(Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!
Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous.)
Sunday dinner was the best idea ever that just doesn’t exist the way it used to. Sundays were always relaxed. We attended Sunday school and church, of course, and then went back for the evening service. Very old-fashioned, I know, but boy, did I look forward to all of it every week.
Prep for Sunday dinner usually started on Saturday, especially if we were having company. Saturday was the day the desserts were made. Cake was always good, but PIE was better because it always came with ice cream–two desserts in one! My mom made the best pie crust anywhere. I don’t know how she did it, I’ve never been able to get mine as tender, flaky, and perfect as hers were. For a long time, my favorite was lemon meringue. I still love it, Mom could always make the meringue stay glued to the pie crust and not shrink away.
Her best pies, though, were pumpkin, apple, and cherry. Pumpkin was reserved for “The Holidays,” and everyone knew exactly what “The Holidays” meant. The first time I was offered pumpkin pie long after The Holidays, I was completely flummoxed. Really? Pumpkin pie? I didn’t know you could even DO that!
The pies always smelled wonderful, except for the lemon meringue. That one didn’t get baked. The others, though, filled the house with the glorious aromas of fruit and sugar and crust. It was asking a lot for us to have to wait until the next day!
Sometimes, Mom baked special dinner rolls. Of course, nothing smells quite so wonderful as homemade yeast bread. Just before the Sunday meal, one of us would put the rolls in a brown paper bag, sprinkle the bag with water, and put the bag in the oven for about ten minutes. Good as new.
The meat was the center of the meal. My favorite was unquestionably Mom’s rump roast. Before we left for church on Sunday morning, all shiny bright in our bobby-pinned curly hair and Sunday shoes, Mom would take a few minutes to make deep slits in the roast and push a clove of garlic into the slits. The meat would close over the garlic. Then she would sprinkle the roast with garlic salt and pepper and slide it into the oven to bake slowly while we were singing and hearing the preaching. Sometimes, she would have us peel potatoes and carrots that would be covered in cold water and left in the fridge until we got back home. The very first thing she did once she got her coat off would be to place the vegetables carefully around the succulent meat, sliding the whole thing back into the oven to finish cooking while we set the table, made salad, filled water glasses, and made sure there were enough chairs around the table.
Salad could be lots of different things. My favorite, and one I still make today, was a combination of apples, bananas, and raisins stirred together with–you’ll be surprised–Miracle Whip! Hey, don’t knock it until you try it! It’s wonderful. I often serve it for a company meal, and I’ve had only one person in over 45 years turn his nose up. Poor man.
If the potatoes and carrots weren’t baked with the roast, then we’d peel potatoes when we got home from church and put them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes, which would make them perfect for mashing. Mom had an old Presto! pressure cooker that had many wonderful meals to its credit. When the spuds were ready, we’d pour off the water, pour in some milk and a big dollop of butter, plus a little salt. We used the top of the mixer to whip the potatoes right in the cooker. Back then, you could take the top of the mixer off and use it like a portable. Pretty cool, actually, but I have to admit I like my Kitchen Aide better.
While one person was taking care of the potatoes, Mom was making gravy. Rich, thick, aromatic gravy you could eat like soup. Garlicky, yummy. My dad used to mound up his mashed potatoes, spoon a hole in the top like a volcano, and then fill up the hole with gravy. It was an art. He caught me watching him once, and he blushed. I was fascinated. By the blush, not the volcano.
What can I say about the roast? The garlic flavor was subtle; the meat was moist. There is just nothing quite like a good rump roast. I don’t prepare it very often these days, but now and then I treat us to a memory of Mom’s Sunday dinner. Served up with hot veggies, fruit salad, warm rolls and real butter and topped off with pie. . . .well, it made Sundays worth waiting for.