Is Sunday dinner even a big deal anymore?
When I was small, Sunday dinner was an event.
There was church in the morning, and then it seemed most of the rest of the day my mom and my Aunt Sallie would be in the kitchen.
They were from Virginia originally, although we lived in Michigan by then. Sunday dinner to them meant family, big meals, and of course, leftovers.
Even when I got older, and Sundays were just my mom, my dad, and me, dinner was still special.
My mom had a plan.
Maybe she learned it from her mother; I don’t know.
The Week Begins on Sunday
I never knew my mom to plan meals. I spent more afternoons than I can count after I learned to drive going to the grocery store to get something she needed for dinner.
Except for two days: Sunday and Tuesday.
Sunday was a big meal, even if there were only 3 of us. And Tuesday, Tuesday was for making Sunday’s leftovers into something else, something equally delicious.
Sunday was always a roast of some kind, because you could put it in the oven as soon as you got home from church, even before you changed out of your church clothes. And then you would have time, while it cooked, to do the rest.
Different and the Same
What was different each Sunday was what kind of roast there would be; I imagine it was dependent on what was on sale that week. Sometimes it was chicken, other times pork, and sometimes even a beef roast.
But always there were mashed potatoes and green beans.
In our family, we make green beans Southern style.
You start with fresh ones you’ve snapped yourself (or frozen in my case), and a big soup pot, because you’re going to make enough to last the week.
You add the beans, some chicken stock – homemade, not that weak stuff from a can – and a bit of smoked pork. Fatback or hog jowl if you can get it; otherwise bacon or even smoked turkey legs will do.
And then you cook it for hours.
Yes. Hours. Proper Southern green beans barely hold their shape, and they are so soft a baby could eat them.
And the mashed potatoes! I’ve never seen a bowl so big, full of mashed potatoes. Enough to feed 10 or 15 people. A whole bag, peeled, cooked, and mashed with milk and plenty of butter, salt and pepper.
And Then Tuesday
Naturally, after such a big dinner on Sunday, there would be leftovers. Lots of them.
The green beans would last most of the week.
And the potatoes would too, transformed into other mouthwatering dishes. Potato salad and potato pancakes.
So Tuesdays were leftover days.
Take the rest of the chicken and the gravy, add some mixed vegetables, serve it over the mashed potatoes or homemade biscuits and you had a quick chicken pot pie.
Roast beef and gravy over toast with green beans on the side, or pork roast with some barbecue sauce and potato salad.
Two meals (or more) made from one. And don’t forget to save the bones to make stock or soup!
We Can Take a Lesson
Today, we eat a little differently.
Unless you’re from the south, you can’t imagine eating green beans the way we make them. And potato salad from mashed potatoes? Just like most dishes from the south, it’s sinfully good.
But we can still learn from my mom and her sister.
A roast of any kind is still an easy fix on Sunday or any day.
And if you make a little extra when you make the sides, no matter what they are, you have food that’s almost ready for another meal.
Sunday’s roast, whether chicken or pork or beef, can easily be Tuesday’s tacos. Make some extra salad on Sunday and you can use it on your tacos. Corn on Sunday can be added to salsa on Tuesday.
And there are plenty of other variations.
Barbecued pork, beef stir fry, burrito bowls.
The food may have changed a bit, but the tradition can live on.
And just like that, your life can get just a little bit easier.
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