Friday, July 31, 2009

Article #65 Dining Habits

My, how times have changed. Formal dining rooms are almost unused nowadays, except for special occasions. They’ve been replaced by the more convenient speedier sandwich bars located in the kitchen where take out food and snacks are dispensed at all hours to family members who rarely sit down together for a home cooked meal like my grandma used to make several times a day for her family.

I have many fond memories of that dear old lady in her tidy housedress always covered with an apron slaving away over a coal or wood cooking stove to prepare at least two hot meals/day for her boarders and family of five dependent children. When she moved into the Bell Rooming house in Eureka she inherited a boarder Stanley Zolan, an invalid veteran who stayed on. She fixed him three meals/day despite the hot weather during summer and in the cold winter when the heat from the stove and oven was welcomed.

Years later when grandma bought a hot plate, it greatly simplified her cooking but I’m sure she still needed to use her wood stove’s oven for baking bread and pies. There were no microwaves in her day or prepared foods, everything was made from scratch. Grandma never saw a paper plate or a dishwasher, everything she served was on sturdy dishes. When the meal was cleared, the scraps or leftovers were scraped into a bucket for the chickens or the dog, then the dishwashing was done by hand with water heated on the stove.

Her menu wasn’t fancy just the basics-soup, stew, meat and potatoes. On Sunday fried chicken was a special treat that took a lot of work. Grandma never heard of pizza, tacos or spaghetti but her fried scones and fresh baked pies couldn’t be beat. Kids and guests were asked to wash up before eating. Children were expected to sit quietly at the table and not speak unless spoken to. They cleaned up their plates and there were no picky eaters or complaints about not liking a certain kind of food. They ate what was on their plate or went without. Breakfast was normally mush or homemade bread and milk. Eggs and other fancier items were saved for company or boarders. At the end of a meal, the children would politely ask…Can I be excused? That’s certainly a different scene from our day and age.


  1. Scene from your grandma's kitchen came my grandma's time she had a CHULHA i.e. a stove made by mud and stones which used to be fixed on kitchen floor...wood was used to cook the food...women used to cook sitting on a small wooden tool barely 5-6 inches above the floor....the food cooked on this fire tasted great and yes even we were not allowed to talk or refuse anything that was eating on cooking area was allowed ,we had a separate room attached to the kitchen..i too have many fond memories of hers.

  2. My kids still have to say *Can I be excused?* Tradition can still be instilled in the homefront - its truly up to the parents to make it happen.

    Love this post and continue to enjoy your blog! :)

  3. I remember fondly meals with my grandmother. We too ate what was on our plates or go without. I used to love to take the cream off the top of the glass milk bottle and have it on my cereal.

  4. Oh to go back to earlier times:) I like regular homemade food the best:)

  5. My grandmother was more of your Scarlett O"Hara type of woman. My MOM, on the other hand, was very domestic. She kept everything washed, ironed, folded, put away... Swept, scrubbed clean, disinfected and always tidy... Meals were tasty, nutritious, and beautifully served promptly at 6:00. I did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen when dinner was over... And my mother always found something incredible to do with any leftovers. We sat down together every morning and evening... but, the conversation was generally lively and animated and everyone participated.

    We tried to follow that routine with our children when we were raising them as well. It worked just fine until they hit Jr. High and High School... then there was always someone who had a job to get to, or a practice of some sort, or a soccer game, or whatever. Wayne began working a second job to enable us to set some money aside for our twilight years... it became harder and harder for us to have our meals together.

    My kids and their children often eat on the run, and always at the kitchen counter. But, I am happy to say that the kitchen is still a gathering place for sharing the events of the day and laughing with one another. So... all is not completely lost.

    As a realtor, I can tell you how few homes now have formal dining rooms. They have "Great Rooms" that serve as living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, tv room, rec room, and library... I miss designated spaces...

  6. Grandma's kitchen offered meals. So did my gram's--at mealtime. There was no grazing all day. And the food was cooked with love. Really. Mom was the same way. I am less good at this art, but I know the value and we eat together.

    I enjoyed this post, Lin.

  7. So true ! Especially the 'May I be excused, please?' Things are so-o different. Not better, I think.

  8. What a great entry! Love it. I still cook most of our meals...still wear aprons (and have about 4 in the stages of being sewn hence I bought a new sewing machine...bad me). And having moved I now have a formal dining room and we use it, more often than I would have expected. But our family always sat at the table to eat and the TV was never allowed to be on. It made dining so much nicer. Hey...I am the grandma now..and my grands eat at the formal table because it extends the best and I gave away the bar stools that came with the house. I do not eat at bars of any kind.

    Thanks for the inspiration...I think I need blog this too. Love you!

  9. It was a more polite if not more challenging time. I remember my former MIL cooking on a wood stove and it was a challenge..No set temperatures.....but it all tasted good.