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My first waking thoughts this Sunday morning were actually not about food… lying in bed having woken up to an sms from my lover …. whom I cooked for last night at his apartment, and thus my thoughts did turn to food remembering last night’s meal. But more about that meal and maybe a recipe in a next instalment…

I let myself steep in the sounds of this morning: the nearby pealing of church bells denoting this, for me at least, an erstwhile day of ritual: first of going to Sunday school which I hated, and then sitting in hard penitent pews, rising and reaching for songbooks and singing and sitting and bowing heads at the instruction of the dominee in his pulpit as he sometimes arousingly invoked guilt for imagined and real sins of the week passed..

My mother usually attended the evening service after she had dutifully dispatched all four of us kids and my dad to the morning service, my father always with a list of vegetables to get from the Portuguese greengrocer  in the main street of the little East Rand town where I grew up. She stayed home to start the Sunday lunch meal which was in integral part of the day, and of her duties as a sixties housewife.

After the service, we would get into the car with my dad, him taking a  drag of a first cigarette in an hour, the sulphorous sting of the just struck match in my nose (I always sat behind him in the modest car he drove on a teacher’s salary), and drove off to the greengrocer whose name I cannot now recall: maybe Manny? no matter… on the list there was often Hubbard squash, or little gem squash, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, carrots, beetroot, onions, or fat squat pumpkin, which all were, very much as they do in my favourite veggie shop now, stacked into cardboard boxes, sometimes with hardboard sides… the greens were never lobbed off, so the carrots and beetroot still sported plumes of leaves, so it looked like putting a miniature garden into the boot of the car. I often got out of the car with my dad, loving the earthy (I think D H Lawrence would have used the word fecund) smell of the small shop, with none of the speciality lighting which these days add allure to racks and rows of veggies in these huge emporiums….

Getting home, we would be greeted by the rhythmic swishing and hissing of a pressure cooker with a meat dish like a piece of Topside beef getting steamed first, or if were having chicken, or a roast, it would already be in the oven and the pumpkin or hubbard squash would soon be in the pressure cooker. My sister and I from a relatively young age would help peel and pare and chop carrots and beans at the kitchen table  with newspaper spread to receive the peelings which were later taken out to a compost heap in the farthest corner of the back garden: where a lost kitchen knife was sometimes found rusting as ripe compost would be churned over into the garden months from when it went missing. My father would be in  the lounge with the Sunday paper: where my brothers disappeared off I can’t remember… 

My sister and I took turns setting the table in the dining room which was used only on Sundays and other special occasions, with cutlery which was kept for the same special occasions in a sideboard with drawers lined by green felt, and which also housed my mother’s best crockery and glasses in a space with a swing-down door.

 And sitting down at the table, to that ubiquitous table prayer, me always in the chair closest where my dad sat at the head of the table, I felt an enormous sense of well being and safety as my mom started dishing up the rice and veggies and my dad the portions of meat which he had been carving.

I do dinner parties now, but can’t help feeling some sadness at the loss of this lovely Sunday ritual in my life….

But who knows. maybe it’s time for a revival, as my children, as grown-ups, can bring their eventual young families over for Sunday lunch with Grandma!! Think I can wait another ten years or so for that. Until then cooking dinner for friends and sons and lovers will have to do…