Growing up, holiday meals were always special. The whole family would get together at my grandma’s house and one meal was an entire day’s event. An extra leaf or two had to be put into the dining room table, chairs were brought in from the garage, Grandma’s antique lace tablecloth came out, and the table was set with the real silver silverware. While the rest of us got the table set and the house ready for our big meal, Grandma was in the kitchen preparing each dish with perfect timing and coordination.
My grandma is one of those people who likes to cook and be in the kitchen by herself. She has her own way of cooking and preparing a meal and she doesn’t need anyone to help or take over.
When it was time to eat, we would each carry a dish over to the table, say our thank yous to Grandma and then proceed to fill our plates and our bellies.
I still remember the anticipation and excitement I felt before sitting down at the table and eating with my family. My younger self was more excited about the food than the act of being together, but it is a fond memory.
As a kid, my perception was that it took forever to get that one meal ready and on the table, but as an adult, I realize I only saw a fraction of the work. Family meals, large and small, don’t come together without effort. Before the cooking and table setting, there’s a meal plan to be made and grocery shopping to be done.
I imagine my grandma making a list of recipes on a scrap piece of paper, some of them are memorized, but some she has to look up in her old family cookbook. She writes out all the ingredients, in her looping script, and guesstimates how much of each ingredient she needs. She looks through her cupboards, making sure she hasn’t forgotten anything or misremembered what she has on-hand. Then she goes to the grocery store with perfect ease and in less than an afternoon, she’s ready for our big meal.
However, my memories of family meals and my vision of my grandma are romanticized because it rarely works out that way! Usually grandma’s list is only partially complete, both in recipes and ingredients. She will spend all day shooing people out of the kitchen. Someone will show up and ask, “Where’s the green beans?” and grandma will shoot them a death glare since she completely forgot about that dish. One of us will run to the grocery store last minute for more paprika or another all-together forgotten ingredient.
There’s frustration, there’s chaos, and when we all sit down to eat, there’s a sigh of relief that the meal is finally ready.
This holiday season, we wish you so many wonderful memories with your family, gathered around a table. But we also wish you a little less stress and a little more peace.
Try Plan to Eat this year for your holiday meals. Stress less about what’s for dinner and spend more time with your family.