Dinners for the Masses and the Technique of Timing

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.

One of the last photos of me and grams when she still mostly knew who I was, though not what year it was.  It was taken in 2007.

2007: One of the last photos of me and grams when she still mostly knew who I was, though not what year it was.

What is one of your favourite memories of your grandparents?  What family traditions do you wish you could continue?

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6 Responses to Dinners for the Masses and the Technique of Timing

  1. Tara says:

    Beautiful ,Ren ,coudnt agree with you more , miss her too…..when I was working all the women used to bitch and compalin about their motheri in law …… then they would ask me ,id say sorry girls cant add to your conversation ,mine was none of that ,I have nothing bad to say and everything great ,couldnt have asked for a better mother in law ,always loving ,always supportive to me and my family miss her every day …….Tara

  2. Cath Hay says:

    Thanks KtMiM! That was a beautiful expression of gratitude toward a woman who sounds phenomenal. You made me remember my English Grandma’s tea time. She didn’t have the masses over, since my mum is an only child and there are just two of us grandkids. But it was so lovely to sit at her lace-tablecloth covered table, drink proper tea from a proper cup, and indulge in the MOST amazing desserts ever. I’m sure there must’ve been little sandwiches in there somewhere, but it’s the desserts I remember!

  3. Salma says:

    Your grandmother sounds wonderful. And those mass dinners sound familiar 🙂 I think I appreciate those dinners now that I’m a mom and have to cook for my family. It was probably some kind of magic that all the dishes were always hot and served because I can’t seem to master it!

  4. Stella says:

    So lucky to have a grandma. From the time that I can remember, 3 of my grandparents were already not here, and the only one left lives on the other side of the world. But I am happy to see my parents are now the grandparents to my children and can see how much they love (and spoil) them! I am grateful that they are so involved with them, nurturing such a close relationship.

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