We had the family over last Sunday for corned beef and cabbage. It was the first time making such a meal and, though it is probably not the best idea to invite people over to share in the experiment, it all worked out deliciously. After trimming the 3lb brisket, we initially had to impose rations on the meat, which is a less celebrated Irish tradition. That night, in a stupor of stout beer and beefy gas, I shared with Heather my fondness for the Sunday Meal.
The Sunday Meal was an institution growing up: as a kid it was as expected as church and, later, as a teen, it was an unappreciated obligation. As a full-blooded, first generation Italian-American, my mom would make enough to feed three families and—when we were younger, anyway—she did for her parents and siblings. Leftovers were to be redressed for the week and the smell of gravy (that’s Italian-American for tomato sauce) lingered for days.
The Sunday Meal died well before our mom and now, as an adult, I find myself wanting to resurrect it. Such is the spirit of tradition. The practicality of the Sunday Meal is simple: make a ton on Sunday when you have the time so you can have leftovers during the week when you don’t have time. Cooking on Monday night sucks. With leftovers you get wholesome deliciousness in the same amount of time to prepare as to eat. This is a beautiful thing.
But there’s more to that bowl of reheated corned beef and cabbage. You’re savoring, or to make the metaphor more flexible, chewing on the experience of The Sunday Meal. The food isn’t the only thing left over: it’s the news and updates from your loved ones, the gossip and the anecdotes, the plans that were proposed and the dates that were hashed out, the chance to not only catch up but to make future plans. That leftover, the memory of the meal, is a continuation of the conversation.
My mom knew what all matriarchs know: the best way to get family together is the enticement of food. The Sunday Meal is singular in name not because it is the only meal of the day but because it is the Meal that sustains you until the next one.
My favorite Sunday Meal was Mom’s pot roast. That might be why I love soups and stews and croc pots so much, chop it all up, throw it in there, and let the heat do the rest. Mmm pot roast. The house would stink of it. Makes my mouth water now.
Anyone else have a take on the Sunday Meal, a favorite dish?