My mother-in-law invited us to Sunday dinner today. There was good reason to celebrate. Miracle of miracles: All three of her children are in town. And this just doesn’t happen. One lives in San Francisco, one splits time between the Middle East and Asia and my husband, except for the last three years, has spent his entire adult life on the Texas Gulf Coast. So what better way than a Sunday dinner table to gather everyone together?
In my family, whenever someone hosts dinner, all the women bring a dish – or two – or three. I don’t know where or when the tradition began, but Sunday dinner always meant a shared work load. Granny would prepare the meat and potatoes and maybe her mouth-watering fried corn. And the rest was up to Granny’s daughters — my mother and two aunts.
So in that share-the-labor vein, I asked my husband what dish we should bring. And when he shrugged his shoulders, I asked what his mother was serving. And with a big grin, he said, “Well, you know, it is Sunday. And Sunday Dinner means only one thing. Roast beef. But call Mom if you want to know what to bring.”
Jan wanted to keep it simple, so I offered to bring a yellow cake topped with my favorite peanut butter frosting. And, just for good measure, to help Jan keep it simple, I offered to bring a package of Sister Shubert rolls; and then without asking, I used up some of my home-grown tomatoes on a side dish of macaroni and tomatoes. Though none of these contributions took much effort, I hope I did the Taylor women proud.
It was great to have a ring-side seat at the dining table to watch these four relive old family memories, especially the hilarious stories they told on Grandma Max. No use mincing words; this lady had a bit of a mean streak. And if it’s true what they say about only the good dying young, it may explain why Mammy lived to be ninety-six. We laughed through story after story; and what made the stories so rich were the outrageous things she would say to people. For instance, the poor innocent Meals-on-Wheels volunteers would get: “When are you going to get a real job?” And this included the sacrifical lamb who had Max on his daily route; before he retired he was a prestigious OSU music professor. No fiction writer could make up stuff as good as what Mammy created with her everyday life.
After the stories were told and the kitchen tidied up, we sat around the table for a good old-fashioned visit over a slice of cake. And by the time the visiting was done, I had two slices of cake to bring home. An empty cake pan always provides the best testimony as to why this recipe is my favorite frosting.
While I don’t have Jan’s recipe for roast beef, I have one of my own that’s worth sharing. And in the spirit of God, when he sent two times the manna to Moses and the Isralites to take care of Sunday dinner, I’m throwing in a second recipe just because. Try one or both for your next family gathering. From my life to yours.