As the granddaughter of an Italian woman who perhaps wore the label a bit too seriously, Sunday dinners were the rule. "Colorful" doesn't begin to describe those occasions, where I learned how to set a table AND curse under my breath in another language. While the memory presents the exact opposite of the Norman Rockwell idea of a family dinner, I remember them happily. Even when, as a chronically shy child, the evening was spent hiding underneath the safety of the damask tablecloth-draped table. To this day, I only remember certain relatives by their shins and shoes.
Though a long-forgotten grudge put a premature stop to that tradition, the idea of gathering family and friends to share a Sunday meal has seemingly fallen out of favor on the whole. Even if you're not the self-proclaimed matriarch of a lovingly dysfunctional family, these dinners need to make a comeback. It doesn't have to be elaborate, limited to family or even that formal. Whether you're entertaining two or twenty with cocktails, potluck or an all-out meal, here's the argument for bringing back this tradition.
A shared dinner table teaches children how to behave in polite society.
Chaloner Woods/Hulton Archive
Every time a 10-year-old eats spaghetti with his hands in public, the earth's axis tilts due to at least two generations spinning in their graves. While no one expects children to comport themselves like tiny barons and baronesses at the dinner table, there is nothing like the peer pressure of several adults to shame one into even the lamest attempts at politeness.
It's a good reason to put down the damn phone.
Tom Kelley Archive/Retrofile
As I sat at the table with my significant other, I realized, in horror, that we had become "that couple" who mindlessly checks their phones during downtime. I nearly pitched both of our devices into the nearest body of water. Instead of pretending like we were in touch with friends by clicking a "like" button as if we were monkeys in a lab experiment, it became clear that seeing them in person is by far better for those relationships.
It's cheaper than going out.
The cheapest way to have a Sunday dinner is potluck, of course. However, some of us have the type of friends whose schedule and cooking ability leads to them bringing dozens of bottles of wine and maybe a few bags of chips. If that's the case, it is still, by far, cheaper to make a meal than to dial up a group reservation. A pasta dish, a meat option and a vegetable dish covers your bases. You can always order a pizza or whatever takeout floats your boat. No matter what, staying out of a restaurant will always be the cheaper option for group entertaining.
It's a good reason to bring out your "good stuff."
Some of us hoard fine vintage china rescued from a thrift store, while others have nicer dishes that came into their lives via registry or gift. There's no sense in letting it sit in storage -- use it for once. That's what it's there for. It feels good to create a nice atmosphere for other people.
A Sunday dinner lessens the malaise that comes from knowing that that tomorrow is Monday.
Sunday nights are often spent thinking of all the work that's due the next day and what you haven't accomplished with your weekend. It's not a lovely way to spend your free time. A happy occasion gives you something to look forward to, distracting you from it being Sunday night and eases you into the new week.
No one overstays their welcome.
Thurston Hopkins/Hulton Archive
A common complaint among would-be hosts is that guests can often linger long after the party's over. On Sundays, though, we all know that the next day will be an early one.
It makes for good memories.
In a decade, you won't remember the meal you ate in phone-hypnotized silence (unless you had a dazzling case of food poisoning afterwards). But you might remember the time you tried to roast a chicken breast-side-down and it took so long to cook, you had to order a pizza to make up for it. Or, when your grandmother accidentally had too much wine and decided to serenade everyone, startling you so much you nearly choked on a potato. Even failures become fond memories in the nostalgia filter that is the human brain.