When I was growing up, Sunday lunch was always a big deal. We didn’t go out to eat very much, so Mama always fixed a big ole meal after church. I remember roast with carrots and potatoes as a staple, but fried chicken, beef stroganoff, turkey and ham were also in the rotation – with lots of fresh vegetables on the side. And rolls. Always rolls. OH SWEET MERCY THE ROLLS.
If we weren’t eating at Mama and Daddy’s house on Sundays, it was usually because we were having a big family lunch at my aunt’s house. We did this more times than I can remember; my aunt would fix her meal and Mama would fix her meal and then we’d combine everything into a gigantor family potluck. When my grandparents were alive they’d join the fun, too, and my Mamaw Davis would bring a homemade chocolate pie or her homemade apple tarts or some other dessert that would make you weep by virtue of its sheer deliciousness. There was never a shortage of sweet tea or coffee, and after lunch the grown-ups would sit around the big table and visit while the kids ran around outside or walked down to the Jitney Jr. to buy some gum. Or maybe even some Bit-O-Honeys if we were feeling particularly crazy.
A piece of candy cost two cents, by the way. TWO CENTS. Which means that if you were in possession of a whole quarter, you could just about afford to send yourself into a post-candy sugar coma.
It was a simpler time.
And just so you know, now I’m all teary-eyed just from thinking about my Mamaw and Papaw Davis. WHEN DID MY BRAIN TURN INTO A HALLMARK COMMERCIAL?
For whatever reason, I’ve never really latched on to the Sunday lunch tradition since I’ve been the one doing the cooking. I cook all during the week, and occasionally I’ll make a big pot of red beans and rice or chili or something on Saturday night, but I typically leave Sunday lunch to the the experts at the restaurants. We don’t have family here, and we’re too far away from everybody to just hop over to my hometown for a Sunday meal, so eating out has been a pretty practical solution.
A few weeks ago – seemingly out of nowhere – I decided that I wanted to make a big ole Sunday lunch. Roast and carrots. Mashed potatoes. English peas. Homemade chocolate pudding. But since that much food is way too much food for three people, I texted my friend Leigh to see if she and her family wanted to join us. Leigh and her husband are originally from Mississippi, too – were even at Ole Miss the same time my brother was – and Leigh and I love to swap Southern stories. Hers are always the best.
Anyway, Leigh and her family came over for Sunday lunch a couple of weeks ago, and it was so much fun. They didn’t get to stay for long after we finished eating because we were under a WINTER STORM WARNING and there’s a small mountain in between our house and theirs, but I loved every single thing about having company on a Sunday. I loved using my pretty dishes, cleaning up afterwards, having some tasty leftovers for supper – the whole thing. It reminded me of how I grew up. And more than anything else, it was comforting to spend part of the afternoon with friends who feel like family.
Today is D’s birthday, and last week I thought that instead of cooking him a big birthday supper – which is what I normally do – I was going to cook him a big Sunday birthday lunch. Leigh and her family came over again, and I pulled out my favorite green dishes. We had pork tenderloin, cheese grits, squash casserole, butterbeans and rolls (OH HAVE MERCY THE ROLLS). I fixed D’s favorite tres leches cake for dessert. After we ate Leigh and I sat at the dining room table and drank coffee while the fellas went into the den and talked about electronics and movies and whatnot.
When we finally got up to start tackling the dishes, we realized it was 3:30 and couldn’t believe it. We’d spent over two hours talking about everything and nothing: the sermon we heard this morning, our young’uns, our ish-ahs, our TV habits, and so much more. There’s just something about eating a meal together in the middle of the day – with a whole big afternoon stretching out before you – that slows down the pace of life a little bit. And I’m not exactly sure why it’s taken me thirteen and a half years of marriage to figure that out.
After our company left and I loaded the last of the plates into the dishwasher, I walked into the den where D was in the process of rescuing some soldiers from a rogue alien army on the Xbox, and I made a proclamation.
“THAT,” I said, “was DELIGHTFUL. And I think from here on out – at least a couple of times a month – I’m going to make a big ole lunch on Sundays, and we’ll just invite whoever comes to mind.”
“I think that sounds great,” he said.
And so that’s our plan.
What about y’all? Do you go out to lunch on Sundays? Or do you cook a big meal? Do you have people over? Do you get together with your extended family? Do you remember the Sunday lunch traditions from your childhood? I’m strangely curious.
And if you feel led to share any favorite menu ideas, well, you just go right ahead.