unwrapped and put on the table and the dressings put out.

Then the roast would be carved and the potatoes, or casseroles, or corn, or whatever, were put on the table.

Coffee and desserts were served out afterward.

It seemed like it took many hands. Nobody left church early, because that would be a sin. Really. Also, the families usually only had one car, so they had to leave church together.

The key was preparation beforehand, puting the roast in the oven before church, and many hands making light work. The ladies all helped to clean up.

It was magic. Also, of course, there was little fast food then. German restaurants were super-expensive. Sometimes we would have a potluck at church, but almost everything was done in peoples' homes.

I really miss that. Thanks for your posts! If I had a girl, I would have named her Roxanne, because that is my favorite name!!!

HappyMom said...

I was excited about the prospect of a "proper" Sunday dinner....until you mentioned the roe!! I think my pole would be at least 20 feet if not more!! Back to the Sunday dinner. I'm looking forward to your post about it. And of course am willing to contribute to the actual one!

Roxanne said...

Glamorous--I will be over "directly" (southernism) to gather up that info!! Since we're both posting about it, maybe we're creating a trend (I hope).

Packrat--I'll be over to see your post when it's up, too. It sounds like roe/caviar won't be one of your suggestions, though...

Mrs. Tailleur--Since we're on a roll, do you think you'll be doing a post describing how your mom managed to DO this?? How did she heat up things like the fried chicken?

Civilla--Thank you for the details! That sounds like what I experienced at Miss Ruby's. I'm gleaning the details from everyone and I'm going to figure out how to make this work, I really am!

PS--We can make you an honorary southerner since you appreciate the food LOL!

HappyMom (aka as my sister)--You're on! If we can wrangle this thing into being, we'll do it.

I must say that I was SURE you'd want the roe--especially the white roe.


Roxanne said...

Civilla--"Roxanne" has definitely been an interesting name experience for me. During school I didn't like it, but I've come to embrace it as I've grown older.

If I had been a boy, my parents were going to name me "Rex." Now THAT would have been interesting at school!

Anonymous said...

Growing up, we had a big "Sunday Dinner" and a nap afterwards. However we weren't a church going family so time wasn't an issue then.

When we moved in with my grandparents, we went to church and Sunday school and then came home for dinner. My grandma had one of those ovens where you could set the timer to start cooking while you were away so the food would be done just right when you came home. That and plenty of store bought prepared food and instant potatoes and we were eating within a half hour of being home.

We could never do this in my house. My husband can barely handle the crockpot being on while we are out, let alone the oven. Once in a while we go out to dinner, or more often, we will have a roast type meal that I cooked the night before.


Civilla said...

Yay! I'm an honorary Southerner! A born-again Southerner! Thanks! Love it!

We need to bring back the Sunday dinner. It's just too easy to go out to eat and take friends out. But, some things are worth the effort (I'm preaching to myself). I also miss having bridal and baby showers in homes instead of in church or community halls. I miss the personal touch, even though it was not convenient.

I think people today are feel threatened going into other peoples' homes.

Roxanne said...

Trixie said:

We could never do this in my house. My husband can barely handle the crockpot being on while we are out, let alone the oven.

This is the problem in our house, too. That and the fact that we are gone from 8am to 1 or 2pm.

I think reheating is going to be my only option, with all the prep done ahead of time.

Civilla--When one appreciates southern food, one gets privileges LOL!

I agree--we've distanced ourselves from every personal point of contact. That might also explain why homes are so cluttered and messy. No one wants to make sure they're "company ready!"

Civilla said...

I have blamed "the demise of all things" (not being home-oriented any more) on working wives, but I think I was wrong about that.

Thinking back, some of the military wives in Germany who gave those big dinners were full-time working wives, as was I (of course, we were young and spry). My mother-in-law was also a full-time working wife (a dental assistant on her feet all day), but they all had well-run, well-stocked homes.

It was because they had no choice: there was not much fast food available; grocery stores were not open 24 hours a day or on Sundays; there were few convenience stores. You had to be organized and stocked up, and doing things in restaurants or church halls (not as many church fellowship halls years ago, either) was usually not an option.

Modern life just makes it too easy to NOT be home-oriented. And, we've lost the burden for keeping our homes "company ready."

Packrat said...

Note to Civilla and Rest - you are right, working wives weren't the demise. My mom and her mom worked full-time outside the home. In some ways we still have Sunday dinner. It just isn't quite as fancy as in table cloths, getting dressed up, etc. The other problem is that my husband usually works on Sunday.

Roxanne said...

Civilla said:

Modern life just makes it too easy to NOT be home-oriented. And, we've lost the burden for keeping our homes "company ready."

I think you hit the nail on the head. When the general understanding of society was that family and community were very important, the home was where the interaction happened. That meant that the home was cared for and the family was priority whether the woman worked outside the home or not.

Now, more often than not, home is the place to "crash" and therefore is low on the list of priorities. The modern conveniences have enabled us to entertain elsewhere and we're usually very happy to do so.

I have to admit that I'd much rather go to a restaurant after church than go to all the "work" (notice the term I used!) of preparing a meal and cleaning up before and after *just* for family and friends.

Our mindsets are completely different as a whole.

I really want to attempt to claim some of what we've lost.

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