Bridgette A. Lacy: Sunday Dinner Traditions

lacy_sundayWe welcome to the blog a guest post by Bridgette A. Lacy, author of Sunday Dinner: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook. Lacy offers an ode to a meal that, notably in the Sabbath-minding South, is more than a meal. Sunday dinner, Lacy observes, is “a state of mind. It is about taking the time to be with the people who matter to you.” Describing her own childhood Sunday dinners, in which her beloved, culinary-minded grandfather played an indelible role, Lacy explores and celebrates the rhythms of Sunday food traditions. But Lacy knows that, today, many who grew up eating Sunday dinner surrounded by kin now dine alone in front of the television. Her Sunday Dinner provides remedy and delicious inspiration any day of the week.

In today’s post, Lacy reminisces on past Sunday dinners and shares a few tips on how to start your own Sunday dinner tradition.

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Food tastes better shared. That’s what I learned at my grandparents’ table many years ago. Grandma and Papa seasoned their crispy fried chicken, buttered yeast rolls, fresh green beans, and potatoes with their unconditional love for me.

Sunday dinner was the place where I heard tales of family history. It’s often the place where one generation transfers knowledge and experiences to the next.

These are among the lessons I share in Sunday Dinner: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook.

When I left my parents’ home for good in 1986, the lure of Sunday dinner was never far from my heart. I have carried the tradition with me throughout my life’s journey.

For me, Sunday dinner is nourishment for the mind, body, and soul. As a single woman, I’ve had to reinvent the meal I used to share with three generations of family members. I have sought out friends and colleagues to join my culinary communion, especially on Sundays.

During my career as a newspaper reporter, I was often extended a seat at the dining room table of gracious residents in the communities I covered.

When I first left home for a newspaper job in upstate New York, there were times I felt so alone. I had no family members nearby and I spent long hours honing my craft as a reporter, working the police beat and covering small towns all over the state. That’s when a retired couple opened their home and hearts to me. I loved sharing dinner with Barbara and Neil Oldwine, who seemed to understand my need to connect with others through shared interests and a good meal.

On Sundays, I looked forward to a visit to the Oldwine home, where I was always greeted with a hearty hug and a place at their table. As the Oldwines listened to me recount my weekly adventures in journalism, we ate, laughed, and continued to pass to each other one tasty plate after another. I felt like I was home again.

Photo by Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

Photo by Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

As my career progressed, I moved to Indianapolis and looked for ways to continue the tradition. I started a Sunday Dinner group with three fellow journalists. We all shared hosting duties and rotated homes, which made the venture so much easier. While the host prepared the bulk of the meal, each guest would contribute to the meal with their own, mostly unexpected offering. My friend Derrick Stokes always made spaghetti, but his accompanying meat sauce with baby shrimp was so dog-gone wonderful, no one ever complained about his repeated dish.

We were all single, hardworking, and climbing the career ladder, and we all shared the same desire for the companionship that is just better when shared around a home-cooked meal. Sunday dinner works best as a collaborative effort. I knew I could count on that fellowship at least once a month and it was delicious every time.

Sunday dinner is the gravitational pull that brings family and friends together. It’s reassurance that the people you love and care about are there for you.

While smart phones, computers, tablets, and other technologies can make it harder to instill and sustain these culinary traditions we all crave, people still want to return to the table, to break bread together and connect or reconnect with each other.

The Sunday Dinner book is more than a tribute to that weekly meal. It’s also a guide to help you create your own Sunday dinner tradition.

Here are a few tips:

  • Use real china and linen. What are you saving it for? Why not get the real stuff out of the cabinet for the people you love?
  • Ask folks to bring one of their signature dishes to share.
  • Serve dinner early in the afternoon, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Invite folks to take an after-dinner walk. This is a great way to build memories.

Bridgette A. Lacy is a journalist who writes about food for the Independent Weekly and the North Carolina Arts Council. She also served as a longtime features and food writer for the Raleigh News & Observer. Her book Sunday Dinner: a SAVOR THE SOUTH® cookbook is now available. Connect with Lacy on Twitter @bridgettealacy. Don’t forget to “like” the Savor the South® page on Facebook for more news and recipes.