Since I moved to Nashville in 2014, the most consistent thing in my life has been Sunday Family Dinner.
My brother also lives here, and we both love to cook, so it started as an excuse to try new recipes or cook those big, superfluous-for-one meals that we’d never make just for ourselves. Then it became a mainstay in our group of friends: a predictable time to gather every week, a place to introduce new significant others, a place to go in your sweatpants and without the stress of eating out. When someone new comes to one, we’re reminded of how lucky we are to have something so special.
Whatever your Sunday ritual is, I think it’s important to have one. It feels like time works differently between the hours of 4 to 10pm on Sundays—like someone stepped on the gas and we’re stuck in fast-forward. Without SFD, I find myself fighting Sunday Time. I try to squeeze in as much as possible before the work week—laundry, cleaning, various life tasks—and am inevitably disappointed when I can’t do it all, or find that when it’s all said and done, it’s entirely too late to do something relaxing, which is what Sundays are made for.
We’ve made hundreds of recipes over the last eight years, some total flops, and others finding their way to SFD Hall of Fame. Green Goddess roasted chicken, Sunday Sauce, and NYT lasagna are a few fan favorites. As a rule, there is always an appetizer, and there is always dessert. Sometimes the food takes longer than we think to finish, and sometimes the recipes (or lack thereof) are disappointing. But we always leave with full bellies and having watched the most recent SNL (at least until Weekend Update).
When I really think about it, it’s kind of crazy that my brother and I have essentially hosted a dinner party every week for eight years. Honestly, as I type it out, I’m realizing that it really might be an indicator that something is very wrong with us. Anyway, I digress. The point here is to make you all, dear readers, consider trying your hand at the same.
I was a pretty confident cook when we started, but rarely used recipes, and usually produced something basic albeit fairly tasty. SFD as a habit has made me into a person who is probably an above-average cook. I’ve learned new skills and the art of timing a meal. When I just wing it now, I employ a lot of the flavor tricks I’ve picked up through new recipes, and my “oh, I’ll just cook whatever I have in the fridge” meals are now consistently show-stoppingly good.
I’ve learned quite a bit about the art of the dinner party: choose recipes that can feed many on a smaller budget, that can be prepped in advance, and that you can easily make gluten free or dairy free depending on the crowd. Serve people rather than waiting for everyone to mill over to the food station. Say “yes” when people ask if they can help clean up—in fact, make it part of the tradition. We drink a glass of wine, we eat dinner, we clean up, then we have dessert and enjoy each others’ company. You’ll wake up on Monday morning with a clean kitchen, a fridge full of leftovers, and a feeling of community that can carry you through the week.