Last week, Damon Fowler wrote about the vanishing Sunday dinner. Being Southern, I, too, have many wonderful memories of Sunday dinner and the delicious food Mama cooked for it. Later, when my children moved to Statesboro to attend college, I promised to not be a nagging, overprotective mother if they agreed to come home for supper on Sunday night. They agreed, and we all now share the precious memories of those suppers together.
My mother sent me a copy of this story one of her cousins shared at a family reunion many years ago about Sunday dinners at my great grandparents' home.
"On Sunday all mother's family would come to grandmother's to visit and have a good time. All my aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, outlaws, everybody came. I can remember as many as 32 being there. Many times we would have three or four tables of food. There was plenty of good food and no one needed to worry that only a chicken gizzard or a couple of wings would be all that was left if he was the last to eat."
After the last table had been served and all those blue willow plates were washed, by my cousins Ruth, Wilma and me, wiped and put back in the safe, everyone went into the front room. Today that would be known as the family room.
My grandparents had a piano. Some of the ivory was missing and who knows how often it was tuned, but it worked. Aunt Etta had a few piano lessons and could play very well. To my knowledge no one there had any formal training in voice, but they could all sing or pat their foot to keep time.
Grandpa and Uncle Cargyle sang bass and all the aunts except one sang some version of tenor. My Aunt Lou sang alto, and she was louder than the others were so her part would be heard. They would gather around and sing hymns. The great old ones that stir ones soul "Rock of Ages, Clef for Me, Let Me Hide Myself in Thee," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and my favorite, "He's the Lilly of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star." After a few hymns, they would sing ballads. Some of those stories set to music were sad and others funny. I often wonder now where the stories came from and how long they had been in the family.
After a while, someone or another would say, "I think I am all sung out," and they would go out to the breezeway and soon all the others would follow them. The concert, however, was not over yet. The grand finale was Aunt Etta's playing the march "Under the Double Eagle." Grandpa would tell us children to march and see who could kick the highest. Of course, he could with his long legs. We would all be jumping and kicking and finally reaching a noise level that could be heard way over to the neighbor's house a mile away. At that point, Grandmother would come in and say, "Jackson, stop that! You all are making the whole house shake." She was only so big, but when she spoke, we all listened.
Soon it was time for everyone to gather their things and make their way home, as many had come several miles to be there with the family. One last big treat awaited us children. Grandpa always kept stick candy for us. He would give each of us a stick of peppermint or lemon, and sometimes peanut butter candy. We all waited patiently for our piece; no one yelled, "gimme mine first," or, "I want peppermint or lemon." We knew that kind of behavior would not get us candy. After the candy was given out, goodbyes were said and everyone went home. Memories of days like this one are some of my most treasured ones.
I'm sure someone carried a meatloaf to Great-grandma's Sunday dinner. While I'm sure many of you have had some really bad meatloaves, this one, which I adapted from my mother-in-law's, may just change your mind about this quintessential comfort food. I think it's the applesauce that makes it so good!
Teri Bell is co-owner of Miss Sophie's Marketplace at the Mighty Eighth in Pooler. Go to www.sophiesmarketplace.com.
Mom Bell's Meatloaf
2 pounds of ground beef
1 cup applesauce
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
6 slices of bread, crumbled
1 garlic clove, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil a loaf (bread) pan. Mix all ingredients together well and transfer to oiled pan. Cover and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove cover, spread topping over top of meatloaf and return to oven for 15 minutes.
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
Mix together and spread over top of meatloaf.
In the summer, when tomatoes are fresh, I like to omit the topping and serve this relish over warm slices meatloaf.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 red bell peppers finely diced
2 tomatoes, seeded, and finely diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 Â¼ cups ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together well.