Growing up Sunday dinner meant one of two things: going out for lunch after church or fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Most commonly, heading to the family restaurant not far from the church. It wasn’t a fancy affair, but it was routine. I discovered a deep love for Melba toast crackers tucked in the bread basket; add a little butter, and those things are amazing!
The rest of the day we were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves. Mom and Dad were taking naps in the time left before returning to church for prayer meeting. Can I just mention that prayer meeting was a special form of torture for kiddos? Let’s all sit silently in a circle with our eyes closed while everyone talks to God forever. FOREVER.
Fast forward to me in my early 20s when I met Jason. Or rather, when J and I were engaged and I started hanging with J’s family. Post church there was a fancy meal at his parents house — usually some kind of roast beast. Could be pork roast. Could be beef. Could be chicken. Dinner was formal with place mats, cloth napkins, and china. And his mom usually had some fancy dessert that she’d made.
Post Sunday dinner was watching football or golf on TV. Either of which meant I was napping while pretending to study Greek or read my theology books during that first seminary attempt. J and his parents would trade off reading sections of the Star Tribune. I snored.
Then, after J’s dad died, Sunday dinners faded away. We got busy. We let habits go, and we needed some things to change.
While I was in seminary the past few years, Sunday has felt like a marathon between church, social and family obligations — particularly during football season. And we feel exhausted before Monday even hits. Then it’s sprint all week till Friday hits again.
So, we decided that we’re bringing back Sunday dinner. Not quite the way we were raised, but we’re figuring something out. One, it’s helping us be a bit thrifty and cut back on the eating out. Two, we are learning how to breathe — how to take that space after church and create something restful and relaxing for us as we sit down to a nice meal together.
Sometimes we invite family or other guests. Sometimes not. Either way, we’re enjoying the time in the kitchen together, making something a little more special than what we’d make on a weeknight and having space to savor that meal with each other. Typically we make some kind of roast or braised beast, resorting back to J’s childhood. However, there’s usually not dessert unless we have a guest. Most of the time, there’s no place mats or fancy china out, and we resort to paper towels as napkins. We’re working out our routine. And the food, rather than ambiance, typically gets the starring role.
There’s something totally warm and comforting about the smell of wine braised foods filling the house, and the smell of this coq au vin that J made while I was at a church business meeting a few weeks ago was no exception. Yum! And perfect winter comfort food. Though I will admit, the first time we made it I found the brilliant purple of the chicken a little shocking. I got past it quickly.
After dinner and dishes, we resort to our resting defaults: J to the NY Times, and I grab my knitting and pick up with a K-drama. Or I nap. I still snore. Thankfully J finds it endearing rather than annoying (usually). We rest, recoup and recharge together. We’re working out a new normal. It only took us about 9 years to get there.
So, what’s your Sunday routine?