Sunday Soul FoodPC: Unsplash

When was the last time you gathered for a family dinner? You might say the other day, when you and whichever children happened to be home sat in front of the TV with leftovers, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking a sit-down, every family member you can possibly gather, people talking, games played, good, homemade food shared family dinner.

We recently spoke with Heather, a mom and foodie, who fondly remembers her mother’s Sunday family dinner philosophy and how she’d invite anyone – strangers, friends, family – to join them. This spirit of Sunday family dinner has faded into an NFL Sunday-only “tradition” and, for some, has slipped completely into distant memories of childhood.

And that got us thinking. Why don’t we revive this lost opportunity to connect with the people who matter most to us? Why don’t families, friends, and strangers gather once a week to share a meal, swap stories, and reconnect on a soulful level over a hot and made-with-love meal?

What is stopping us from making this a priority again?

You might think: because that sticks me in front of a stove and hot oven for my Sunday afternoon every week! But, many hands make light work. Sunday dinner does not have to be thrust upon one person. You can make it a potluck style lunch, or people can bring sides while you focus on the main course, or everybody can pitch in wherever possible for a division of labor that also allows you to make memories, teach the next generation, and kick off an evening of togetherness. So, just in principle, we will discard this excuse and focus on the many benefits of reviving this cornerstone of the nuclear family and a life lived with purpose.

“If you make it, God will show you who needs it.”

How Soul Food Feeds Us

  1.  Food, since the dawn of time, has had a way of bringing people together. From hunting, gathering, and growing efforts, to the creation of foods that become historically and socially associated with a certain part of the world, food is a binding element that people have always been able to come back to to feel at home. And we all know the feeling of tasting a dish that our moms just make so much better. There’s nothing like a home cooked meal shared with the people you love.
  2. Sunday dinners give you the chance to create community and inspire a spirit of giving and hospitality that your children and grandchildren will (hopefully) carry over into their own lives. Opening your home, allowing your space to become a soft place to land at the end of a hard week or the beginning of a new one, is surely one of the highest goods. Leading by example and offering what you have while inviting others to join you and welcoming them in with love and delicious food is a service felt deep in the soul to yourself and your family that will be felt for years to come.
  3. Whether it’s making sure that traditional family recipe is shared and known to all, or simply making time to be present and engaged, Sunday family dinners offer a time and place to share and create memories and new traditions, while celebrating and passing on the old traditions. Bust out your grandmother’s recipe book or dive into Pinterest to find a new family favorite. Either way, make sure you’re together making memories and sharing in each other’s presence.
  4. We’ve all heard the phrase: “Everyone is fighting a battle you can’t see.” If that’s the case, then shouldn’t we strive to make people feel loved, supported, and safe? Shouldn’t we lift people up with our talents and whatever we have to give? Heather’s mom used to reach out to people she’d bump into and open her home to them, not knowing where they were in life, and not knowing or asking what pain or hardship they were experiencing. Everyone was welcome. A Sunday dinner could easily include a struggling student, a lonely neighbor, or a tired new mom who gets a meal, some change in pace, adult conversation, the chance to see her child held and loved by others, and then leftovers she can take home.

Godly hospitality – that’s what it’s called when you serve others, no matter their needs. With grace and wisdom and a hot meal, you can change someone’s whole world – and not even know it.

“Don’t ask people what they need, tell them what you’re going to do for them.”

  1. When else would you have the chance to explore a richly diverse American heritage through food? Sure, you could travel the world and find the original homes of dishes from different cultures. Or, you could gather your friends, family, and community and swap the wealth of knowledge gathered over centuries of American melting pot. We all come from somewhere, so take the Sunday dinner as an opportunity to travel the world without ever leaving your kitchen. Share your own family recipes, ask people to bring their favorite family dish, try something new together, or dig deep in your family history to revive something that got a little lost.
  2. Not every Sunday dinner has to invite every person you’ve ever met, but it can be a prime opportunity to learn about your community. Invite your neighbors and learn about their lives. Find common ground with the people who share your community – what are their concerns? What’s happening in your town, at local meetings, etc.?
  3. Finally, soul food feeds us – for days! Sunday dinner was the weekly meal-planning before it became famous. Make extra and make sure everyone leaves with a container of leftovers for their busy Monday!

Sunday dinner may have faded into the background (especially with the pandemic) but it’s not dead! Call up your family, text a neighbor – heck, send out engraved invites! But know that Sunday dinner – the soul food we’ve all been craving – is a great place to start reviving the spirit of giving, creating and maintaining traditions, embracing our heritage, engaging with our community, and simply being an open home, a warm kitchen, a friendly table for anyone who needs it.

To help get you started – here are Heather’s top three Sunday dinners!

Sunday Dinner #1: Cheeseburgers, Cowboy Beans and Pasta Salad
Sunday Dinner #2:  Stuffed Shells, Caesar Salad, Garlic Bread
Sunday Dinner #3: Sunday Dinner: Chicken Enchiladas and Salsa

Enjoy and don’t forget to say grace!

We’re excited to be making this a regular part of our AmericanMom community! What’s your soul food? Where do you find comfort after the chaos of the week? What meal do you go to in order to find home?

Submit your Sunday Soul Food Recipes and what they mean to you here.