First born called me last week. “Mom, I haven’t really seen you since Christmas”. Translation: “Mom, you haven’t fed me since Christmas and I need something besides Mexican food” So an invitation was issued, a rump roast was put in the oven, and the table was set on a Monday night.
A simple meal, but one of his favorites—salad, roast, rice, gravy, black eyed peas, squash casserole, and cornbread (recipe here). It reminded me of the lunch my grandmother served every Sunday after church. How did she do it? Dressed to the nines in a two piece suit with a matching hat and costume jewelry and always on the same pew—two behind the minister’s wife. She waltzed in after church and thirty minutes later we were all saying grace…as if by magic. I set the table today as she might have and used some her things.
She would have used the everyday china—the Haviland was for holidays and birthdays. Her tablecloth would have been white. I used vintage looking lacy placemats instead. The standby by white Gibson china will work just fine.
She would never have used paper napkins. Old and a little worse for the wear, these are the same ones we used back then and I still sometimes use with care. Like an old lady with wrinkles, the napkins have earned their frayed edges. My grandfather liked his peas or butterbeans in a separate bowl. These would be just the right size.
The silver plate came out of its velvet-lined box for Sundays. Of course, there would have been an iced tea spoon. This is her First Love pattern by Rogers International…not as valuable as sterling, and yet, more so to me.
There would have been flowers—something simple from her yard or a blooming potted plant. These primroses tease at spring to come…color in the midst of white. There would have been tall glasses for iced tea…no stemware on the Sunday table. These Dollar Tree glasses remind me of something she would have used. The white snowflake candles add a simple elegance.
We would have passed bowls of vegetables, discussed who was at church or noticeably absent, who had died or was dying, what we had done or were planning to do. It seems bonding around tables and food is a tradition passed down to me. I thank my grandmother for teaching me that.
In a nostalgic mood, I made an old favorite—Waldorf salad. It’s a colorful salad and good for this time of year. Apples are always in season. And as I was serving this I was brought back to my original question: How did she get that meal on the table as if by magic. Sadly, that secret was not in the velvet –lined box.
This salad was first served in the Waldorf Hotel (later the Waldorf Astoria) in New York around 1893. Developed by the maitre d’hotel, and not the chef, it was instant success. The original version did not contain raisins or nuts.
2 cups unpeeled, chopped tart apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2-3/4 cups chopped celery
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Coat apple pieces in lemon juice. Toss all ingredients with mayonnaise and chill.
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