A few tablespoons of fig balsamic vinegar, some pinches of Herbes de Provence, a dash of Angostura bitters: Those might be the most highfalutin ingredients in Sunday Dinner, Bridgette A. Lacy's inspiring new meditation on the merit of meals shared with friends and enjoyed over the course of a restorative afternoon.
The Raleigh-based food writer grew up in a religious household in Virginia. The family's traditional meal—fluctuating between main courses of fried chicken ("the gospel bird") and pork chips, slow-cooked ribs and pot roasts, with a bevy of sides, desserts and breads—was a rite of passage for the workweek ahead for the adults and an all-important auxiliary life lesson for the kids. Most of all, it was a chance for family to eat and entertain in a room. "Sunday dinner was the artistic expression of my grandfather's love for his family," Lacy writes in the introduction for her entry in UNC Press' Savor the South series. She plunks you into that scene and encourages you to start one, too.
Lacy rolls through the recipes of her family and friends, dishing on and detailing the old ways while offering timely updates to classic fare. She leads readers through short vignettes explaining each dish's origins, from the way her mother serves crab cakes on potato rolls to how she first discovered pecan-encrusted sweet potato casserole at a progressive church dinner. But she mindfully avoids turning the South into a nostalgia trap. Rather, she uses Sunday dinner as a metaphor for any food-based communion, not a romanticization of region or religion. These meals happen all over the world, urges Lacy, so make time in your world for one, too.