Of all the things that have been lost to the modern world, the one I miss the most is that lovely old institution, the midday family Sunday dinner. Sunday dinner was a weekly, year-round thing, of course, but somehow they just seemed more special in the summer.

And apparently I'm not alone in missing them. When I wrote of this nearly vanished institution a couple of years ago, it struck a chord and stirred many a warm memory, and not only for my fellow Southerners, but also for folks from all kinds of ethnic and regional backgrounds.

It wasn't surprising. If there's a better way to while away a hot summer afternoon than gathering around a formal dining room table with the people we love, I don't know what it is.

Taking our time with a meal that might almost be called a banquet, lazily sipping frosted glasses of tea, we caught up with one another's present and kept in touch with our past by trading old family stories that were at turns touching, embarrassing, heartbreaking and hilarious.

And the operative word was formal. Even in families like mine where the only rule for daily meals was that my brothers and I had to put on shirts before we came to the table, Sunday dinner demanded extra effort. Our rarely used dining room table was laid with old china, real crystal, and silver flatware, and we were expected to come to it still wearing our Sunday best.

Unhappily, we can't go back and probably couldn't revive that institution exactly as it was. We live in a different world. But that doesn't mean that we can't revive a little of its spirit. We can still make more effort with the table, we can still dress up, and we can share our Sunday best cooking with the people we love.

Because I'm Southern, the recipes that follow are all old fashioned Sunday dinner dishes from the South. But if you didn't grow up here or grew up in another tradition, by all means, celebrate it. If the Sunday dinners of your past were pasta with Grandma's marinara and meatballs, or rare English roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, why, have at it!

You don't even have to go crazy with extra cooking. Aprecooked spiral-sliced ham makes a fine centerpiece for a big Sunday afternoon meal, and can be accompanied by things that are mostly made ahead.

Pot-Roasted Pork Loin

Serves 6-8

3 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin

Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

2 teaspoons each crumbled dried sage and crumbled dried thyme

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

About 3 tablespoons pork or bacon drippings or canola oil

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

About 2 cups water, low-sodium meat broth, or dry white wine

1 bay leaf, cut in half

6 large carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut in 1-inch lengths

8-10 small red-skinned new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 300 degrees F. Dry pork with paper towels. Score any fat in crisscross pattern. Season liberally with salt and pepper and rub all sides with herbs. Dust well with flour.

2. Heat drippings or oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add pork and brown well on all sides. Remove from pot.

3. Cover bottom of pot with 1 onion. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Put pork back in pan and cover with remaining onions. Sprinkle lightly with more salt and pepper, and pour enough water, broth or wine around sides meat to come halfway up sides. Add bay leaves and scatter carrots and potatoes around pork. Cover and bake until pork tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Remove vegetables to a warm bowl, cover, and keep warm. Remove pork to platter, loosely cover with foil, and let rest while making gravy.

5. Tip pot and spoon off excess fat. If gravy is too thin, reserve 1 tablespoon fat and put in a small pan. Warm over medium heat and stir in 1 tablespoon flour. Cook, stirring, until bubbly and flour has lost raw, pasty taste. Turn off heat. Put Dutch oven over direct medium heat and bring gravy to a simmer. Stir in fat and flour mixture and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Let simmer until thickened.

6. Slice pork and spread on platter. Surround with vegetables and drizzle with gravy. Serve with remaining gravy passed separately.

Old Fashioned Sunday Baked Chicken

Serves 6

2 small, whole chickens, back removed and cut into quarters, or 6 whole, bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken of your choice (breast halves, thighs, drumsticks, or leg quarters)

Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

Paprika (optional)

Rubbed sage or poultry seasoning (optional)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Rub large covered roaster, rectangular baking dish, or 9-by-13-inch pan with butter. Pat chicken dry and put in pan, skin-side-down. Season with salt and pepper, and if liked paprika and/or dried herbs. Turn skin-side-up and season skin side well. Dot with butter. Cover tightly with lid or foil and bake 1 hour.

2. Uncover, baste with pan juices, and continue baking, basting occasionally, until skin is crisped and chicken is very tender, about 20-30 minutes longer.

3. Serve with pan juices passed separately.

Old-Fashioned Squash Casserole

Adapted from my book "Beans, Greens, & Sweet Georgia Peaches," Second Edition (Globe Pequot Press, 2014).

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds yellow crooknecks or other yellow summer squash

2 medium yellow onions, split, peeled and diced small

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup soft breadcrumbs

3/4 cup coarsely grated aged sharp cheddar

Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

Ground cayenne pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup light cream or evaporated milk

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1/4 cup finely crushed saltine crackers

1. Scrub squash well under cold running water to remove grit. Bring 1 inch water to boil in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add squash and onion, bring it back to boil, then reduce heat to medium, loosely cover, and simmer until squash and onions are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well, transfer to mixing bowl, and roughly crush with a potato masher.

2. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Mix in 2 tablespoons butter, soft crumbs, and cheddar, and season well with salt, pepper, and cayenne. In separate bowl, lightly whisk together eggs and cream. Add to squash and mix well.

3. Butter 9-inch square or 2-quart round casserole. Pour in squash and level top. Wipe out pan in which squash cooked and put in the remaining butter. Melt over medium low heat and turn off heat. Mix in cracker crumbs, stirring until evenly coated. Sprinkle Parmigiano over squash and top with buttered crumbs. Bake in center of oven until set and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve warm.

Southern Slow-Cooked Pole Beans with New Potatoes

This is one of the most misunderstood dishes in all of Southern cooking and it's easy to understand why when one sees the misguided mess that all too often what passes for it in "Southern" style diners and cafeterias. But when properly done, it's one of the loveliest of all vegetable dishes.

The key is that you can't use just any bean, and you can't revive canned beans by doing this to them. This requires sturdy, thick-skinned beans, often called pole beans not because they look like a pole, but because they grow on a vine that has to be trained onto a pole or cage. You can find them at farmers' markets and in some supermarkets.

Adapted from my book "Beans, Greens, & Sweet Georgia Peaches," Second Edition (Globe Pequot Press, 2014).

Serves 6

3 pounds sturdy flat pole beans (sometime sold as Italian green beans), or half-runners or Kentucky Wonder beans

1/2 pound lean salt pork, pancetta, or country ham in one piece or 1 country ham hock (not a regular smoked hock)

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 small new potatoes, scrubbed

1 small Vidalia Sweet or other sweet onion, trimmed, split lengthwise, peeled, and diced, optional

Pepper vinegar, optional

1. Wash beans thoroughly in cold water; drain. Top and tail beans and strip off woody "strings" that run down seams of pods. Break or cut beans into 1-inch lengths.

2. Wash pork to remove excess salt and pat dry. Put in heavy-bottomed 4- to 6-quart pot over medium heat. If lean, add a spoonful of vegetable oil. Cook, turning frequently, until browned and fat is rendered. Remove all but tablespoon of fat and add onion.  Sauté until golden, about 5 minutes, then add 4 cups water and bring to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

3. Raise heat to high and bring back to rolling boil. Drain and add beans. If water doesn't cover, add more as needed. Let come back to boil, then reduce heat to bare simmer. Loosely cover and simmer for at least 1hour or until beans are very tender, at which point, there should be very little liquid left. Meanwhile, if liked peel around middle of potatoes, leaving most of peeling in place. Add potatoes to top and let steam until just tender, about 20 minutes.

4. If a lot of liquid is left when beans are done, remove potatoes to warm bowl and keep warm. Raise heat to medium high and cook until most of it evaporates, stirring often to prevent scorching. Pour beans into warm vegetable dish. Put potatoes around edges. If liked, serve with chopped raw onion and pepper vinegar passed separately.

Old-Fashioned Peach Cobbler

I've never cared for the ever-popular batter-crusted cobblers, mainly because I like a cobbler to consist mostly of fruit. This has a regular pastry in two layers, one in the middle rather than at the bottom so that it comes out more like dumplings than pastry. Still, I love the fruit by itself so much that often I omit that middle layer of pastry: just cut the pastry recipe in half.

Serves 4 To 6

For the crust:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 pound (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into bits

2 tablespoons chilled lard or shortening, cut into bits

About 1/2-2/3 cup chilled water

For the filling:

5 cups peeled, pitted, and sliced peaches


Ground cinnamon and whole nutmeg in a grater

2 tablespoons bourbon

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cinnamon Sugar (recipe follows)

Best quality vanilla ice cream

1. Sift or whisk together flour and salt in large mixing bowl. Add butter and lard and cut it in with a pastry blender or fork to consistency of coarse meal. Make well in center and add 1/2 cup of water. Lightly but thoroughly mix it in. If too crumbly and dry, add water by spoonfuls until holding together. Gather into ball and divide it into two parts. Wrap and chill 20-30 minutes.

2. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, combine peaches with sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to taste. Add bourbon, sprinkle cornstarch evenly over fruit, and fold in to mix. Put half of fruit in 9-inch round or larger oval casserole or souffle dish.

3. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out 1 piece of dough 1/8 inch thick. Trim to fit casserole and lay over fruit in dish, sprinkle lightly with sugar, and top with remaining fruit.

4. Roll out second lump of dough 1/8-inch thick, trim to fit dish, and lay over top. If liked, you can also cut decorative shapes from scraps of dough remain, brush backs with water, and lay decoratively around edges. Slash top dough in several places, put dish on rimmed cookie sheet and bake in center of oven for 20 minutes.

5. Remove cobbler from oven, brush top with melted butter and dust it well with cinnamon sugar. Return to oven and bake until top is golden and filling is bubbling at center, about 20-30 more minutes more. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Cinnamon sugar: combine for each cup sugar, add 1 tablespoon cinnamon in jar with tight-fitting lid. Put in lid and shake until evenly mixed. Alternatively, put sugar and cinnamon in mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Adjust cinnamon to taste and store in sealed container. I keep it in a covered shaker so that I can sprinkle it as needed.