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If I close my eyes and listen closely, I can hear the back room fan in my grandparents’ Erwin Farm home pulling a breeze through the house when the kitchen and living room windows were up.And at lunchtime on Sunday, that breeze would pull the smells coming from the stove as Granny Williams put the finishing touches on a traditional Sunday dinner.The table was pulled away from the wall to make room for six, two extra chairs were brought into the small kitchen and the good dishes were taken down from the top shelf, while a brass-colored tea ball steeped in a pot of boiling water on the stove.The aroma of fresh vegetables grown in the back yard garden, two kinds of meat, gravy from a gravy bowl, hot corn bread cooked in a skillet and cat head biscuits filled the entire house.A towel was draped over the washing machine in the kitchen where a fresh pie or banana pudding and some kind of homemade cake awaited us, too.That’s the way my grandmother, the late Ruby Williams, did Sunday dinner.There would be two meats, two kinds of bread and two desserts – three if you count the Jell-O she made her grandsons. Talk about a spread; Granny Williams had Sunday dinner down pat.She didn’t miss a trick.Before pouring “sweet tea” in the glasses, she would run a lemon slice around the rim of the glasses to give every sip a special flavor and touch.However, I didn’t get to drink from those special glasses very much.My tea was poured into a jelly jar glass for good reason; the Sunday glasses were real family heirlooms that were handled with care.At one time, they belonged to my Granddaddy’s grandmother.Granddaddy Ross said that during the waning days of the Civil War, his grandmother considered the cut-glass stemware among her most valued possessions.She wrapped the glasses in burlap and buried them in the barn to keep Sherman’s troops from finding them.Sunday dinner was family proof that those tea glasses had made it through a little more than 100 years unscathed. They had held together through wars and the Depression and so did our family.Now some 40 years later, it’s a shame that Sunday dinners aren’t fairing as well as those prize drinking glasses that have been passed down to a fifth generation.Sunday dinner – and sitting around eating with your family – is becoming lost with time, with many of us now opting to eat at a restaurant instead of around a kitchen table where a couple of chairs were added.Sunday dinner isn’t something we really look forward any more: It’s something we tolerate.Now, we can’t even agree on where to go eat.Most cooks consider Sunday dinner a little old fashioned, too. Spending three hours putting together a family meal is something that we just don’t have time for.But our grandmothers and mothers found time for it and it’s something weneed to find time for, with good reasoning.Research shows that eating together as a family several times a week – and not just on Sunday – improves nutrition.According to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), families that dine together tend to eat more vegetables and fruits instead of fried foods, soft drinks and foods loaded with trans fats.Younger children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to be overweight, which puts them at a higher risk for health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.It has other benefits, too.CASA research from 2003 to 2008 has consistently found that children who have frequent family dinners are less likely to use drugs and alcohol and smoke, as well as develop eating disorders and emotional problems.Research also shows that the children of families who dine together also do better in school.Then, there’s some other intangibles.A family meal around the table (with the TV off) offers the opportunities for rich conversation we seldom get due to the rigors of daily schedules that have us pulling in several different directions at once.That kind of quality time reaches well beyond the scope of fast food diets and school grades.Tips for organizing family dinners– Set a goal – Start out at twice a week and go from there.– Keep menus simple – Meals don’t have to be complicated or fancy. Work vegetables into meals, along with family favorites.– Be prepared – Keep healthier foods on hand at home, including fresh fruits and vegetables.– Get everyone involved – Let children help with the preparation by setting the table.– Make the most of your slow cooker – Put everything together in a Crock Pot before leaving for work or church.– Make mealtime enjoyable – Leave serious family discussions – including politics –for another time.– Set the mood – Play music, put flowers on the table, light a candle, cut off the TV and don’t answer the phone.
Basic Pot RoastIngredients1, 2-pound boneless chuck roast, or similar cut, trimmed1 tablespoon canola oil1 medium onion, chopped2 cloves garlic, minced4 1/2 cups water, divided2 bay leaves1 teaspoon ground black pepper6 medium potatoes (skins on), sliced1 pound carrots (sliced 1/4-inch thick)4 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces3 tablespoons. all-purpose flour
Directions– In a Dutch oven or large pot with a lid, heat the oil on medium high. Add roast and brown both sides until a crispy crust forms (about 5-8 minutes) per side. Reduce heat to medium low and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent (3-5 minutes).– Transfer roast to a plate; keep warm. Return the pan to heat and add 2 cups of water and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of the pan. Return roast to pan, add bay leaves and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, turning roast after 1/2 hour.– Add potatoes on top of the meat and 2 more cups of water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add carrots and celery. Cover and simmer until a fork can easily pierce a potato (about 15 minutes).– Remove bay leaves and discard. Remove roast to cutting board and slice; arrange slices in a large serving dish. With a slotted spoon, remove potatoes, carrots and celery, and place around meat on a serving dish. Keep warm.– In a small bowl, combine the flour with 1/2 cup cold water until blended. Stir into remaining liquid in the pot. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened (about 3-4 minutes). Serve with the meat and vegetables.
– Recipe by American Diabetes Association