This post is part of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.
I loved my mother’s fresh squeezed lemonade. She added canned evaporated milk, the one with the red and white label and flowers, and so much sugar and ice cubes that I could hear the sugar scraping at the bottom of the plastic pitcher and the ice clink as she stirred, or let me stir, with a giant wooden spoon. She never measured, but would check the taste by dropping a few drops into her flattened palm and licking it. “It tastes better when you stir with a wooden spoon.”
Before she got sick, my mother hosted family dinner every Sunday at our house. About a dozen cousins, aunts and uncles came over to feast buffet style. Seats were wherever and whatever you could find, but out of respect we children had to let the adults find seats first then we’d sit on the remaining chairs or on the floor or set our plates somewhere and eat standing up, like horses.
The dining room table, which could seat eight with the extension, was pushed against the wall with the window. Across from window was a fireplace that we never used; one side wall was almost completely taken over by a large wooden buffet with a hutch top and the opposite wall had a smaller buffet and the opening that led into the living room.
The table was crammed with large Princess House serving plates piled with mounds of food. One plate had sliced red beets spread out on the bottom with a huge mountain of loose, yellow corn on top. The kernels that touched the beets would turn a purplish-red. On another large plate would be a huge pile of rice. It was a different type of rice each week: rice cooked with red kidney beans, or green peas and dried mushrooms which turned the rice black, or with mixed vegetables (carrots, lima beans, corn, string beans). Rarely did she serve plain white rice. My favorite was the rice with dried mushrooms.
Red and green peppers were chopped, carrots were grated, the skin of cucumbers were peeled into a striped light green and dark green pattern before they were sliced; tomatoes were cut to look like flowers and placed on top of the iceberg lettuce salad which was mixed in a giant crystal bowl. There was always leftover salad because people were more focused on the other foods, which included baked mac and cheese, real mashed potatoes not the powder, and boiled green plaintains, cut in half lengthwise, then cut in half again so more people could get a piece.
The meat, like the rice, varied from week to week: baked chicken, turkey, pork or beef. Sometimes she cooked red snapper. Whatever the meat was, it was first seasoned with Lawry’s seasoned salt, black pepper, onions, garlic and scallions the night before and put in the oven early Sunday morning to slow cook. Tomato paste was added to the leftover meat juices and boiled to thicken a bit before being placed in a small bowl with a spoon for people to sprinkle over their rice, plaintain and sometimes salad. Only us kids would use the Wishbone French or Italian dressing for our salad while the adults used the meat sauce. I was a teenager before I knew there were other flavors or brands of salad dressing.
On one end of the table, where the line was supposed to form, were the eating utensils. Because it was Sunday, we used the “good china,” even the kids. My mother hated disposable dinnerware. On the other end of the table were the drinks: Canada Dry ginger ale, orange Fanta, Barbancourt Haitian rum (which my grandfather always brought back with him when he came to the States), whiskey and an ice bucket. Of course, there was a pitcher of my mother’s fresh-made lemonade. On Sundays she made it in a giant pot and kept running to the kitchen from the dining room to refill the pitcher.