No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you know that at about 5:00 p.m. on Sunday at the Ciotoli house, we all sit down for dinner together as a family.
My mom requires at least two days notice if you are not going to be there. Not because she has said she requires it, but because if you call in at any point during Sunday, with less than 48 hours notice, you will have to bear the brunt of my mother’s anguished cries and laments that if she knew that you weren’t coming over than she wouldn’t have made all this food. In all honesty, she will make just as much food whether you gave two hours, two days or two weeks notice.
We always suggest to her that she really shouldn’t make as much as she does. We really don’t need to eat three types of meats, two vegetables and two different kinds of lasagna.
“I make this much so I don’t have to cook tomorrow,” she always proclaims.
Now, if you know my mother, you know this is a complete farce. She cooks every day. Regardless of whether there are Sunday leftovers or not. We love her for it.
Every Sunday, she starts early in the morning by putting a large pot on the stovetop and beginning the process of making the Sunday sauce from tomatoes we canned in the fall. She lets it stew all day, throwing in herbs, meatballs and a few home made sausages for flavour. It’s an all day affair. She will always add way more meatballs to the pot then required. As the sauce simmers and cooks and the meatballs and sausages do their thing, you’ll ultimatley find Adriano sneeking a few to make a meatball sandwich or I might happen to walk by and take a couple. You know…for quality control.
Sean thinks our Sunday Dinners are completely over the top and is amazed at the quantity and variety of food served. “It’s like your family is having their last meal….every Sunday.” He loves it.
One by one, throughout the afternoon, we show up at my parent’s house. I might make a few of the sides or a salad, Wendy will set the table, the kids will run through the house or outside on a nice day.
By 5 o’clock, everyone is ready to eat. Every week we eat at the same hour, yet, unfailingly, someone always calls in asking “What time are we eating at?” We eat at 5. The same time we’ve been eating dinner on a Sunday for the past 30 years.
After dinner, we have fresh fruit, an espresso and maybe even a pastry or two. In the summer time we take the whole production outside into my parent’s backyard, al fresco. I’m sure the neighbours think we’re nuts.
We spend time with the kids, get caught up on the week’s events, argue…dramas unfold. After one Sunday dinner while my sister, Rose, was in town, we put on a few Italian songs for the kids. Evan and Emily (who are 4 and 3) love old 1960s Italian songs. It’s kinda weird.
As Evan played guitar with his hockey stick and Emily ran around in a dancing fit, the rest of us clapped our hands and belted out the tunes like we were some kind of gypsy clan. Again…the neighbours must think we’re nuts as they no doubt heard us through the open windows.
We never talk about what makes having dinner together so important for us. It’s just how it’s been for as long as I can remember. And while the food is always amazing, what I love most about them is the time we spend together. We get so get caught up in our work and everyday life, that slowing down on a Sunday, to sit down around a table and enjoy a wonderful home cooked meal with people you love is special.
It’s about culture, tradition, family and food. It’s about taking it slow and appreciating what we have. The meals are always made from scratch and almost always the focus of conversation while we’re eating. Last summer it was all about the zucchini I had grown in the garden and the local beef we were grilling on the bbq. In the fall it’s the tomato sauce we just finished canning. The winter brings fresh bread made by my mom.
Throughout the years, our Sunday Dinners have changed and I’m sure they’ll continue to change. People have come and gone. Evan and Emily are the best addition to the table.
It’s what we do, our tradition, our ritual. Every Sunday, you come home, sit down with the family and eat. We love it.
Tell us about your family traditions. What do you love about them?