I gave the sibling assignment this week. " Many say what is lacking with families today is that time sitting together at the dinner table discussing the events of the day. Here is your topic: Think of a memorable time when our whole family was gathered at a dinner table and your reflections on that memory." You will find very different conversations around the table from Raymond Pert's here and Silver Valley Girl's here .
We were a family that sat at the kitchen table to eat dinner. I don't ever remember using the TV trays for regular dinner. I think they only came out for holidays,when company came, or when Dad had to watch a certain game on TV. There were certain rituals surrounding dinner. We always ate earlier on bowling night and if Mom had meetings after school we would eat later. Mom did all the cooking when we, the sibs lived at home. As my sister and I got older we were given some of the responsibility. We all had assigned chairs at the table and my brother and I always fought about doing the dishes. At least Dad reminded us of that long after we left home.
Even though dinner was served every night all the family wasn't always there. Dad would work overtime or be on call sometimes. Raymond Pert would be at sports practice. I might be at Camp Fire or play practice. Silver Valley Girl may have been at dancing or tumbling. If dinner was missed Mom always had a plate covered with foil waiting in the oven or canned chili or stew available to be heated up.
Our father was the epitome of pickiness when it came to dinner food. For that reason we never experienced dishes like tuna casserole or lasagna. Leftovers had to be creative. We got to enjoy two French foods: french fries and french dips. If Dad didn't relish the home cooked meal on a given day we always knew it when the peanut butter jar and a loaf of white bread came out at the end of dinner.
Often the conversation was spirited when Mom shared stories about kids at school and we laughed at what happened that day. If Dad had been working lots of overtime the dinner table felt tense and we gulped our food hoping to catch a rerun of Leave It to Beaver or go outside for an after dinner game of hide and seek with the neighborhood kids. Dinnertime at 516 W. Cameron often was a hectic time on any given week.
Things changed on Sunday. Mom and Dad were a bit more rested. There wasn't a rush to get dinner done because of a PTA meeting or Dad taking off for his moonlighting job at the Sunshine Inn. Dad always liked what we had for Sunday dinner. Even after a week of teaching, laundry, cleaning, and keeping us in line Mom often made homemade bread and rolls on Sunday.
The most memorable dinner we had was navy beans cooked in ham and homemade bread. Dad would always say this dinner tasted " just like his Mom's". That made Mom smile. I remember Mom soaking the beans overnight. When I was really young we had one burner on the stove that had a built in pan that sat deeper than the other burners. Mom always used that for the beans. When the burner quit working she still used that same pan on a different burner. Even after crockpots became vogue Mom always made this signature dish on the stove.
There was the strong aroma of yeast as Mom prepared the bread dough. Watching the bread rise on top of the refrigerator was a timetable as to when dinner might be. I knew when she punched down the dough it was getting closer. The smell of the thick beans simmering on the stove and the bread baking in the oven was heavenly. As we waited for dinner we would write our names in the steam that had collected on the picture window in the living room and Dad would watch the last minutes of a sporting event on TV.
While savoring this favorite Sunday dinner Dad would reminisce about his extended family from back east or tell entertaining stories about Aunt Hattie. His favorite was to bring up how much she ate the last time she came to visit from Tennessee. He always talked in a funny southern accent and mimicked Hattie's drawl when he told those stories. Dinner was relaxed. Everyone laughed. We often got an added treat if Mom made Whip and Chill or Jello pudding that she served in cocktail glasses and topped with whipped cream. ( note: That was real whipped cream. Mr. Picky wouldn't hear of Dream Whip or "that stuff in a can".)
Whether it was beans and bread, pot roast, ham (which the bone went in the freezer for the bean dish) , or homemade vegetable soup Sunday dinner was a fine time to gather around the table at my childhood home.photo by Dazed81 on flickr