Sunday Dinner

January 17, 2010

Sunday Dinner

Sunday Dinner

I grew up in a traditional Serbian household. My family immigrated to New York when I was fourteen (36 years ago!) Even though I have lived here most of my life, and am married to an American, certain traditions are embedded deeply. Sunday dinner is one.

Many times during my childhood, my mother would start cooking by 10 am on Sunday morning. First, she started simmering the soup stock. In the largest pot we owned she placed a cut-up chicken, onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips, celery and potatoes. She let it simmer for hours, filling the house with the fragrance of delicious comfort. Then she would start on the other courses: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, roasted peppers, and a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.

Please, don’t let me forget dessert.  We had dessert only on Sundays (or Saint’s Days and special holidays), and what delicacies were those! My mother would make intricate, many layered tortes with sweet, smooth, dark chocolate filling in winter, and light refreshing lemon filling in summer. Or she would make phyllo dough from scratch, stretching it over our kitchen table to make baklava filled with walnuts and honey. Or perhaps a strudel filled with fresh raspberries or poppy seeds, hand-ground by my sister and me.

Sunday dinner occurred at exactly 2 pm. My mother set her best china out on the dining room table. We would sit down and have a four or five course meal. No one was in a hurry. We sat and ate and talked, going over the news and happenings of the previous week.  After dinner, my mother would read, my father would nap, and my sister and I would do the dishes.

Around 4 pm, it was coffee and desert time. Frequently, we would have company, because late Sunday afternoon is calling time in Serbian households.  My mother (and when we were old enough, my sister and I) would make black, rich Serbian coffee for the adults, and tea for the children. We cut the cake and served it, marveled over the baklava, and sampled cookies and strudel. There was time to savor the moment.

Our lives are much busier now, and my own children have so many activities, it is rare that we have an entire Sunday afternoon to spend in each other’s company. Also, I have not inherited my mother’s talents for the tortes, baklavas and other confections. My sister has. But if you come to my house at around 10 am on a Sunday morning, you will most likely find me filling up a large stock pot with all the necessary ingredients for an excellent Serbian chicken soup.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

mira bojanic larick April 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Hello Lilliana,

I enjoyed reading your blog. My parents emigrated to the US from Serbia 60 years ago & I was born here, but I feel strong connctions to the place, like you do. thank you for your posts on food…it makes me feel motivated to make vinovu sarmu for my family now.


Liliana April 26, 2010 at 7:17 am

Hello Mira,
thank you for your kind words. It makes me happy to hear from people with connections to my home country – it is a bond that seems impossible to weaken. My very best to you, and enjoy the sarma.


lionel February 5, 2010 at 9:28 am

OMG, you are from Sebian origin!
My nanny (long dead) was Serbian!
So for me Serbia has a special place in my heart.
One of my uncle’s best friends,Micha, is a Serbian university teacher here in France.
I took part in all the demonstrations against the shameful NATO bombings of Serbia back in 1999 .
Here’s a website that might be of interest to you :


Liliana February 5, 2010 at 9:35 am

this world is a small place. I guess soul mates will find each other. Thanks for the link. I participated in demonstrations here in the US and was a big part of a humanitarian group that helped people back in Serbia. Thanks for your responses.


Dave Harrison January 18, 2010 at 8:39 am

Truely reminds me of home. The difference here is we got up at 8 am to get ready for church & Mom got up at 5:30 to set the pot roast or stew in the slow cooker then off to church till 12:30 or 1PM then home. We’d all do our own things & Mom & Diane would cook till about 4:30 then we’d set around the table always with church company for what seemed like hours talk, laugh & eat. Afterwards Mom & Diane [mostly Diane] would clean up & do the dishes and after about an hour we’d all gather in the Piano Room while Mom played spiritules and we all say christian songs. Seems like decades ago.
Thanks for the memories


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