This blog started with a simple request. My friend Lisa asked me to write a tract for a group show called "Cottage Industry" at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. For her project, The Tract House, Lisa asked a number of her friends and colleagues to write short texts loosely based on the idea of religious tracts and to address subjects that were "important, genuine, sweet, ridiculous, overbearing, urgent, essential, vital, crucial or critical".
Lisa's call to arms was "Disseminate your dissent!". After thinking about things that bothered me and information that I wanted to share, the answer was clear. I would write about Sunday Dinner.
Sunday Dinner was once an American institution, a special meal for which friends and family gathered together at the homestead after church on Sunday afternoons. Sunday Dinner took a great deal of preparation and required a large effort on the part of the cook (or cooks). Although family members sometimes pitched in, Sunday Dinner was largely the responsibility of the woman of the house. If she were lucky, she might have a cook or a daughter old enough to help out in the kitchen. Because of the amount of labor required and the increasing demands on women's time as more women entered the workforce in the 1960's and 70's, it's easy to understand how Sunday Dinner fell out of favor.
My family ate pancakes or waffles for lunch on Sundays and we never ate a meal I thought of as Sunday Dinner. In recent years, I have become obsessed with the idea of Sunday Dinner as an iconic American meal and I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out where Sunday Dinner came from, what that meal looked like, and what happened to it.
Sunday Dinner was a nostalgic meal from the very beginning. When most people in the world lived on farms and grew their own food, they also ate most of their meals together and didn't think much about it. With Industrialization came jobs in the city and meals away from home. Sundays became the only day that the whole family could share a meal together as they once did on a daily basis. Sunday Dinner came to signify a way of life that was fading away. We still think of Sunday Dinner nostalgically, but we long for different things.
As a working mom, I can't imagine having to prepare a large meal for my extended family on a weekly basis, but I long for it all the same. I believe it is possible to create a new kind of Sunday Dinner in which we remember our connections to the land and to our friends and families, but without a huge amount of labor. With this goal in mind, I've started this website to spread the word about Sunday Dinner and as a way to jump-start my research for a book that seems to be going the way of the original Sunday Dinner. I'll be writing about Sunday Dinners from the past, great recipes, and ways to convince your friends and family to join you for a Sunday Dinner of your own without driving everyone crazy or going to too much trouble. I urge you to join me in this quest and to make Sunday Dinner a meal we can all enjoy.
You can check out my tract Eat Sunday Dinner! Or if you're in the Baltimore area, go see "Cottage Industry", which opens at the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore on May 31st. It sounds amazing. In the meantime, welcome to eatsundaydinner.com. I look forward to hearing from you.