Unwinding in the dining room

A student shares the meaning behind her family’s Sunday dinner ritual.


Despite rushing down the steps to catch the train home on a Friday afternoon, I still missed it.

The doors closed just seconds before I could board, deserting me on the subway platform.

“It’s just not my day,” I thought.

As I waited for the next train in rain-soaked socks, my mind drifted to other things that weren’t going well, like the paper I couldn’t seem to finish and its fast-approaching deadline.

My empty belly growled, reminding me of something that would surely lift my mood that weekend: a home-cooked meal with family.

At least one Sunday a month, my brother and I join our mom for dinner, and the three of us take turns preparing a meal. Although it can be difficult to find a date that works with all our busy schedules, we always find time for our Sunday dinners.

Last month was my mom’s turn to cook. She eagerly searched for a new recipe, then texted my brother and me when she found it.

She sent a picture of pan-seared pork chops with slices of Gala apples, red onions and sprigs of fresh rosemary.

“Doesn’t that look good?” she said.


I could tell my mom was excited to make this dish, and I was happy to see her so enthusiastic.

My mom works stressful, demanding hours at a nursing home, where she devotes so much time to taking care of others that it can be hard to take care of herself, let alone the rest of our family.

She comes home from work — sometimes as late as 2 a.m. — complaining of aches and unruly patients, but somehow remains exuberant and chatty.

Some nights before I go to sleep my mom will waltz into my room, still wearing her scrubs, to tell me a joke she heard at work or ask what I ate for dinner that night.

And no matter how exhausted she may be, she always manages to save enough energy to whip up a phenomenal Sunday dinner for my brother and me. Her capacity for compassion always feels boundless.

Like all my mom’s meals, the pork chops she made for last month’s Sunday dinner were wonderful.

That night, my brother came to our mom’s house in New Jersey from his home in South Philly. He’s mellow and laid-back, but still quirky like my mom — just in his own way.

A drummer, he often taps his fingers on the dinner table to capture some imagined beat floating through his head — something my mom and I always tease him about.

When my mom, brother and I gathered for dinner that Sunday, we took a break from our daily demands to nurture each other and ourselves.

Any problems looming over our heads disappeared, at least for a little while. My mom didn’t dwell on pushing a medical cart down long hallways, my brother wasn’t stressing about his next gig and I was no longer panicking about meeting the page count for my paper.

There were no difficult decisions to be made during dinner. Just simple ones.

“Whose turn is it to cook next?” my brother said.

We decided it’s mine. And I’m just as eager as my mom was.

I’ve already found a recipe: crispy spring rolls stuffed with chicken, shredded cabbage, scallions, minced ginger and garlic, plus a blend of vegetable stir fry on rice.

I look forward to our next Sunday dinner — being in a warm kitchen, working with my hands and wringing out stress as I listen to my mom and brother’s laughter filling the dining room.

I didn’t have control over the rain seeping into my shoes that Friday, the essay requirements set by my professor or the train that took off without me.

But I knew I could count on an inspiring recipe and a table full of food and family to give me a sense of calm.

Basia Wilson can be reached at basia.serafina.wilson@temple.edu.

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