Blog, throwback thursday

Throwback Thursday #58 – Family Meal Rituals

Thank you for sticking with us after our short absence last week. We are back and raring to go! This week we are going to delve into what mealtime was like in your home.

This week’s prompt is: Family Meal Rituals

I will give you some questions to help you along. Or, free write if you would rather. You can either respond in the comments or link back to this post. My response will follow.

Let’s start at the top of the day, breakfast! Did your family have a sit down breakfast or were you more grab and go? What beverages were served at breakfast? What was your favorite (and/or least favorite) breakfast meal?

Did you snack before the mid-day meal?

Lunch for most children was eaten at school with the exception of weekends, holidays, or summer vacation. At school, did you buy your lunch from the cafeteria, or did you pack lunch? In high school, were you allowed to leave school grounds during the lunch period?

For times when you had lunch at home, was it sandwiches, leftovers, or a newly prepared meal?

The evening meal is usually the most formal meal in many homes. Did your family sit down together and enjoy the evening meal or were you more of a TV dinner in front of the TV family?

How did your weekend meals differ from your weekdays?

Who did most of the cooking in your household? Did that person also do the meal planning and grocery shopping? Were you taught to cook or were you shoo’d out of the kitchen?

Did you have dessert served at your meals? If so, what types?

Who cleaned up after meals? Was it a shared responsibility between men/women, girls/boys or was it delegated based on gender?

How about late night snacks? Okay or discouraged?

Were dining manners stressed in your household? No elbows on the table, no hats at the table, no belching, please, thank you, and may I be excused?

Did you have occasions where you had large family gatherings for meals? What occasions?

Did you say grace or have a blessing before meals?

Now for the fun part. What dishes are you glad disappeared over the years? What dishes have you carried forward into your own home?

BONUS: Care to share any favorite family recipes?

My fondest meal memories were from the time we lived in the Valley at my paternal grandparent’s home. When we were going to school, we almost always had a hot breakfast, especially in winter. It was a long cold bus ride to school.

Hot breakfast could be scrambled eggs with oven toast, ‘hotcakes’ as my grandmother called them, oatmeal (with raisins yuck), or worse yet, corn meal mush which I hated. But, we were taught from an early age to eat what we were given or go hungry! My favorite was hotcakes (pancakes) because my grandmother made her own syrup and it was always served hot! Even though I lived in southwest Virginia, I never even heard of grits until I moved to Ohio, so we never had them.

In elementary school, we bought lunch at school. Our school cooks were local women who were excellent southern cooks! Meals were good and I recall them only costing a quarter (25¢). They were so good even the local business people from town came to school to eat lunch! The price may have had something to do with it, too.

Dinner (or supper depending on the area of the country) was a family sit down affair. My grandmother had a large table with a bench across one of the longer sides of the table and chairs around the remaining three sides. I only remember having meat on Sundays although we may have had chicken more frequently than I remember. There was always a pot of pinto beans during the week with fresh cornbread or biscuits. We grew and canned all our own vegetables so they were always plentiful.

Canning and preserving took a great deal of time and hard work in the harvest season. Everything was preserved — corn, tomatoes, cucumbers into pickles, beans, relish (chow chow is what we called it), grapes (jelly and wine), strawberries, peaches, apples, and finally root vegetables were stored in the cellar.

My grandmother and my mother did all the cleanup work and the dishes. I do remember my grandmother teaching me how to wash dishes in boiling wash water and boiling rinse water. Glasses first, then plates, silverware next and pots and pans last.

We had a lot of family gatherings at both grandparents houses. They usually occurred in the summer. Folding tables were brought into the yard and topped with gingham tableloths. Fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, biscuits, banana pudding, and a cake or pie of some sort. A watermelon was lodged in the creek between some big rocks to cool. These were some of the best times of my life. Sometimes I feel like Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets”, “Good times, noodle salad.”

My maternal grandfather was a carpenter and he made a huge dining room table. There were so many meals around that table. If the whole gang was there, the kids were relegated to the living room to find a seat on the piano bench, the couch, or one of granddaddy’s handmade rocking chairs. If you got there too late, there was always a step on the staircase!

When I was older, we moved to Ohio. Mom still cooked most of the meals, but when I was in high school, I cooked quite a bit more. I also cleaned the kitchen a lot more, too. Mom and Dad both worked so I learned to cook rather quickly. We still ate our evening meal together at the table. At breakfast everyone was on their own. I remember a lot of buttered toast dipped in hot cocoa – my favorite breakfast!

My Dad’s specialty was frying trout in a cast iron skillet on his Coleman stove. Later in life he grilled a lot, but not much that I recall growing up. When he retired, he made custard pies for Thanksgiving and made freezer strawberry jam when he could get strawberries.

Throughout my life, we ate casually on weekends it was normal to have PB&J, or tomato, lettuce, cucumber, or onion sandwiches. I still love all of them today.

I’m glad I no longer have to eat corn meal mush. I miss my grandmother’s pancakes with hot syrup, though. I loved it when we made ice cream with an old crank churn. I remember adding ice and rock salt and churning for what seemed forever! In the winter we made snow cream when we had a big snowfall!

Today I still make my grandmother’s cranberry jello salad at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have family recipes for carrot cake, a single layer cake with broiled nut (I prefer black walnuts) icing, ginger snaps, and of course angel biscuits and idiot rolls. If anyone seriously wants any of them, I will gladly send them along.


47 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday #58 – Family Meal Rituals”

  1. My favorite memories – especially food memories – are from when we lived next to my paternal grandmother, as well. There was always something good being cooked or baked.

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  2. Here are my answers, Maggie.

    1) My parents both worked, so my breakfast was usually cereal, eaten on my own after the age of 9.
    2) I had lunch at school until I was 12. Subsidised food known as ‘School Diinners’ in England. (Free for poor children.) After I was 12 I usually walked home and had lunch with a schoolfriend. Usually a sandwich or toast, that I made myself.
    3) My dad worked away a lot, so it was usually mum and me for the evening meal. We sometimes ate together in the kitchen, or on trays watching TV.
    4) My mum did 100% of the cooking. My dad never even went into the kitchen. I was never taught to cook anything. When I got married for the first time at the age of 25, I could just about cook a breakfast. Mum also did all of the shopping, though I sometimes went with her to help carry the bags.
    5) We had a dessert of some kind after every meal. Mum would cook apple pies, bread pudding, suet pudding, baked rice pudding, or make cakes that we ate with custard.
    6) Mum always did everything. I would sometimes dry the dishes, but my dad never did any housework whatsoever.
    7) Late night snacks were ‘weekends only’. Mostly chocolate bars or biscuits. (Cookies)
    8) We had some table manners. No leaving the table until everyone had finished. No asking for more. Eating everything on your plate, like it or not.
    9) There were regular family meals at my maternal grandmother’s house. Always at Christmas, occasionally on Sundays, and always following christenings, weddings, or funerals. Sometmes there could be 20 or more eating, and we had to use trestle tables and bench seating.
    10) No grace or prayers. We were not a religious family.
    11 Bonus.) My family swamped every meal in thick gravy. It was sometimes hard to tell what you were eating under a tidal wave of the stuff. Until I moved out, I was forced to eat every meal as if it had been submerged under brown water. I swore that would never happen again, and since I was 19 I have never put gravy on a meal.

    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had a lot of gravy, too, but it was a white milk gravy, usually cooked with the drippings from fried chicken or sausage. I don’t eat it much anymore for health reasons but I do love it. Gravy was always served separately so it was always a choice. And almost always eaten on biscuits.

      I enjoyed reading your responses, Pete. I find our differences and similarities so interesting.

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    2. It’s interesting the signs of the times Pete. The fact that your dad had no part of the cooking or cleaning process was typical for most men when I grew up.
      Cookies or chocolates would have been a dream come true for me. Thanks for sharing your memories.

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    3. I am with you on gravy. Mum didn’t do it like that but I recall eating at homes where everything was smothered in gravy and even now it sometimes happens if we eat at a pub. I never put gravy on my food either. Thought I was the only one.

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  3. Another great read Maggie, isn’t it amazing how we all have so many great memories around food! Family meals are great memory joggers! I hardly new my mum’s parents and only have one memory of a disastrous chicken meal and none at all of my dad’s parents…so I obviously missed out but I have plenty enough to share when I do my post! 💜😌😌

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  4. When I was growing up, breakfast was usually hot or cold cereal during the week and eggs or pancakes on weekends. Supper (the evening meal during the week) was always at the table and we were expected to clean our plates and never take more than our share of anything. On Sunday, we had dinner at about 1 or so, the best meal of the week and mom always fussed with dessert then. She loved making layer cakes, cream puffs, pies, and custards. Often, we had extended family join us for this meal, and I loved all the fuss and chatter.
    School lunch for me and because we were raised to eat was what put in front of us, I really liked most of it, except for the awful jello with shredded cabbage and other vegetables in it. Still makes me cringe when I think about it!
    Father and brothers never helped with the cooking or the dishes which is why I taught both my son and daughter, and their male and female children, how to cook from the time they could hold a spoon.

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    1. I found this comment in my trash this morning. Oh, WordPress!

      It really was horrendous the things cooks suspended in jello! Carrots we’re not horrible, but cabbage? Oh my goodness.

      Both of my children understand that cooking is an art of sorts and task to be enjoyed and shared. Maybe the cleaning is not so much fun, but all necessary. I am a fan of the clean as you go method.

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    2. Thanks for joining in. My mom was also a member of the clean your plate club. I tried a little bit different tactic with my own kids. I told them to take a little of everything and then they could always have more of what they liked.

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      1. I kept adding things as I reviewed it looking for necessary edits..I think it grew by a third after I had published it. It was so fun to do. Can’t wait for my sister to see it and start correcting me or adding things I missed. Ha.

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  5. Saw this on Melanie’s blog – I mentally answered the questions and had a pleasant (mostly) trip down memory lane, Being Italian (American) food was the best part of any day.

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