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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Blessings of Sunday Breakfast and Supper

I am sure many of you remember a time when Sunday was not just like any other day. Some sort of church service was in the offing, along with "Sunday best" clothes, a lack of manual labor (as much as possible, anyway), good food, visits with family and friends. Finding an open restaurant was as difficult as finding anything open; at least, there was nothing more open than a newsstand (for the Sunday paper), a bakery (where one could also purchase that missing loaf of bread and the milk to go with it), and maybe, just maybe, the dime store. We prepared for Sunday.

Sunday had a certain civilizing influence on the rest of the week. A lot of people worked a half-day on Saturday. Some schools were even in session for a half-day on Saturday. Sunday was the One Day when just maybe Dad could take a nap, catch up on his children's lives, maybe spend a little time with Mom alone. 

Times have changed and Sunday (or Saturday if you're Jewish or one of the Adventist groups) has been thrown out the window by too many as one more day. Family is scattered to the four winds, brought only together by Facebook. Dressing for church (small c, the building as well as the meeting held in the building) has been replaced with dressing for comfort. Every store and its subsidiaries are open and ready to receive trade. There are a wide range of activities that are well, just the same stuff we do every other day, Monday through Saturday, no difference except we have the day off from work or school to get more stuff done. Meals are grabbed from fast food emporiums, in the rush to get things done. 

I tried to revive Sunday dinner, inviting extended family and friends to at least take an hour or two to see each other, chat, and stop to actually dine for a change. Nobody had time for it, not even for roast or lasagna or even pizza. 

It's become a point of mine to attempt to bring Sunday back as a day of rest and not a day of rush. I refuse to run around doing stuff on Sunday. Period. The dressing up part hasn't caught on, but there are now certain clothes that just don't make it to Mass. Even the Mister must now wear his Sunday jeans, as opposed to his everyday jeans.

We don't do much of anything that day, except go to Mass and choir practice. In this day of Sunday being just one more day of the weekend, sometimes we go to the movies, or out for Sunday breakfast. Mostly, we stay home and rest. The Mister gets a midday nap. The kids get to veg. 

When we don't go out for Sunday breakfast, we create it. It is an institution in our family. We've had Sundays where we were all ill with the flu or some such, and the kids cried because I wouldn't be serving Sunday breakfast. 

This baffles me, as Sunday breakfast if often quite simple: Meat, some sort of sweet food, eggs, fruit, beverage of choice. The meat could be ham, could be bacon, could be sausage. The sweet food could be french toast, could be pancakes, on rare occasions sweet rolls, doughnuts or a coffee cake. Eggs are usually over easy, but could be scrambled, could even be poached or baked. It's often eaten after Mass, but sometimes before, within the dictates of fasting for Holy Communion. It's a meal where we bring the meal together as a family, sit down together, and savor.

I bail on Sunday Dinner, AKA a big meal in the afternoon. If it isn't cold cuts with condiments and relishes, it isn't happening. 

Now Sunday supper is another matter entirely. For this meal, I'm big on soups: Chili, hearty vegetable of beef or chicken stock, chowders. This requires possibly more cold cuts, cheese, bread of some sort (tortillas, chips, corn bread, etc.). Everybody likes it, it's easy to assemble and the clean-up is minimal. There is a dessert, something we don't have with every meal. 

I've recently handed off the preparation of Sunday supper to the eldest children in residence. 

Did I mention this isn't a matter of opening cans and heating them? We don't eat canned soup, at least not as soup. It tastes so...canned, processed. Even if the soup involves canned broth or stock, it has to taste like "fresh" soup. I'm willing to concede packages on the bread and dessert. But a good soup needs to taste fresh, at least as fresh as soup can taste. This often involves sauteing onions, celery, green pepper. It involves peeling carrots, potatoes. All in all, it's a big deal for preteens. 

I'm not afraid to say that I may not have a lot of time left in my life; certainly, I have less predictable time than I did when raising my first batch of children. I'm in good shape for my age, although somewhat portly. But every day for an aging person is another day closer to death, let's face it.

It is important to me that this second batch of kids can function as adults, or even before that. I don't want to be morbid, but I also don't want to suddenly die and have them unable to take care of themselves. 

Children are much more capable than the experts would have us believe. Teenagers are especially more adroit than present theory leads us to fathom, and can cook and clean with the best of them. Despite the baby-fying of America, with health insurance on Mom and Dad's tab until 26, college educations without the responsibilities, get-away vacations alone and unsupervised as a rite of passage, kids are capable. 

Kids being raised by grandparents need to be a little more capable than kids who have young parents as a back-up plan for life. Grandma might not make it until the grandchild is 18. Grandma might make it, but Grandpa could pass away, and the kids will be much more responsible as Grandma returns to work. Grandchildren might go back to a parent who has fooled the court and appeared to be a capable caregiver, but is not. This demographic of children needs life skills and needs them young! Those life skills include cooking, cleaning and learning how to take life easy once a week.

If this is so, then it stands to reason that a tradition such as Sunday breakfast and supper is more than a nice little ritual to continue relaxation. Being a participant in this tradition gives kids the opportunity to develop skills they can use later. Does that violate the Commandment to keep the sabbath holy? I don't think so. 

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