The one person who taught me more about the really important things in life was my Southern grandmother. She was a character and a woman before her time. Some of my greatest memories with her are the times we spent getting ready for Sunday dinner (that’s lunch for those who might need clarification). When you ate with my grandmamma, it was an event. She put the same amount of effort in a gigantic Christmas feast as she did for a random group of women on a Tuesday.
So, what great lessons did I learn?
1. Always set the table the day before the guests arrive. Why? Well, it gets something that is really important out of the way. Then, all you have to do before lunch is served is wipe out the dinner plates with a moist Bounty paper towel.
2. Make sure you bring out the wedding china, silver, and crystal. When you ate at my grandmother’s house, you ate off the wedding china, along with the good silver, and drank sweet tea out of the crystal glasses. She taught me that it is ridiculous to keep those items locked away in the corner cabinet.
3. There is a right way to set a table. I believe I learned how to set a table correctly before I lost my first tooth. Remember, the blade side of the knife needs to be facing the plate on the right side. Now, all these years later, my table still has to be set correctly. It is just something Southern ladies should know how to do.
4. Biscuits do not come out of a can. It is truly amazing what flour, Crisco shortening, and a little milk can do when mixed together. That combination could bring forth a biscuit that was so delicious you wonder why my grandma even bothered with the rest of the food. Also, the biscuits had to be served in a basket that was lined with white- laced napkins.
5. When dining, never use your fingers to slide the rice and butterbeans onto your fork. It is just wrong, plain and simple. I know you want to eat each and every delicious bite; but if it requires the use of fingers, it stays on the plate. (I have to admit that I break this rule if dining alone.)
6. Always serve dessert. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. I am not saying that you have to spend an hour or so in the kitchen peeling apples or cutting peaches for cobbler. Heck, vanilla ice cream will do. Just make sure that you have it when having company over for Sunday dinner.
My Southern grandmother was a well-educated, country girl. She was also a heck of a cook. I learned more getting ready for those Sunday dinners than I did after 4 years of college and a degree. She taught me that life was a lot like those dinners, what you put into it is what you will likely get out of it.