Sunday supper used to be the hallmark of family traditions, when people would gather around a table brimming full of delicious home made dishes—pot roasts, baked hams, glazed chickens, buttered beans and mashed potatoes. This is the time to bring this culinary tradition back.
We encounter ourselves in a time of transience, when entire families often face the prospect of having to uproot themselves in order to follow a dream or a job. We are a generation of modern adventurers in search of home and fortune, similar in some ways to the traveling pioneers of the past. For many, it seems as though life is on a constant state of nomadic journey with hardly enough time to settle down in one place before having to start all over again.
Having an extended family close by is harder to achieve with all of that movement. Even though going to Grandma’s house for Sunday supper is harder to do for many of us, there is no reason for anyone to abandon their familial culinary traditions. On the contrary, this is the time to begin your own family’s rituals. This remains the raison d'être of gathering around the table—to come together, build together and grow together.
Sunday supper is all about homemade, no-frill cooking that satisfies the pangs of hunger but mostly feeds the soul. It’s time for togetherness and communality around the family table, for casual food and for informal conversation. Nowhere is the American melting pot more obvious than around the dinner table.
For some, Sunday mornings begin with the creation of large pots of gravy; not the kind of gravy that you would pour over chicken, but the kind of gravy some call tomato sauce. Not just any kind of tomato sauce either, for in some households this traditional pot of gravy is embellished by the addition of green peppers, bracciole (stuffed rolls of beef), fried meatballs and Italian sausages.
This gravy is left to simmer and reduce during several hours, until it reaches the perfectly thickened consistency necessary to coat mounds and mounds of “macaroni”. Before serving supper at these family tables, the meats are set aside from the sauce and placed in large bowls; the “gravy” is poured over cooked pasta and served on its own with generous amounts of grated Parmesan cheese. These suppers are often served with simply dressed salads and loaves of garlic bread.
For other families, Sunday suppers consist of perfectly roasted chicken with potato dishes--anything from rosti, latkes, pierogis, or croquettes-- tender salad greens and vegetable melanges. Some meals are reminiscent of those of French bistros that serve simple, uncomplicated dishes such as carrots glazed with white wine reductions, creamed leeks, and asparagus gratins.
In other households the typical Sunday menu consists of fried chicken, creamy coleslaw and collard greens; light, flaky biscuits, creamed corn and sweet potatoes are often offered next to plump country hams. Cool home-made ice cream is paired by many with any of a variety of fruit desserts among them,crisps, pies, cobblers and dumplings; in the South, fruit and sugary pies are often topped with freshly whipped cream.
For some, Sunday supper consists of huge platters of arroz con pollo abundant in chorizo, capers, annatto and olives. Many tables witness entire roast suckling pigs, so soft and tender that they can easily be shredded without the aid of a knife. Many serve pork with Mojo sauces, “Moros y Cristianos” (rice and black beans), sweet plantains, and yuca; others transform it into fillings for dumplings and steamed buns with spicy sauces.
Each Sunday allows time for cooking with leisure and hours in which to create tasty, comforting foods, that offer perfect opportunities to try your Aunt Thelma’s recipe for lamb navarin, or Cousin Theo’s spanakopita. Indeed, these are the times in which to retrieve those stained recipe cards, written in a beloved relative’s handwriting.
Suffice it to say that this weekly culinary celebration is perhaps the most tangible commemoration of the family unit, as each time-honored recipe passed down to the next generation celebrates traditions and culinary origins.
Whether you have inherited a recipe from an ancestor or not, begin your own food traditions with your families.Gift them with the palate memories that will build strong roots, and with flavors that will be remembered when in search of comfort; palate memories that will always bring your kids back home.
Copyright © Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2007. All rights reserved.