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McArthur's law and roast potatoes

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<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1144805729/gallery_29805_1195_14898.jpg" hspace="5" align="left">by Margaret McArthur

The doorbell rang while I was dishing dinner to Ajax and Willow -- a half can each of Friskies Turkey and Giblets served in Pyrex custard cups. Callers are rare in the early evening, so as I extricated my ankles from avid feline fur and opened the door, I was prepared to greet a siding salesman or a pair of white-shirted missionaries barely old enough to shave. Instead, the doorway disclosed a bouquet of party-dressed six year olds -- one carried a Marshall Fields shopping bag, another clutched a sheet from a yellow legal pad.

A tiny blonde blossom stepped up as Spokesgrrrl and consulted the canary document. Looking up, she thrust it in my direction. "Do you have any of the things on this paper? Kelsey’s having a scavenger hunt for her birthday party."

Kids still have birthday parties that don't involve bad pizza, a dizzying decibel level and surrogate Moms far from the family McMansion? Who knew? I scanned the list and grabbed the item closest to hand, which, given the hour, was a napkin on the coffee table -- in this case the cocktail variety, bearing the damp imprint of a martini glass and a handy recipe for my winsome mixologists to be.

I wended my way back to the kitchen and mused about the wonder of this encounter. A scavenger hunt! Hair ribbons! Was it possible that Kelsey's mother had baked the birthday cake rather than order the supermarket slab? Had she done better than the tombstone encrusted with shortening buttercream, limned with an image of Barbie, outlined in gel the texture and color of Colgate on crack? I dared to hope. I really wanted to hope.

McArthur's Law: Nostalgia leads to heart failure, selective memory and hardening of the attitudes. The good old days weren't. Tomorrow is another day, Maggie, and it just might be a better day than yesterday. This principle helps how this bemused, befuddled and bufflebrained woman greets the morning, because any other way would encourage vapors, Valium and lipstick neglect.

But the sweet scavengers had shown up Proust and his madeleines as the pikers they are. I grated cheddar for the cheese grits and discovered that my red mules had meandered down that twisty treacherous path: Memory Lane.

Along with pin-the-tail on the donkey, white industrial garter belts and an ashtray on my desk at work, what else had gone the way of MS-DOS and the dodo while I was taking a forty year nap? Cousins imprisoned in iron lungs before Salk invented polio vaccine. Restrooms labeled “White” and “Colored.” Cars without seatbelts or cup holders. The Soviet bloc.

All are as extinct as that red-handled Rube Goldberg device the eggbeater, three-martini lunches and bridge in the afternoon. Remember a letter in the mailbox, glam rock and macramé plant holders, to say nothing of those October 31sts when I waited for the dark and snow of a Quebec Halloween, wearing quilted pants under my fairy princess costume. We spared nary a worry about razor blades as we gobbled homemade fudge and McIntosh apples and popcorn balls that other kids' Mums had made from scratch.

I stirred my grits and read the Wednesday grocery store flyer I'd propped against the Cuisinart. Prime rib was on sale, but way out of reach for me -- if meat costs more than three bucks a pound, I can't afford it. Russets were on sale for 99 cents a ten-pound bag, carrots were 39 cents a pound, and -- be still my Anglo heart -- Brussels sprouts were a steal at a buck ninety per sixteen-ounce package. Still, while I informed the cats that the gravy train ended here, and they should look forward to breakfast, I considered standing rib, roast potatoes, carrots and sprouts. I longed for Sunday dinner.

<div align="center">* * * * *</div>

I've never cooked the classic Sunday dinner, which is consumed after church in the early afternoon. With typical understatement, the English call it Sunday lunch. In my WASPy household in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, it was the culinary touchstone of my youth. I know it was, too, for the French-Canadian Catholics who made up ninety-eight percent of the population of my town; I could sniff the same seductive wispy tendrils of roasting meat and wild blueberry pie wafting from their windows, the same aromas that filled our kitchen on that special day.

St. James Anglican Church is a tiny historical and architectural jewel, snuggled next to the docks on the St. Lawrence, the very waters that were the kick-off point for Radisson, Des Groseillers, Marquette, Joliet, La Verendrye, Cartier, Champlain, and de La Salle. Name a French guy with a county, river or town (or park or hotel, for that matter) named after him anywhere in North America, and he'd dipped his paddle into my harbor. He mapped the continent, thrilled my ten-year-old history geek self, and filled the vaults of the Hudson's Bay Company with beaver pelts and gold.

We went to Matins because St. James was Low Church. Although Communion was offered every Sunday and Friday at eight, the popular eleven o'clock was the magnificent Matins service, with Holy Eucharist offered only once a month in the featured time slot -- just often enough to keep the Nicene Creed fresh in memory. My church was built by the Recollet Fathers in 1703, rebuilt in 1754, and impounded by the English conquerors after the Seven Years' War. A renovation in 1830 cast off the three-foot thick walls erected for a more dangerous time, revealing the light and grace of late-colonial Georgian interior architecture within.

It was the first beautiful building I'd ever known. Even when we'd checked out the hymns on the board and found them seriously wanting, even when Canon Gourlay preached his driest -- even when Malcolm Moir didn’t stride down the nave in full Highland regimentals -- there were always the tablets on the walls celebrating the lives, deaths and marriages of parishioners who pulled up the kneelers two-hundred years ago. As an eight-year-old innocent, I couldn't help but notice all those Henriettas and Altheas who died before they were thirty were preceded in the cemetery by six children. Sir Isaac Brock, the victor and hero of the Battle of Queenston Heights, the commander who took back Detroit for the British, the man who kicked American ass all the way back to Buffalo, visited his sister in the Regency rectory because she was married to the pastor.

Most thrilling for us kids was the ancient trap door hidden behind the font, so those Papist Recollet Brothers could make a subterranean escape into the Ursuline Convent across the street when the local Iroquois decided that conversion was not an option. The bell rope hung behind it, and my brother in his altar boy black and white pulled it at 10:58 -- the bells chimed as sweetly as they had when George the Third was king.

I am breaking McArthur's Law, but nostalgia for that beautiful church, and the Casavant Freres organ and the Wesley brother’s hymns -- pumped out by Mrs. Kendall, the wren-like wife of the verger -- are the happy incidental melding of history, art, architecture, music and Parish politics that, excepting my family life, were the sweet, savory and spicy of the McArthur I am today. With all due respect, your mall superchurch just doesn't cut the mustard.

My mother was not a regular attender, even by Episcopalian standards -- I think she managed to dodge even the Easter and Christmas services. Daddy dragged his butt out of bed Sunday morning after a late night dancing and wallowing to the quartet from Rigoletto, performed by the band of amateur opera singers on the payroll of the Blue Bird Café. My parents tripped in at three a.m. after a cheap date dancing the bossa nova and criticizing the reedy tenor's take on “Nessun Dorma.” Mummy got a pass – a free ticket allowing her to sleep until 11:00, sip some espresso from the stovetop Melitta, and start Sunday prep. When I turned ten, I introduced myself to the Mixmaster manual and Fanny Farmer. I begged a pastry lesson from my mother, and devoted my Saturday nights to babysitting my younger siblings, rolling out pie dough, gossiping with Joanne Kathan (phone cradled against my neck as I painted my nails) and watching The Avengers. (I didn’t consider this a boring teen Saturday night, by the way, and my parents even paid me the going rate of thirty-five cents an hour Canadian for my services.)

With dessert stashed on the sideboard, Mummy had the time to demonstate how delicious a meat and potatoes dinner could be. The old Dominion Store on rue Des Forges sold prime beef (called in Canada “Grade A,” an appellation stamped into the creamy fat with purplish-blue ink); pork that roasted up tender, not stiff; Canadian lamb; and fresh turkey. She was the mistress of the English savory sauces -- mint, red currant and pan gravy from Five Roses flour blended into pan drippings and meat juices. Today, she's a sophisticated cook -- the kind who always has homemade demi-glace at her fingertips -- but in her early thirties she could stir up a dark-brown, madly meaty gravy with nothing but drippings, flour, water and salt and pepper.

Daddy, Ian, Meg and I shed our boots and scarves in the tiny vestibule, jostling for the opportunity to grab that first smell. We'd impersonate a basket of baby bloodhounds, sniffling, wiggling our bottoms and practically barking for joy. Was it roast beef day, or leg of lamb day or the happy Sunday when the glorious crackle-crusted roast pork hunched on the platter? (Roast pork meant applesauce!) Would it be potatoes roasted in the melted suet or Yorkshire Pud? A handful of Sundays, it was both, an event so miraculous that I can still remember what I was wearing on each of them. My mother was an early carb-counter, the better to slip into the toreador pants and tiny-waisted circle skirts she wore on Saturday nights, who meted out rice by the grain during the week, but Sunday was the feast day of St. Starch. The vegetables came and went as the seasons dictated, but the old faithfuls were carrots and Brussels sprouts -- come to think of it, they’re semper fi on my table, to this day.

I remember only two conversational themes, but they were far ranging and endlessly gripping. We talked about the many excellences of dinner, whether the stuffing was tastier this time than last, the blueberries more tart, the asparagus fatter. Then we processed down the aisle like Sunday morning drama critics, counting the house -- fifty on a good Sunday -- the costumes (had Colonel Moir worn his regimentals -- the kilt, the sporran, the dirk in his sock?) the set (skimpy altar flowers) and always, the music. What a misguided selection of hymns this week! We weren't an overtly religious family (the Anglican way, after all) but we were musical, and being stuck with a couple of stinkers like 242 (Jesus to thy Table Led) or 650 (O Savior when we have no work) -- well, it made us grumpy. After we'd fought for the last piece of pie, Ian and I did the dishes as we did every night, then hit the piano bench. I didn’t grow up in a log cabin or a Victorian parsonage -- we had avocado appliances, The Doors on the turntable and wine with dinner, but we huddled around Daddy as he accompanied our Sunday afternoon sing-along, like the offspring of Louisa May Alcott. We’d sing the hymns we'd wanted at Church, like 401 (Immortal Invisible God Only Wise) or 406 (Guide me O thou great Jehovah), then we'd pull out the secular songbooks – Steven Foster's Greatest Hits, Airs of Old Scotland, and Songs and Shanties of Newfoundland, -- a special favorite.

After a final chorus of "The Squid Jiggin’ Ground", the second half of Sunday was a diminuendo -- homework, napping parents, writing the mandated weekly letters to our grandmothers. I don't remember Sunday supper, though I know we had one. I do remember that sinking of heart as I slipped into bed, knowing that nine hours hence I'd be waiting for the school bus in miniskirt and pantyhose, thawing my thighs in first-period geometry. The cubicle has replaced the classroom, but I slip into bed on Sunday night as bummed as I was when I was sweet sixteen.

My modern Sunday routine is bacon and eggs at noon and dinner at nine, probably a bowl of soup or a home-stretched pizza. I like baking on a Sunday afternoon, so the Sunday meal is likely to feature dessert, not a sure thing on any other night. But if I'm not keeping the faith about Sunday dinner, looming as large as it does in the makeup of the modern gastromical me, why should anyone? I gave over a portion of my Monday in the cubicle compound conducting on-site research.

Here's my demographic sample: fifteen folks, 45 percent African-American, mostly with roots in Mississippi, like most black folks around Chicago, and mostly members of large evangelical churches. The other fifty-five per cent are Caucasian -- and like most white folks around Chicago, Roman Catholics of Irish, Italian, Polish or Hispanic descent. When I asked, “Did your Mom make a big Sunday dinner after church every week?” their eyes lit up -- all thirty orbs.

“My grandma cooked for all thirteen of us kids, her thirty other grandbabies, and the aunts and uncles. It was family visiting day.” When I asked how she'd managed to provide a spread like that and still sing in the choir, Ebony said, “Grandma made everything the night before -- the ham, the chicken, the greens, the spaghetti, the cornbread, the pies, the coconut cake, the lemonade -- and she'd just heat things up a bit.” I broke a sweat thinking about cooking anything, let alone heating it up, in Alcorn, Mississippi in August. Mrs. Ebony doesn’t make Sunday dinner -- they like to stop for Popeye’s on the way home from service.

“Yeah, Mom would put a pot roast in the slow-cooker way before we left for Mass, and I'd peel potatoes when we got home. Always cabbage, mashed potatoes, Jell-O salad, dinner rolls -- stuff like that. She wasn't much for desserts, but we'd always get a pie from Baker's Square. We'd wash the dishes, sit around the table and play cards. It was really fun! Sometimes my cousins would come around.” Janet's crockpot doesn’t get much action these days. “Well, since we go to 6:15 Saturday Mass, we mooch around on Sunday -- I'll do laundry and maybe Jeff will throw something on the grill around four. “

Jim tore a page from his Dilbert calendar. ”We'd eat roast duck and red cabbage and pierogis at Grandma’s after Mass. The uncles would drink vodka shots and us kids would play stickball in the alley when were little, or smoke weed in the park when we got older. It was fun.” And last Sunday? “Well, we go to 6:15 Saturday Mass, and Karen doesn’t like to cook, so mostly I'll throw something on the grill around four.”

Keath mumbled: he was busy deleting personal email. “My Gram used to have us over for ham biscuits and gravy after service, me and my cousins. It was fun, but now? Mom looks at us mad crazy if we ask her to cook -- anytime. There's a soul food place on 73rd where we hang after service, or I'll go to the Golden Corral with some of my homes from Youth Choir.”

I felt less guilty -- even the faithful have dropped along the wayside, at the barbecue grill, the buffet or Burger King. The two last nails to seal the casket on the dining room table -- the final resting place of Sunday dinner -- are women with jobs, and the Vatican’s decision to offer a sneak liturgical preview on Saturday night. Like me, everyone misses the food and the occasion, but like any folks dealing with the dear departed, we smile and talk sweet, and move on.

My co-workers weren’t eager to leave the wake -- they lingered, testifying to Nonna’s braccioles or Gammy’s corned beef. Nostalgic, yes, but I didn't feel wistful, or shackled by McArthur's Law. We were a happy scrum of work buddies, invoking the ghost of Sunday dinners past. Just before we decided that it was time to scatter and look busy, Juwanna poked her head over the divider.

“Hey, I had Sunday dinner yesterday at Big Mama's: my Mom, my kids, my sisters and their kids -- looking so fine in their church clothes. My Mom cooked shit when I was little cause she was a crack ho back then and DCFS placed me with Big Mama. Mom's been straight for years, but she still doesn't cook. We all picked over the collards and my sister made Jiffy cornbread. Big Mama had roast chicken and fried chicken, mac-and-cheese, peach cobbler and caramel cake, just like back in the day. We played cards after dinner and the kids ran around. It's like the beginning of the week for us.”

A wag brought up Mapquest and asked for Big Mama's address. I began to check my voicemail and then thumped down the phone. Juwanna was right! All those Sunday feasts were ushering in the new week, not marking the end of the old. How had I forgotten that? My attendance chart at Sunday School was solid stick-on stars, and I’d received my Confirmation from Russell Quebec on May 31, 1965. I remember the day because the Bishop noted it in my Book of Common Prayer when he autographed it for me, not because it was the date I underwent a spiritual awakening -- in fact, it was down the slippery slope shortly after. I’d quickly outgrown the white lace minidress in which I received my first sip of Communion wine.

During the months leading up to Y2K I'd taken some nerdy interest in the calendar. Back then, I knew that months that start with a Sunday also feature a Friday the 13th, and knew whether Denis the calendar monk was The Short or The Fat. I knew back then that the Biblical Sabbath was the last day of the week -- Saturday -- and that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday (Mark 16:9.) Pentecost, the first meeting of the Christian church, fell on a Sunday, not the Sabbath. (Acts 2:1) The Quakers call Sunday First Day. Heck, who cares if the International Organization for Standardization decided that Monday is the kick-off for the week (ISO-8601) The wonks at the ISO are busy sorting out ANSI E-standards, so they live for Monday when we all log on, pull up our mail and open our calendars. But in Russian, the translation for Monday is something like “Do Nothing Day,” celebrated in cubicles everywhere.

Even agnostics like me can embrace the comforting concept that Sunday Dinner isn't pulling down the scrim on the old week, but starting off the new one with a bang. And I did, back then -- singing out loud, eating a brilliant meal at lunchtime, writing to my grandmothers, setting my hair on orange juice cans and drifting off to bed listening to White Rabbit. It’s sustaining to know that the first day of the week isn't really Monday, but Sunday -- for 6:15 Saturday Mass attendees and fallen-away Episcopalians like me, it’s a wondrous correction.

There are lots of Greek and Italian recipes for roast potatoes in vogue right now -- just cut ‘em up and cuddle them around the roast. Along with the techniques beloved of grillers and roasters that involve nothing but unpeeled baby red potatoes slung on the grill or in the oven, they supply spuds that are fine in their way, but they’re not Sunday Roast Potatoes, which everyone --everyone -- needs to know how to cook. For starch salvation, peel some medium russets (Americans might know them as Idahoes) and cut them in half. Parboil until they're about halfway cooked. Lower them into the pan drippings when the roast has an hour to go. If you don’t have enough drippings to come halfway up the sides, add some shortening or lard -- never the Extra Virgin or the canola oil. When you tong them from the pan, they'll be crispy and golden without, mealy, starchy and soft within. Pass the gravy boat -- that's a righteous start to a new week.

Margaret McArthur, aka maggiethecat, is host and Dark Lady of the Daily Gullet Competition forum. She writes, cooks and tends her garden near Chicago.

Impression of St. James Anglican Church, Trois-Rivieres, Quebec by Dave Scantland, aka Dave the Cook, after a photo from the Trois-Rivieres web site.

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I loved this piece, Maggie. Alot. Thanks. I love a "little roast", as my grandmother, the one who couldn't cook a lick, used to say as we arrived for Sunday lunch at her house. It was usually as dry as a bucket of sand, and served with mashed potatoes, little green peas, accompanied by some jello salad with miracle whip artfully placed on top.

Too bad about the industrial garter belts, though. I guess they went the way of vent windows in cars and knobs on radios (two things that engineers should revisit, immediately).


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Great article. Brought back lots of memories. My mother used to do Sunday lunch. The whole entire family would come over to our house, we'd have pot roast with potatos and carrots or fried chicken. Sometimes, we'd have ham and corn casserole. Always some sort of pie or pound cake for dessert. Those dinner rolls that you buy in the package and bake off. A pitcher of sweet tea was onmipresent. Back then, you couldn't buy alcohol on Sundays in our town, so the night before my uncle would stock up on cheap wine in the box that no one would even dream of drinking now, and after lunch was cleared, the adults would sit around the table drinking wine and playing cards. That's one of my fondest memories, watching them all sit around the table and get funnier and funnier as the day wore on, drinking their wine and playing their cards and telling their stories. So many of them are dead now. When my mother and I moved to China with my stepfather, of course the Sunday dinners died. I miss them. I wonder if she'd make one if I asked her?


-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Wow, what a kick in the memory! My mother would drag me to Sunday School and Nana would cook a roast, potatoes, a veg and ALWAYS a desert. (We lived in the house with Nana & Pop) When we came in, it was always the guessing game as described above, with the occasional addition of a ham or a roast chicken (with stuffing! :wub: )

Maggie, thanks for the walk down memory lane!


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I really love this article. It has so many good links that it reads something like the best Wikipedia articles, but it's a meaningful short story which touches on so many things, and especially time, taking the time to mark the passage of a new week and share that with family. Yes, it does help to have some kind of rite of passage to begin the new week, and it's a shame that the fast pace of the lives we lead in North America (and not only North America) today makes that more difficult. One of the things that a habitual Sabbath-breaker like me (my longest teaching day is on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath) appreciates about the Sabbath observance I work through instead of taking part in is that in this world of rushing and cellphone access, it enforces a day of contemplation when the telephone and other electronic devices are off. We have a lot of interchange on an electronic medium like this, but there is really no substitute for breaking bread around a table.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I miss family dinners in general. We didn't have regular Sunday dinners, but we would get together for birthdays and christmas for a while. I think they stopped happening altogether about the time I was 12.

I very much hope that, whenever/however my own family forms, I am able to reinstitute the 'sunday dinner' tradition. And board games! It's like twisting arms to try and get my friends into playing them.

Great article. Very heartwarming.


the tall drink of water...

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I really enjoyed this article, but you might be interested to know that for me at least, this amble down memory lane doesn't leave my feet particularly tired. I'm still in my twenties, but up until a few years ago (when I finally moved out of my parents' house) this was my Sunday norm. In fact, I still regularly pop over for Sunday lunch just to ensure standards are being kept up in my absence. For what it's worth, they are!

Although not especially religious, our family went to church every week when I was a kid, and when I became a church organist in my mid-teens my fate was sealed! As such, discussions of the morning's hymns are still a regular staple of lunchtime conversation. While not a fan of Immortal Invisible I definitely approve of Guide me O thou great Jehovah.

I am of course aware that Sunday lunch is something of an anachronism in this day and age. Indeed, when I started going out with my girlfriend in my early 20s, she couldn't believe that my Sunday revolved around dinner in this way. I pretty much refused to miss it. Despite it being unusual, I wasn't alone. A number of my peers had a similar enough Sunday routine, and some still do to the best of my knowledge. It's good to know there are a few pockets of resistance left.

Unfortunately, I must confess that Sunday lunch is a *very* rare event in my own house. I fool myself into thinking that we don't bother with it because there's no point going to such trouble when there's only 2 of us. I fool myself into thinking that if and when we have a family of our own, Sundays will be like they were when I was growing up. I fool myself into thinking that the offspring of our generation will know the feeling of opening the front door to be greeted by that magical Sunday aroma.

Alas, that seems unlikely.

Si

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Oh, the memories this brought back! We had a family style dinner every evening and those roasts my mother cooked have to be among my most treasured memories. She would stuff a pork roast with cloves of garlic, coat the exterior with coarse ground black pepper and salt...the outside was crispy and the inside sooo tender. Served with the pan-roasted potatoes that had soaked up the juices....I'm drooling just remembering the contrast of flavors and tastes. And yes, applesauce - usually with horseradish or garlic in it just for good measure. She passed on a Friday of Memorial day weekend in 1984 - and I still miss her and her cooking. Strange note, by the way - she died after spending the night in my little brother's brand new apartment (she and my father were planning to leave Boston for Northern California the next afternoon). First night in the apartment and she dies. But she had cooked and stocked his fridge and as we all arrived to attend to the funeral details, we still had her cooking (as well as a fresh-brewed pot of tea on the counter) to sustain us - how strange is that?

I think I may just have to stop by the butcher's and have a look at a pork roast tonite for Sunday's dinner....Thank you for a wonderful piece!

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It does bring back memories. And I still do the Sunday roast tradition today. It's usually a prime rib or roast pork, (it will be roast pork this Sunday), and it's the one time of the week where we are all able to sit down and spend a meal together. To me, Sunday dinner isn't a dinner without a roast of something on the table, with all the trimmings, roast potatoes or mashed, roasted veggies, gravy, dinner rolls, a glass of wine and a water glass in front of us. My son is at an age, where we offer him a half glass of wine with Sunday dinner, as my parents did with my brother and I when we entered our teens, although he still prefers his Rob Roys. And rolls his eyes when I say it's "Sunday Dinner", but I note he's the first one to the table.

And even if I seldom bother to make dessert during the week, there's always a dessert for Sunday dinner. I even have the ruffled apron my mother wore when she made Sunday dinners, and the chef's apron my father wore when he took over the Sunday dinner preparation. Great article, Maggie.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Inspired by this article, I've got a Sunday roast coming up tomorrow and I've issued The Sunday Dinner Challenge.

Post your results here and lets see if you can recreate some of those memories.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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What a great article. I was a bit envious because though I come from a family of good cooks and eaters, we didn't have this weekly ritual. (We also didn't go to church so there you go!)

But. I think the tradition of gathering to eat together on Sundays is a strong one and will endure even if it changes form. For some reason and without effort, I end up having friends over for an early dinner on Sundays. Usually for something easy and cheap like a pork shoulder blade roast. Season it, throw it in the oven, and forget about it. It's definitely not like a "dinner party." If I had to come up with a quicky way to distinguish, I'd say, "Saturday night dinners are all about the sauces, and Sunday night dinners are all about the gravy."

The idea that Sunday is the *start* of the week is still pinging around my brain. Brilliant!


My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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  If I had to come up with a quicky way to distinguish, I'd say, "Saturday night dinners are all about the sauces, and Sunday night dinners are all about the gravy." 

Now that's brilliant, Ingrid. I love your Sunday dinner tradition.

I've been musing more since this piece went up than while I was writing it. I am a Shiksa lurker on the What we're Cooking for Shabbos thread and considering the spiritual connection. My observant Jewish and Muslim friends have feast days tied to thier faiths and observe them. Even my most religious Christian friends don't. I have NO DESIRE to see this become a religious/political platform for anyone, but I if there are any preachers, seminarians or bishops out there, feel free to wade in.

Chicken tostadas from Rick Bayless tonight.)


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Sunday dinner. As I put tonight's dinner together, memories kept crowding my mind. Sunday dinner was dinnertime and not lunch at our house. It was the night my mother brought out the good crystal and china and the Sunday table was where my brother and I learned how to set a formal table, which knife or fork to use and how to fold a napkin. It was the place where we grew into adults as we learned the art of polite dinner conversation, took our first sips of wine, learned how to treat fine china and crystal and sat patiently until everyone was finished.

At our house, the setting of the table for Sunday dinner was almost as important as the dinner itself. Wine glass, water glass, main plate, side plate. Meat, salad and dessert forks. Butter knives and meat knives. Spoons at the top for coffee for the adults. And there was always some sort of centerpiece. Fresh flowers were Mother's favourites, but a candle would do in a pinch. I pinched tonight and used a candle. Cloth napkins, folded properly and fanned on the main plate.

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Tonight's dinner was roast pork with a mustard herb crust:

Going into the oven:

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Coming out:

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Broccoli gratin witha mustard breadcrumb streusel:

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Mashed potatoes and gravy

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And of course dinner rolls:

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No Sunday dinner was ever complete without dessert, and although my father took over the production of Sunday dinner when he developed an interest in cooking, my mother was always responsible for dessert. Usually a pie. Now those who know me, know that I am pie challenged. However, I'd been having good luck with Keller's Pastry recipe and had done several single crust pies recently, so I figured I was ready to move on to a double crust pie. Hence, apple pie became our dessert tonight.

I was thrilled that I actually got both crusts under and over the pie without any mishaps. I'm not exactly an expert in the pleating department, but I just wanted the thing to be in one piece.

When I took it out of the oven, I thought, hey, that looks alright!

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But for some reason, upon cutting into it, it was swimming in juices inside, thereby disintegrating the bottom crust pretty much. It was really tasty, but I think I need more work on this: and more work on picture taking too it seems. I thought I had a better pic of the sliced pie.

gallery_6080_942_2685.jpg

All in all a sucessful Sunday dinner. I do cook roasts often on Sunday, but Maggie made me think about this sunday dinner and all the traditions that went into the ones I remember so well growing up. Thank you Maggie, for reviving some wonderful memories!


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Marlene: Your dinner looks simply splendid, and the bit about the table-setting was truly evocative. Thank you.

Did you toss the apples with a little flour or cornstarch? The raw fruit usually needs a little starchy binder. But, man, that's a beautiful pie!


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I did Maggie, I did. Flour. 3 T of it. Still the taste was right and the crust worked, so I'll attempt this again.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I did Maggie, I did.  Flour.  3 T of it.  Still the taste was right and the crust worked, so I'll attempt this again.

I was watching America's Test Kitchen today, and they pre-cooked the apples a bit to get some of the juice out and keep the bottom crust crusty...


"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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I did Maggie, I did.  Flour.  3 T of it.  Still the taste was right and the crust worked, so I'll attempt this again.

Hey, great crust, great flavor! That's what counts.

Fruit pies are always a tad tricky. My grandmother swore by minute tapioca. Big ups for a gorgeous dinner. I want that gravy.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I did Maggie, I did.  Flour.  3 T of it.  Still the taste was right and the crust worked, so I'll attempt this again.

I was watching America's Test Kitchen today, and they pre-cooked the apples a bit to get some of the juice out and keep the bottom crust crusty...

Yes, I always pre-cook my apple pie filling and reduce the juice that cooks out, and I also use cornstarch (more thickening power).

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I did Maggie, I did.  Flour.  3 T of it.  Still the taste was right and the crust worked, so I'll attempt this again.

I was watching America's Test Kitchen today, and they pre-cooked the apples a bit to get some of the juice out and keep the bottom crust crusty...

Yes, I always pre-cook my apple pie filling and reduce the juice that cooks out, and I also use cornstarch (more thickening power).

Mmm...pie. I usually love ATK recipes but have found that slicing the apples thin is preferable to pre-cooking. I always use a thickener, flour or cornstarch, with the sugar and salt. And momsf taught me that cinnamon and lemon juice add a great depth and complexity to most fruit pies. She also bakes pies on the bottom-most rack of the oven to help bake the bottom crust.

Thank you for the kind words, Maggie.

Beautiful photos, Marlene!

Ingrid


My fantasy? Easy -- the Simpsons versus the Flanders on Hell's Kitchen.

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What an absolutely beautiful story, Maggie! I had tears in my eyes throughout, and had to tell my coworkers the allergies were acting up. And I am wholeheartedly behind your campaign to redesignate Sunday as the first day of the week. The Russian word for Sunday is "resurrection", arguably a beginning, not an end. And we don't even have to change our calendars, where Sunday has defiantly held its place at the start of each week.


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ID

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I've been cooking Sunday dinner for the past 30 years. But have not since my husband died last year. It's hard to cook for one.

My mother used to make the most succulent roast pork, roast beef, ham... And nobody stayed home to cook it. she went to church with the rest of us. She got up early enough on Sunday morning to put the vegetables and potatoes around the roast and put it in the oven at a low enogh temperature to be done when we all got home from church--the method Ilearned from her.

Everybody in my extended family still makes Sunday dinner--at noon, and *everybody* goes to church. the slow roast definitely dates back to at least my great-grandmother and who know but her mother, too. My cousins' children, now in their 20s and 30s, also go to church and make Sunday dinner by the slow roast method so the festive roast is tender and succulent when everybody gets home and everybody goes to church.

There must be a definite tie-in between going to church faithfully and having the traditional feast at lunchtime on Sunday.

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Dorine:

I'm jealous that you and your family still live the Sunday Dinner life. I agree,

returning from church hungry is the best appetitie stimulant in the world.

I'm so glad the young 'uns in your family know the slow roast method, and the value of Sunday dinner. What a concept: sharing a meal every week with the folks you love best.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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It isn't just once a week. :-) We have nightly fammily dinners. Not the extended family, but our nuclear famiies dine together regularly. We are rather old-fashioned, I guess! Regular family dinners where children participte in receiving and giving attention develops social skills, builds self-esteem and prevents drug use and crime, so I guess being old-fashioned is good.

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It isn't just once a week.  :-)  We have nightly fammily dinners.  Not the extended family, but our nuclear famiies dine together regularly.  We are rather old-fashioned, I guess!  Regular family dinners where children participte in receiving and giving attention develops social skills, builds self-esteem and prevents drug use and crime, so I guess being old-fashioned is good.

Here, here! I feel sad when I read again and again, "Family meals are my favorite memory from my growing up years... ...long description inserted here... ...but my own family in this generation never does this." Um, there is something really wrong with that. It does take effort to make this family-centered life work, but the rewards are there for the taking for those willing to do it.


~ Lori in PA

My blog: http://inmykitcheninmylife.blogspot.com/

My egullet blog: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=89647&hl=

"Cooking is not a chore, it is a joy."

- Julia Child

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