My mother is an amazing cook. She’s one of those inherently talented chefs that never use a recipe. She has the capability of throwing in “a dash of this”, adding a “pinch of this for some flavor” and ending up with a masterpiece. Not only does she have a gift for cooking, she loves doing it. This is one of the reasons that Sunday dinner at home was always a critical piece to my weekends. The hastily thrown together frozen or reheated weekday dinner were forgotten when we all sat down to one of my mother’s fragrant, delightful Sunday dinners. It was not only a chance for us to share her amazing kitchen creations, but also a set in stone time that we would all sit down together, even if only for an hour or so.
When I went off to college, I remember sitting in my dorm room around 5:00 on an autumn Sunday evening with my heart just aching to be at home at my mother’s dining room table. I instead shuffled down to the dining hall to eat food cooked to feed masses of people as inexpensively as possible. Food served by bitter work study students wearing hairnets and scowls. This wasn’t right at all. I wanted to be home. With my mom seated across from me, my sister to my left, and my dad to my right (don’t you all have “assigned” seats at your dining room tables?). I remember even craving the post dinner sounds. To be sitting in the living room watching the local news while my mom knitted in the armchair, hearing the clinking of dishes in the sink, and the eventual soothing whirr of the dishwasher that would signify that my dad was almost finished with the clean-up. Everyone would feel so peaceful and relaxed. This is another reason for the significance of these Sunday dinners. It was a way for everyone to wind down completely and prepare themselves to face the impending Monday.
After college, although I lived at home for a year, my friends all moved into an apartment in a trendy city neighborhood. Every weekend I would head to their place after work on Friday and spend my weekends like a crazy partying 22 year old. However, no matter what that weekend held… fights with girlfriends, boy drama, hangovers or heartache… I always knew that at 5:00 on Sunday there would be a place set for me at my parents’ dining room table.
When I was 25, I moved into a one bedroom apartment, and was living on my own for the first time in my life. It was slightly overwhelming, but I certainly enjoyed the freedom. As I set up my dining room table and unpacked my dishes, a thought occurred to me… I could host my own Sunday dinners now! I emailed my parents and invited them over to my place for an upcoming Sunday evening, and then spent days scouring cookbooks and recipes online to find something I could accomplish. I’m not going to lie; I needed a lot of cooking advice from my mom, but whom better to learn from than the master herself? That Sunday finally arrived, and my parents showed up at my doorstep. My dad was bearing a bottle of wine, and my mom, her knitting bag. I ushered them to the living room and proudly danced around filling their wine glasses (with their own wine) and setting the table. When we sat down, and they tasted my spaghetti (my mom’s recipe, of course) and declared it delicious, I was overwhelmed with feelings of accomplishment. After dinner, I lead them back to the living room and put on the local news. This time my dad was able to put his feet up and relax, while my mom knitted in the armchair. I went to work in the kitchen, doing dishes and cleaning up, and couldn’t keep the grin off my face. This is the point in my life where I first felt like I was officially a grown-up. I was ecstatic not only because I had mastered a meal that people were enjoying, but also that I was able to pay back just a fraction of the comfort and peace that my parents had provided for me over the past 25 years of Sundays.
It’s not exactly a regular occurrence, but I still enjoy having my parents over for Sunday dinner at my place. These days I’m pretty handy in the kitchen myself, and although I still consult my mother regularly for cooking tips, I’m starting to create my own recipes. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to match her skill level, but I keep trying. I’ll keep practicing my cooking, with the hopes that some day in the future I’ll be able to host regular Sunday dinners for my children. I hope the food that I serve at my dining room table will be something that my future family will look forward to as much as I always did. And some day, way, way down the road, one of my children will invite me over to their first apartment for a Sunday dinner that they will cook.
I’ll bring the wine.