2017.04.26 I don’t cook Sunday dinner


Lately I seem to be laying out all my failings in this column. In recent weeks I mentioned some of my shortcomings as a parent. Intolerance for animals—stuffed or alive. Poor decision-making and excessive worry about kids. Refusal to read some books over and over.

Here’s another—I don’t cook Sunday dinner.

We eat, of course. But it’s not very often that I slave in the kitchen all day and produce a Sunday feast.

My mother always made wonderful meals on Sunday—stuffed loin of pork, roast beef with roasted potatoes, chicken or turkey with all the trimmings, excellent meatloaf with mashed potatoes, baked ham with sweet potatoes, sirloin steak with mushrooms—and, of course, always lots of tasty vegetables to complement the meats.

But I am a culinary bum in comparison.

Maybe it’s a reaction to all the elaborate Sunday dinners I ate during my college years at the housing co-op I lived in for nearly three years.

Sunday dinner at Howland House Co-op was a tradition that put more pounds on college students than any pizzeria ever did. It was also the only meal that came with the extremely cheap rent. For all other meals the 30 of us who lived there each made our own on our own schedule. Sunday dinner brought us together and provided a little respite from the crowded kitchen atmosphere usually present during the week.

I learned a great deal during that hectic dinner hour, though, working elbow to elbow with students from Taiwan, Iran, Thailand, and even the U.P.—it was Diane DeCaire from Ishpeming, after all, who taught me how to make bread. From Daryoush, I learned to make potato pancakes and from Yang, I learned to yell, “Long live China!” every time I drop something that makes a loud clang.

Making Sunday dinner was a coveted chore assignment—it was an easy way to knock off 10 hours from the 30-hour work requirement that went along with the cheap rent. Two residents made dinner for however many people signed up to eat the meal. The budget was pretty skimpy—I’m guessing not much more that $2 a person, maybe even $1.50. But what a lot of food and such delicious meals we made on that meager budget.

After Sunday dinner, I always landed on the couch with an expanded stomach in sweet agony from the gluttony. It’s probably those days at Howland that left me with such a stretched abdomen. Those meals certainly aided and abetted my bad habit of overeating.

While cleaning the basement last week, I was reminded of Howland House Sunday dinners when I came across love letters I’d written David early in our courtship. I discovered one written the day I made a Greek Sunday dinner—moussaka, Greek salad, homemade bread and ravani—a Greek dessert my friend Kay’s (Kerassia) mother used to make.

I remember calling Kay in New York to get the ravani recipe from her mother. Kay wasn’t home so her sister Al (Alexandra) had to translate. I wrote down the conversation in that letter to David.

“One glass of flour, one glass farina, one glass sugar…,” Al translating her mother’s directions from Greek.

I stopped her.

“Whaddaya mean a ‘glass’?”

“You know, a glass. The kind ya drink outta,” said Al.

“C’mon, Al. What is it in cups?”

“Cups? Whaddaya mean ‘cups’? Use a glass,” she said.

I used a glass. I picked one that looked about the same size as something Kay’s mother Georgia would have served me milk out of.

The ravani was excellent.

Reading that recipe now, (I wrote the whole thing down in that letter to David), I’m even inspired to cook Sunday dinner.

I could make my mother proud.

But I’m sure she’ll be wondering about my love letter writing ability.