When we were all home, there were seven of us gathered at the dinner table each evening. Dad and Mom at either end, the two oldest boys in chairs on one side and us three younger girls along the deacon’s bench on the backside. If you were home, you were at the table. It wasn’t a strict rule, just the everyday expectation. They were talkative times with laughter and discussion and everyone took part.
Setting the table was the girls’ job and the same whether you were eating at the dining room table or the picnic table on the back porch. A tablecloth (often linen), plates, silverware, and napkins. Then, there was the MANTRA…Salt, pepper, cream, sugar, bread, butter. Salt, pepper, cream, sugar, bread, butter. Salt, pepper, cream, sugar, bread, butter. If you forgot an item, writing out the mantra 25 times, or 50 times after dinner, as the soft wood of the table absorbed the words through the paper, was a sure bet way that you were going to remember those six items next time.
|Honesty disclaimer - I never ate the prunes!|
It was always good, basic food. But often, there were “family recipes” that were outstanding. One most notable was Noodles and Prunes: homemade egg noodles made early in the morning and then cut into thick strips and laid to dry on newspapers throughout the day. Cooked in boiling water and turned crisp on the outside by being finished in a frying pan with butter. Tossed with big, fluffy homemade croutons and cooked prunes. A pile of those put on your plate and dusted with table sugar and you thought you’d died and gone to heaven.
Our schedules weren’t crazy for seven people. There weren’t sport practices or dance lessons to get to. None of us stayed after cool until 6 or 7 in the evening. Meals wove our lives together. It was a constant, a touchstone, for us.
Forward to dinner in my house and not my parents and you’d find the MANTRA is gone, but the linen tablecloths, the desire to share good food, and the value of sharing a meal is the same, just with less people. We are a family of three, Steve, Abram and me. It’s always been a priority for us to have our evening meal together. And just as it was when I grew up, Abram’s always had an opportunity to speak and be heard. As a child, we never “dumbed down” the conversation, which is why as he grew into an adult, our conversations still flow so easily. We talked about how our work days were or how things were going at school. We had political, financial, religious and ethical discussions. One of the most memorable and heartfelt conversation for me at our table was when Abram shared this.
We celebrated new friends that entered our lives and mourned the people we loved and lost. We shared our dream, our insecurities, our fears and turned to each other to help us through troubling times. We told jokes and puns, developing our own “Morgan Humor”, and amidst all this, quite often, dinner conversation lasted way past when the forks were all laid down.
Dinner time. Our constant. Generation to Generation. Nice…………