Grandma Roasted a Pig This Sunday
When we arrived home from church, the doors to each of our three tenement home were open, and the smells crept into every corner.
Grandma was banging her wooden spoon on the rim of the pot.
The meatballs sizzled in olive oil and garlic. Grandma started her gravy, a rich tomato-based sauce with cuts of meat and spices, in the early morning because it took hours of slow cooking on the rear burners of the Barstow Stove.
Taking two stairs at a time, I went to her pantry, ripped the corner from the Italian bread and dunked it in her gravy. I blew on the bread as I cradled it with two hands, strolling into the dining room to peek at the mahogany table covered with its plain white cloth. Sun splashed on plain dishes surrounded by knives forks and spoons sitting patiently in front of each chair. In the adjacent parlor was a smaller table set the same way for us children.
I have no idea how grandmother did it. In a small tenement, she prepared dinner for her large family every Sunday. She sustained a long tradition of how we should enjoy Sunday; as a family lingering in conversation at the dinner table.
Grandma was a small, quiet, purposeful and efficient kitchen technician, buzzing from pantry to kitchen stove to dining room, a gravy-splashed apron skirting her waist. We sat.
The first course was an antipasto of meats, cheeses and roasted red peppers. Chicken and dumpling soup or chicken soup with tiny meatballs, some floating like land mines ready to explode on the way down, followed. Then came the homemade pasta. She served the meatballs, sausage and braciole in a side dish. Stuffed artichokes, salad and string beans accompanied a chicken roasted with crispy potatoes. Fresh bread came from the local Italian bakery. Desserts included fresh figs, fruits, cakes and Italian pastries. Nuts sat in bowls, waiting to be cracked. At each end of the table was Grandpa’s homemade wine. It smelled like his cellar where he made it
After dinner, the kids went out to play while the adults sat around to talk. I recall the same subjects discussed over and over…work, children, neighbors, gossip, etc. They laughed a lot. No one adjourned to a TV room. Rather, they enjoyed the simplicity and grace of the day and of each other.
The dinners, like my grandparents, grew old and eventually died, though my mother continued them for a while. My children had the opportunity to experience the love, respect, partnership and joy of extended family through my Mom’s Sunday Dinners.
I loved those Sunday dinners, but not until recent years did I realize how much. In some ways, life seemed better then. We enjoyed freedom from the slavery of the clock.
The dinners drew us to Grandma’s and family every week.