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Dinner Rituals

June 22, 2015

This was an amazing weekend. Father’s Day was better than expected. The family let me sleep in late and catch up on some badly needed rest. Then I had a lovely lunch of cured meats, was showered with love, got to spend some time in the yard, and then showered with soap and water. We had burritos for dinner, and I even got some nibbles from Little Miss Fussy’s precious candy stash.

Saturday was Troy’s River Fest where I manned a Yelp tent for the first time. I got to meet some fascinating people and see some old friends. Thanks to everyone who stopped by. Looking back on it, I guess I probably over-engineered the mobile phone charging station, but that’s okay. After the festival we were off to a friend’s place for beers and burgers.

Like all weekends, it started on Friday with something that’s a weekly tradition. However, despite that fact, it was the first time in a month we sat down around our table for our Friday night ritual.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you likely already know what that is.

On Friday nights we celebrate Shabbat, and every week we eat the exact same thing. It’s a roast chicken, a challah, and some kind of vegetable. Typically that’s pan fried string beans (regardless of the season). There is also always butter and salt for the challah. Adults drink wine. Kids get their weekly ration of juice.

The prior week was a potluck at our temple. The week before that I returned home late on a field trip to the Bronx Zoo with Young Master Fussy. The week before that we were in China. So May 22 was the last time we all sat down as a family for our traditional Friday night meal.

It felt like a long time, and it was.

But I still remember where I got the supplies for our last May meal. It was from Hannaford. And it was fine. They keep their challah frozen and defrost as many as they think they’ll sell in a day. It’s not ideal, but the loaves are acceptable, if unremarkable.

My guilty pleasure is buying store cooked rotisserie chickens and warming them up at home. It’s an added convenience that makes this weekend meal super simple to prepare. And the ones at Hannaford are also fine. We always get the Nature’s Place line of happier chickens, but we would really prefer to find something with a higher ethical standard.

I had stopped trying to get all the components of this meal from our new Whole Foods after several disappointing trips where I had to leave empty handed because some critical piece wasn’t in stock. Usually, it was the challah. Sometimes it was the rotisserie chicken.

Well, after attending the one year anniversary pre-party for Whole Foods last week, I thought I would give the store another try. The hope was that by now they’ve worked out all the kinks.

Okay. I just have to say, that was the best challah I’ve had for some time.

Whole Foods made the move to using their own challah instead of getting the Zomick’s (a brand from downstate that I love). The store’s bread isn’t quite as sweet and soft, but the one we picked up last Friday had that perfect ropey texture and that just barely cooked interior that’s the mark of a stellar challah.

The chicken display was full, and our chicken was delicious as usual. I’m not sure if the #2 level birds at Whole Foods achieve a higher ethical threshold than their Nature’s Place counterparts, but they feel more virtuous. I’m a sucker for marketing, I know.

Even the Whole Foods deli counter was on its game, and able to thinly slice the La Quercia prosciutto into thin, translucent pieces without tearing it to shreds. The clerk’s work with the salami was equally strong, as he tiled the rounds neatly onto deli sheets like a pro.

It was a great experience, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it was the first of many.

The local gang from Bilinski’s sausages was even there handing out samples. And that was perfect because Young Master Fussy and Little Miss Fussy were in tow. So they were able to taste a few different flavors and actually find one that they both liked. It was a small miracle. And I never would have expected garlic and spinach chicken sausages would be the crowd pleaser. But they were.

I also bought a box of Bilinski’s chicken meatballs, like I had planned, and we’ll see how those go over with the little ones. The chickens may not be so local, but these products are made in Cohoes, so they’ve got that going for them. One of these days I’ll check out the manufacturing facility.

But I digress.

Getting back into the groove of having chicken and challah on Friday night felt fantastic. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to get disconnected from the things that are really important. Even if you are somehow able to sit down and have a meal with the family on most weeknights, it’s just a different vibe.

Slowing things down by lighting candles, drinking wine, and lingering over a meal is important. And having familiar tastes week in and week out really helps to anchor the experience. I know that there are some people who do a Sunday supper, and I’m left wondering about other people’s weekly dinner rituals.

Care to share? Either something from now, or even from the past.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2015 9:55 am

    Happy Father’s Day! Before I found out I had Celiac disease we used to have homemade pizza night on Friday nights in my (very italian) household. My mom made everything from scratch and OCCASIONALLY we were allowed a soda….it was really just fun to have the whole family at the table and know we had a whole weekend ahead of us :-)

  2. Laura K. permalink
    June 22, 2015 10:34 am

    Sitting down to dinner as a family has always been important to me. We always did when I was growing up. It was when my dad would tell us stories about our family or history. He was an amazing storyteller. He passed away in January so this Father’s Day was hard, but his voice stays with me.

    As an adult with kids, we almost always sit down to dinner, but occasionally I will call “casual dinner” and that usually means we grab our plates and eat while watching TV. The novelty of it makes it kind of fun.

    My daughter finished her first year of college in May and had been home for a few days when I decided to make it a casual dinner. Her response, “Aw, I really wanted to sit down together at the table.” I might have gotten something in my eye, because they got a little wet.

    Family traditions matter, and I hope when your kids are older they’ll look back to yours with as much fondness as I do of mine.

  3. corydugan permalink
    June 22, 2015 10:44 pm

    Happy Father’s Day, wanted to thank you for writing about the Sunday Seafood Dinner at fin the fishmonger. We had an excellent experience and can’t stop telling people about it. Food was stellar!! Thanks again! Cory

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