“Supper’s ready!” Grandpa’s voice echoed down the hallway into each room of the house, catching everyone’s ear as it passed by. Caught mid-stroke while combing Barbie’s hair in my Aunt Suzie’s room, I moved with the family herd as we gathered around the dining room table, some of us spilling into the adjacent living room. We folded our hands together as we did every Sunday after morning mass, gently bowed our heads, and recited grace. “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The aunts and uncles politely let us impatient kids start the buffet line. There were plates, and then forks, followed by a slow cooker of Grandpa’s beans, which often prompted a rendition of “beans, beans, the more you eat, the more you…” As a shy seven-year-old, the lyrics tinted my face red.
I started as usual with the carved turkey, white meat only, and mashed potatoes with gravy made from the turkey drippings. Some of the side dishes changed with the distinct seasons of Northwestern Minnesota, like Aunt Kari’s scalloped corn and Uncle Dave’s smoked walleye. He was a fishing guide and often brought the local star of our 10,000 lakes back to the family table. The staples were my mom’s bok choy salad and Keith and Connie’s wild rice hotdish, a Minnesota-style casserole in which the rules of ingredients are endless.
The most comfortable component on my plate was my grandma’s homemade bread. There was love in those loaves and I felt it with every bite.
Our church closed its doors when I reached high school and our Sunday dinners slipped further and further apart. I went off to college, and then replanted myself on the West Coast. The comfort and familiarity of a meal with my oversized family became a memory and a rare occasion.
Although I return to the Midwest often, I long to recreate the feeling and traditions of my family’s weekly feast in my West Seattle home.
The opportunity presented itself just a few weeks ago when my grandma and parents came to visit my husband, Charlie and me. On Sunday, we invited my husband’s family and my aunt and uncle who live nearby, scrounging up enough bodies to constitute a dinner party. My husband’s eyes were wide when I told him we were going to feed eleven people; I just smiled and started putting together the menu.
I roasted a chicken from Stokesberry Sustainable Farms, mashed potatoes, made gravy from the chicken drippings, and glazed medallion-sized carrots. We ate mixed greens with goat cheese and pecans and corn bread muffins, a quick bread substitute for my grandma’s loaves. I baked an apple raspberry crisp for dessert. As I looked around the table, I saw forks moving from plate to mouth, then wide smiles. I heard conversation echo. The sensation of Sunday supper filled the room.