When I was newly married, my husband’s parents tried hard to carry on a tradition they had enjoyed (endured?) throughout their own childhoods – the Sunday Dinner. Frequently they invited the kids and grandkids to come together on a Sunday evening and share stories, eat too much food, and, when the weather was nice – take a swim or toss a football on the sloping front lawn. While sporadically successful, my in-law’s efforts were often disappointed as various family members (usually the younger ones) made more exciting weekend plans.
This iconic meal is a tradition that has fallen sadly by the wayside as families disperse and parents and children seek their own individual activities. And, let’s be honest – not everyone relishes spending quality time with extended family on a weekly basis. However, I have become increasingly interested in resurrecting a modern-style (bi-monthly?) Sunday dinner at our house, sort of a “the door’s open – stop by if you can” style meal.
But my definition of family is a bit more flexible than my in-laws’ – as Richard Bach once wisely suggested, “rarely do members of the same family grow up under the same roof,” and it’s often close friends, rather than relatives, that play a critical role in one’s day to day life. So these untraditional family members will also receive an invitation to my first O’Donnell-style Sunday family dinner (to be held this weekend).
My inaugural menu is not nearly as traditional as my mother in law’s, which usually kicked off with big, frosty cocktails, a bowl of Chex mix, salted nuts and home made olives (and then spanned several labor-intensive courses); I’m planning to make roasted chicken (that’s been immersed for two days in buttermilk and a few tablespoons of mustard and soy sauce), garlic mashed potatoes; and my kids’ favorite salad: spinach with canned mandarin oranges, diced avocado, chopped toasted almonds and a sprinkling of feta cheese. If I have the energy, I may even bake an apple-blackberry pie for dessert. I don’t know who’s going to show up, but I certainly look forward to seeing them.
I’d love to hear about your family’s Sunday dinner tradition – and if you have a favorite recipe, please email it to us – we’d enjoy sharing it with other Ravenous readers.