Sunday dinners for the masses at gramma’s was a given. As a child from a big family I just expected the more the merrier philosophy. ”Can my friend come for dinner?” The answer was always yes. I never thought about how Sunday dinners must have meant grams cooked the entire day. With seven children of her own, girlfriends tagging along, friends who didn’t have Sunday dinners of their own joining ours, and the one, two, three grandchildren who arrived during those years, it added up to quite the crowd. She had had practice at providing food for crowds as a cook at the mine sites where grampa worked in bygone years. In her house, feeding the masses meant numerous tables were pushed together running diagonally to fit through the living room and adjoining den. In later years, the children were segregated to the kitchen and the “kids’ table” to provide additional room.
Room was needed for the bodies but also for the spread. Mmm, the spread, it was impressive. There were rolls with butter, chili or spaghetti or lasagne, salads (at least two kinds), and the pies! Oh, the pies were numerous and would include the standards: banana cream pie, lemon meringue pie, and apple pie. Then, depending on the season, some berry pie would sneak in: blueberry, blackberry, or strawberry and rhubarb. Regardless of the berry, it was bound to be mouth watering.
As an adult and having tried to host a few dinners of my own, what impresses me most in retrospect was the timing. Everything would be ready and hot at the same time. She didn’t have a double oven or fancy devices; somehow she just timed it all. Meals of any complexity prepared by me are often eaten in shifts of when things are hot or done. I have not mastered her technique of timing. I wonder if this was a taught skill in her Home Ec classes, back in the day.
In my Home Ec classes, I think they were just impressed we showed up. We learned to prepare the basics: tomato soup, beef stew, apple cobbler. No one prepped us for making dinner for the masses. To be honest, I’m not really bothered if I ever master the technique of timing. I cover up for my lack of skill by claiming we are eating different courses. If I were to have any control over time though, what I’d really want is another Sunday dinner and a hug from my gramma when she knew who I was.
I thought I’d share that piece of writing in honour of my grandmother for Grandparents’ day which was last Sunday. My grandmother was the kind of grandparent every child dreams of having. She spoiled me entirely. I was not just showered with gifts, of which there were many; I was also showered with love. She encouraged my dreams, believed in the best in me, and was one of the best listeners I have ever known. To date my grandmother has 16 grandchildren, of which I am the oldest, and two great-grandchildren, my babies. Though my grandmother is still alive, she is not herself any more. She used to be the family storyteller but Alzheimer’s has taken her memories and her stories. Though I am still happy to see her and hug her when I visit, she no longer knows who I am and most of our conversations border on the nonsensical. That is why I like writing stories about her, trying to follow in her storytelling footprints. And, just as she believed in the best in me, I like to remember the best of her.
What is one of your favourite memories of your grandparents? What family traditions do you wish you could continue?