At one time, it was almost a sin to put a pan of any sort on the table. Back in the past, families sat down to three meals a day, at a table that was set with dishes, glasses and cloth napkins. And strangely enough, I can remember this!
My maternal grandparents still adhered to these rules when I was a child. Every meal consisted of preparation, table setting, and then cleaning up. That included washing dishes at the sink, not loading them into a dish washer. And I don’t recall this being a huge trial.
Sunday dinners were spent at my grandparent’s house in Denver. We would leave church and head over, the adults talking, the children playing outside on nice days, the basement or back bedrooms when not so nice out. The smell of a well-done roast would drift through the house, causing your mouth to water. There were almost always potatoes of some sort served, and gravy was liquid gold. It was carried in a little gravy boat, small ladle dipped inside, the matching plate beneath to catch any spills. Without fail there was a stack of bread upon a plate and some sort of vegetable.
We ate on Currier and Ives plates purchased through the grocery store over time. I loved those plates and requested them when I was all grown up. I have them now, and they make me smile.
Of course dinner was finished with dessert. Sometimes we would have ice cream, the carton opened and the frozen goodness sliced. No scoop needed. My grandmother was a great baker at one time, winning ribbons for her peach cobbler and pies. I’ve never been able to find a recipe to match that peach cobbler, and for some reason, hers has vanished. Just like those long-ago meals.
Angel Food cake was another favorite. Always served with frozen strawberries from a cardboard can, a slice of vanilla ice cream on top. Sometimes my grandfather would get really adventurous, and we had the whipping cream in a can. I think he had more fun spraying it than we did!
When I was a child, I dreaded the clean-up process just as I’m sure all children did. But happy memories is what comes to mind. It was an opportunity to talk with my grandparents. I always dried while they washed in the plastic dish pan, rinsed in the sink-full of scalding hot water, and set the dishes to drain in the matching drainer. Glasses were always washed first, then the plates and silverware. Pots and pans finished up the job. This is the same routine I still use today.
I think of all of the above as the art of eating. In our everyday homes, I think that art is lost, along with suits and dresses for church, and family drives through the countryside on a summer evening. So many things that were once slow and enjoyed, an experience to be remembered.
Yes, the Sunday came when the suggestion was made to get McDonald hamburgers. A franchise had opened near my grandparent’s home. I was nearing my teens by that time. My grandmother made her Waldorf Salad to accompany it. I can still see her standing there, slicing apples into the bowl with her paring knife. I was amazed at her technique that day, and she showed me how to hold the apple in my hand and slice it without a cutting board. She wore an apron over her Sunday dress, the afternoon sunlight shining through the large window and splashing on the kitchen table. The blue and white plates marched around on the tablecloth, folding chairs situated for additional seating. Even if you had a hamburger, you still needed a vegetable, and a proper plate to eat it on.
And I’m glad.