Down South in the past, Sundays were the day when families gathered for the biggest and best meal of the week. There would be fried chicken and mashed potatoes or pot roast and rice and gravy, and maybe a coconut meringue pie for dessert. Here in El Norte de Mexico, Sunday still is the day for family meals; there’s menudo and barbacoa for brunch and no matter what you were doing last night, you don’t just not show up.
Nowadays there are waits for tables in restaurants on Sundays, but with careers that don’t stop for weekends, video games that keep kids and adults obsessed, and chores that must be done, it’s just as likely that we are grabbing what’s available and eating it on the run on weekends as on the other days of the week.
But not on holidays.
We have pretty strong opinions about what should be found on the holiday table–and who should be found sitting around it.
Holiday dinners in our family are marathons of preparation. It begins days before the dinner will be served. Every mother wants every child, no matter what age, to have his or her favorite dish. Desserts are especially important. I remember my grandmother and my mom making a dozen or more pies for holiday dinners when I was a teenager. I myself once made eight–eight!–pies at Christmas because family members kept adding requests.
We have pretty strong opinions about what should be found on the holiday table–and who should be found sitting around it. My mom and dad are happiest when all four of their children are present with all our offspring. These days two tables are needed to accommodate us. We four have lots to catch up on, since some of us see each other only on holidays. We have new ones to meet–at Thanksgiving this year, my brother’s new daughter-in-law and my sister’s new grandbaby.
Eating is not just for survival, and this has been brought to my close attention while I live alone here in Mexico. Eating is supposed to be a convivial act. I love cooking and eating fresh and healthy food, but I don’t like to cook just for me in this tiny kitchen with my limited equipment.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling the Holiday spirit. Yesterday I invited a fellow teacher over for dinner. I roasted beets and made a salad dressing from lemon and olive oil and a little honey, toasted some pecans and garlic to toss with some quinoa and a few raisins. A very simple meal, but I wouldn’t have done it just for myself. My enjoyment of the preparations came from the anticipation of sharing the food with someone.
Can’t wait for Christmas dinner.