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  • Back to the Ritual of Dinner

    Posted by Ginny on September 10th, 2005 (All posts by )

    A&L links to Jonathan Yardley’s review review of Miriam Weinstein’s How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier.” He feels she overstates her case, but agrees a powerful case is to be made. This reinforces a point some other writers made that I mentioned in an earlier post. And I see this as we are preparing to go another family celebration in my husband’s large and tightly knit family – one of his twenty-five or so cousins on his mother’s side is celebrating a 25th anniversary. (In the last year we’ve been to a 50th anniversary and a wedding for others of those cousins.)

    And I remember the dinners my mother-in-law insisted on making and serving every night of the week for our small family (at first with only one daughter), for the beginning years of my business. I was never home to fix meals during those long days and longer weeks; sometimes I literally fell asleep on my feet. The home would have been chaotic – food ordered, dinners out, snacks grabbed – if it had fallen to me. But she proceeded with an iron will. The family must eat together, eat calmly, eat at the same time, eat a balanced meal. I can’t say it was always easy on me – it wasn’t my food in my house, it wasn’t, in a real sense, my family. But it was, as I came to realize, exactly what my husband and daughters needed: they needed to be able to count on that meal, they needed to be able to count on that quiet. And so my daughters felt relatively secure and our marriage lasted when the external pressures of our separate professional obsessions (and my lost career in English) strained it. My husband and daughter (and therefore, I) needed that space, that ritual, that predictability. And now, my mother-in-law is 87 and wants to go to this anniversary dinner because it, too, is a ritual and even more important to her as her siblings age and there are fewer of them to observe it. Barbecue and kolaches and polkas – it is a rowdy ritual but no less meaningful for that.

     

    11 Responses to “Back to the Ritual of Dinner”

    1. Lex Says:

      “…Barbecue and kolaches and polkas…” Only in America. Are the kolaches round, or folded over on the edges? They have them both ways at bakeries in Chicago.

    2. Sandy P Says:

      Talerico Bakery in Summit – only supplies retail, can get thru White Hen – wonderful kolachky. They’re round.

      Weber’s bakery’s not too shabby, either.

      I would think Lex has been to Weber’s. Can’t have Christmas and Easter w/o Grandpa Rye and holska.

      And the mini Easter eggs!

    3. Ginny Says:

      Here, some (fruit, poppy seed – the favorite – and cream cheese) are round with the sweet stuff in the holowed out center. Folded over are the meat ones – sausage, etc.

      Actually today was the Kolache Festival and the older sister of the anniversary girl won the Grand Championship (and her granddaughter won the young girl’s event). Her sister-in-law won it a couple of years ago.

      I mentioned runzas once, but no one bought. This is Roosian (sp?) – a sweet dough with cabbage and onions and hamburger in the center. (Rocking Runzas was a fast food place in Lincoln; it closed but the chain of fast-food runzas apparently is still active.)

    4. Scotus Says:

      “…Barbecue and kolaches and polkas…” Lex, I would say only in Texas.

    5. Mitch Says:

      We had some friends from China drop by one time and asked them to stay for dinner. Five Irish-Americans and two Chinese had golabki (pronounced like “gowumpkee”), kielbasa, pierogi, & kapusta. Maybe chicken vindaloo next time?

    6. Steve Says:

      Imagine a world without the dinner table. (Bold mine.)

      Theodore Dalrymple in a recent interview on the decline of the table manor in Britain, and its effects on anti-social behavior:

      “The idea that one’s pleasure or desire of the moment is the only thing that counts leads to antisocial behaviour. Let me give a small and seemingly trivial example of this.

      “About half of British homes no longer have a dining table. People do not eat meals together – they graze, finding what they want in the fridge, and eating in a solitary fashion whenever they feel like it (which is usually often), irrespective of the other people in the household.

      “This means that they never learn that eating is a social activity (many of the prisoners in the prison in which I worked had never in their entire lives eaten at a table with another person); they never learn to discipline their conduct; they never learn that the state of their appetite at any given moment should not be the sole consideration in deciding whether to eat or not. In other words, one’s own interior state is all-important in deciding when to eat. And this is the model of all their behaviour.”

      Scary, huh?
      -Steve

    7. Steve Says:

      Imagine a world without the dinner table. (Bold mine.)

      Theodore Dalrymple in a recent interview on the decline of the table manor in Britain, and its effects on anti-social behavior:

      “The idea that one’s pleasure or desire of the moment is the only thing that counts leads to antisocial behaviour. Let me give a small and seemingly trivial example of this.

      “About half of British homes no longer have a dining table. People do not eat meals together – they graze, finding what they want in the fridge, and eating in a solitary fashion whenever they feel like it (which is usually often), irrespective of the other people in the household.

      “This means that they never learn that eating is a social activity (many of the prisoners in the prison in which I worked had never in their entire lives eaten at a table with another person); they never learn to discipline their conduct; they never learn that the state of their appetite at any given moment should not be the sole consideration in deciding whether to eat or not. In other words, one’s own interior state is all-important in deciding when to eat. And this is the model of all their behaviour.”

      Scary, huh?
      -Steve

    8. Yehudit Says:

      See, this is why Jews are so smart. Family Shabbat dinner, often with guests, every Friday evening.

    9. Lindsay Says:

      Runza is actually a chain of restaurants in Nebraska. There is usually one in every larger town. Rock n Roll Runza is closed, but there are still several locations in Lincoln.

      Runzas were brought over by the Germans from Russia…many of whom settled in the Lincoln area.

      Btw…where can I find kolaches in Chicago? I grew up in an area that was largely Czech, and I miss them so much! Especially poppyseed…

    10. Lex Says:

      “…kolaches in Chicago…”

      Oak Park Bakery has good ones, but they are the round ones, not the folded-over ones. I actually got a dozen today. Not sure they have poppyseed, though.

      While you are looking for kolaches in Chicago, check out Lutz bakery on W. Montrose and Dinkel’s Bakery on N. Lincoln. Both very good. Not sure they have Kolaches in either place, but you will find plenty of good stuff in both places.

    11. Ginny Says:

      The blogosphere is a mysterious place. This post was almost exactly a year ago.

      Today, my husband and I were, for the first time, judges at the annual Kolache Festival. There were divisions and divisions within divisions – there must have been 60 judges or more. I’m still on a sugar high from the morning – despite the fact that we weren’t assigned to judge the poppy seed ones. (Though one of the guys was joking that he was going to have those judges tested for drugs Monday morning.)

      In discussing the directions, the chair described “other” – like sauerkraut kolaches – which does boggle the mind a bit. But the combination of a pastry dough & sauerkraut is like a runza (& also similar to a pirogue -sp?)

      When I’d talk about the Roosians down here, people would bring up the Wends – the cross cultural contact because of ancient religious & political differences have led to some interesting foods.

      During Rita, my mother-in-law’s 92-year-old sister came to stay with her; they sent my husband out to buy kolaches because neither can really bake them any more. His aunt wouldn’t eat any since none were poppy seed.