~ Sundays Past ~

English: Liddesdale Parish Church A small coun...

A small country church  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember when Sundays were a “day of rest” and the only stores open were… hmm…well pretty much nothing was open. Of course this was in my small town which was very WASP-Y (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) and dry until the early 1960’s (though this is not something I remember, as I was not much of an imbiber at nine years old).

Sundays when I was young  was a day when the kids went to church (for some reason my parents did not go, but the four of us kids did—we went to Sunday school, then when we got older, we went to church and joined the choir, and Young Peoples—a group for teenagers). For me church was more of a community/social thing.  Of course God and Jesus played a role, but at the time God was a male father figure, and Jesus apparently “loved the little children”.

Today my beliefs are a little more complex, but I no longer go to church. I do miss “visiting” though. People tended to visit friends and neighbours and family on Sunday afternoon after church. Without calling ahead. They would just drop in. And that was totally socially acceptable.

I remember when people used to have “parlours” set aside for just these visits, and if the minister should happen by. I think it was kind of like the good “living room” that was always neat and no one used it unless they had company. This makes perfect sense to me, with the type of housekeeping I do.

The home I grew up in was not big enough to have a parlour—we lived in the whole house—though because my mom was so neat and clean, it was almost always company ready. But today, I need a parlour—a room set aside that I can go into that will always be neat and clean and not subject to muddy boots, and coats thrown over chairs, and newspapers gloriously spread all over the floor. I try to keep my living room in good shape “just in case”, but this does not always work out.

Back to Sundays of my childhood~

Every Sunday we would have a roast of some kind—pork or beef or roasted chicken, and on occasion fried chicken. The entrée would generally include mashed potatoes, gravy, coleslaw and a couple of vegetables I would try to avoid eating. I remember spending what felt like two weeks at the dinner table with cold squash in front of me—I was free to leave the table once I had eaten it. I must have eaten it, because today I am not still at the table, but memories of that cold squash still haunt me. It does not affect my grown up penchant for it though, which is strange.

And we always, always, always had a special dessert – most of the time homemade pie or cake and ice cream. In those days we had dessert at every meal, but some were very simple. Sundays were different—no Jell-O, or pudding, or a little syrup in a bowl with a cookie.

I like the freedom of Sundays today—I like that the whole town does not close down. But I do remember the days when visiting was the thing to do on Sunday afternoon, followed by a wonderful meal, then unfortunately as I got older, homework—because of course, I never did it ahead of time.

What are some of your Sunday memories—are they similar to mine, or did you have a totally different “day of rest”?

Top Ten TV Shows

Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I call this my frivolous Monday submission

I am a pushover for top ten lists of just about anything. Top ten books about avocados. Top ten artistic renderings of telephone poles. Even top ten music lists (though anything past the year 1982, which coincides with the year I was married is unfamiliar to me). So, just in case you too are a fan of top ten lists, I thought I would provide you with a summer list of my top ten favourite TV shows. (It is a summer list, because in the summer we are allowed to be frivolous and admit that we watch and enjoy television in the comfort of air conditioning).

1. Community: I love this show. My youngest son is home from college to toil away in a produce warehouse for the summer. He introduced me to this program about seven friends who form a study group—or actually the study group forms the basis of their friendship at Greendale “Community” College (hence the name of the sitcom). I hesitate to call it a sitcom, as that does not really do it justice—it is quirky, funny, and endearing.

2. Downton Abbey: I have already  written about this – but the Christmas show at the end of the second season ties up some loose ends while leaving a few tantalizing tidbits dangling for the third season.

3. Chopped: Who would not love a show where four chefs are given mystery baskets with weird food items (such as guppies, cornmeal, red liquorice, and lime Jell-O powder) and are asked not only make an appetizer, but one that is edible and presented artistically. This show is the ultimate in grace under pressure.

4. Big Bang Theory:  Cannot get enough of these super smart guys who find life mystifying.

5. The Barefoot Contessa: Any show that stars my favourite cook, Ina Garten, is a show I am going to watch. Her favourite saying is: “How easy is that?” I have written down recipes from her show, and actually made them! Who says there are no miracles?

6. Power and Politics with Evan Solomon:  This is serious entertainment. Political operatives, pundits, and the powers-that-be all vie to be on this show. Unfortunately some of them did not learn the second golden rule: listen quietly and wait your turn.

Okay, I could only come up with six, but who has heard of a top six list?

Tradition: A good thing for Thanksgiving

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Who needs tradition? We need institutions, habits, customs, and rituals to mark our important occasions. And we need the tradition of Thanksgiving to mark and celebrate our harvest and give thanks. But more than that—we need some things to remain the same. Year after year. Year in and year out. I do not need to “change up” Thanksgiving. Admit it, how many times do you have turkey and stuffing and all the fixings during the year? Why would we want to “change up” Thanksgiving if we hardly ever celebrate and eat and give thanks for the things that compose this fine holiday?

For years I have fought against tradition—mainly because I found the turkey a difficult thing to wrangle. But last year, after  telling my tale of woe to a friend of mine in an email, she wrote back and told me what to do.  Her knowledge and wisdom have changed my life forever. It is a small thing—but one that makes my family’s wish for turkey dinners a dream come true. “Why don’t you,” she wrote, “do what I do and buy one of those turkeys that are already stuffed and frozen? They do not need to be defrosted—you just take them out of the freezer and put them in the oven.” Now, preparing the turkey is not quite as simple as she said. You still have to take the plastic wrapping off, and remove the plastic bag of innards (which is placed in a conspicuous spot for easy removal). I do plaster my turkey generously in butter—but that is it! Okay, I  peer at it from time to time and baste it, just to do my part—but I don’t think it even needs that.

The best part? The stuffing is good. The turkey comes out brown and crispy and tasty, and I do not have a major meltdown. I also have one of those meat thermometers now that helps me judge when meat is done by the temperature gauge so I do not kill my family. I do have a suggestion for the meat thermometer people though. They need to invent a thermometer for paranoid cooks that indicates clearly that “this is the temperature you need to reach in order not to poison your family.” I would find that immensely comforting, but until then I will cook everything to a temperature of 360 degrees (yes, I am kidding, even I know I would be serving a big lump of coal at this temp).

What got me thinking about tradition was an article in the Saturday National Post. On the front page of the Food, Book, and Entertainment Section was a story called “Your Complete Visual Shopping List for Thanksgiving.” The food writer suggested that you take the page to the  grocery store, buy the food shown and use Bonnie Stern’s “delicious updates of next weekend’s classic dishes”.

I then turned to page WP13 of the Toronto newspaper as instructed and lo and behold, Bonnie Stern provided a menu and recipes for a Nordic Thanksgiving! In her little blurb before she got into the actual recipe accounting, Ms. Stern admitted to just returning from recent travels in Scandinavia where she was inspired to (and these are my words) ruin Canadian Thanksgiving by suggesting that we have roast celeriac with herb crumbs, rye berry salad, roast turkey breast with dill and lemon and marzipan kuchen with peaches and plums! Has the woman no shame? These recipes on their own for other occasions are probably wonderful, but I say uncategorically and with great righteousness—do not sully the traditional turkey and stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole, cranberries and pickle platter, coleslaw and Jell-O salads, and pumpkin pie with the requisite whipped cream!

Ms. Stern says that Denmark and Sweden do not have big Thanksgiving celebrations—so why then is she taking a page out of their book? I say, stick with the tried and true (now that I have become an aficionado of the tried and true) and forget “changing up Thanksgiving”. No lamb or ham or prime rib or roast pork or turkey breast with dill and lemon for me. Let tradition live on with those staples of turkey and stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Published in: on October 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm  Comments (9)  
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