We had pizza every Wednesday night and popcorn on Fridays, with something special on Saturday; soda was a once-a-week treat. Thursday was shopping night, and we couldn’t wait to dive in. Not like today, where you go to the store every other day, Mom and Dad went once a week, with milk and bread bought during the week if needed.
After shopping, Dad would put the grocery bags on the table and say, “Go ahead. Eat it up, but there’s no more till next week,“ and then he’d laugh.
Mommy was the holiday and Sunday cook.
Thanksgiving was a huge feast, always with company, and Mom and Dad would start cooking and preparing after breakfast. We always had the same menu, items from her childhood: mushrooms, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, peas, rolls, special stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy. Once in a while Aunt Toddy would make Grandma oyster dressing and a mincemeat pie.
Christmas was always ham, potatoes, brown cabbage, and some peas and carrots.
Mommy was Polish, so New Year's was a Polish meal: spare pig's feet and sauerkraut, with a big fresh ham with crackly skin that we would fight over.
Easter was also ham, brown cabbage, sour beans, mashed potatoes. Also, we would color at least four dozen eggs. Daddy loved eating his hard-boiled eggs with horse radish.
We had the same menu every week, specific dishes on specific days. Until I left home, each week was the same. Now that I'm a mom with a family, I see this wasn't such a bad idea. Easy shopping, and we always knew what was on the table. We had our regular seats at the table from tots to teens. Everything was always the same: our favorite plates and silverware were always used at every meal. I guess we were compulsive, OCD, but we didn't know it.
Sunday dinners were a big deal because Mommy worked six days a week. She would fix roasted chicken or roast beef, stew roasted pork or once in a while make a big pot of home-made soup. This we all loved. I now make this myself, and the taste takes me back home.
Daddy was in charge of the Monday-through-Saturday meals: they were always the same from when I could remember until I got married: Monday we had left-overs; Tuesday, spaghetti; Wednesday, pork chops; Thursday, steak or hamburger; Friday, fish; and Saturday, hot dogs and beans. Sunday lunch was kielbasa.
Grandma did the cooking during the week until her eyesight got bad and then Dad took over. Daddy would tease Mommy about having hot soup on the hottest summer day or about her gravy and those potatoes on the grill, which she would burn.
When our Grandma Inky would visit, she would do some cooking, too. She made hamburgers in a bacon gravy. I make these still. Grandma Inky came to the United States with her sister and their husbands in the early 1900s. They moved to College Point, New York.
It seems that nowadays Sunday dinners and even some holiday dinners have gone by the wayside. We always ate at 5 p.m. every day and on the holidays, like clockwork, always the same time.
Home Is Where the Story Begins: Memoir of a Happy Childhood was published last fall by Outskirts Press and is available from OP and amazon.com and bn.com and other online booksellers. I am proud to have coached Kathleen Blake Shields and edited her upbeat book of growing up in a small town in New York in the 1950s and '60s.
Visit my writing-coaching-editing site, http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com.
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