Sunday, June 9, 2013

Week 23: Family Dinner

   Nostalgia- Neo-Latin from the 1770-80's, of Greek origin, meaning to return home. The book-of-the-week for week 23 is titled Family Dinner and is a definite bit of nostalgia. We all remember... sitting around the table, white linen table cloth or festive placemats,  a bowl of flowers as the centerpiece... saying the blessing (or not)... passing the mashed potatoes and a platter of fried chicken... reaching for the salt shaker, the butter dish...fighting with your brother.... It was back in the day. No matter what era, we all have memories of something like that... a Norman Rockwell print.

The cover: a 1940's table cloth with blue india ink and acrylic paints
Title page from an old recipe book
   Looking back to my own childhood, I remember the different meals we shared as a family. Our evening meals..simple and nutritious, that Mom would put together after she got home from work... the breakfasts of pancakes and crispy fried bacon my Dad would tenderly cook for us on Sunday mornings... and the special Sunday dinners at my grandparent's house... bowl after bowl of vegetables grown from their garden, two meats (fried chicken and country ham), homemade biscuits and Parkerhouse rolls, homemade watermellon pickles, sweet potato casserole (with those marshmallows), and a whole table of different cakes and pies! It was the loving offering of our grandmother to each of us. It was a feast! Family Dinner is made from the pages of my Grandmother Sadie's 1945 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and is about going to a Sunday dinner at her house in the year 1959.

A recipe for Waldorf salad... Mom thought it was so elegant!
   Times have changed and so has cuisine in my part of the South. The pages of this book showcase some of the familiar recipes of my mother's day.. Dishes like Waldorf Salad and Swiss Steak were thought very elegant. Amid the recipes I've added imagery referencing my Grandmother's sweet little clapboard farmhouse in the Piedmont region of rural North Carolina.. her flower garden, the many paned windows with white lace curtains... and some of the memories I have of riding down Highway 70 between Raleigh and Roxboro to have Sunday dinner at her house.

Biscuits... every Southern table had them
It's personal. Those memories. So vivid now after all those years. My brothers might remember it differently. And if my parents were still around, no doubt they would too. But certainly a feeling of oneness is experienced through that breaking of bread... that communion. Whether the dinner is spent in lively debate, regaling stories, or silently contemplating the past day's events... somehow the sharing of food, of space, of time together has a bonding effect. 
pen and ink memories of a moment
Sweet memories. Like the iced tea my grandmother always kept chilled in her refrigerator. In cut-glass pitchers or tall Tupperware containers... ready to serve to visitors and to family... as they sat around her dining room table and chatted in their quiet drawl... of all the local gossip, the current crop yields, and the weather. It wasn't intellectual or philosophical or particularly memorable... yet it was the time we came together as one. We were the family at that table. All together. 

In this cookbook, recipes were simple, easy to cook and from local ingredients...
Grandmama's Sunday dinner was wonderful to anticipate
    Whether referring to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or supper, the sitting down together and sharing a meal is a ritual that has no set country or custom. Every society for millions of years has met in the communion of a meal to bond. Family Dinner, is a reminder of the importance of sitting and sharing a meal together.

End the meal with dessert and a smile
My Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book
The past gives us more than an awareness of history, or lessons, or lore, but the richness of our own cultural soup. It gives us nostalgia...a returning home.. say, for Family Dinner.