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 They’ve been replaced by the more convenient speedier sandwich bars located in the kitchen where take out food and snacks are dispensed at all hours to family members who rarely sit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.