In Praise of Sunday Luncheon

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Monday, 21st December 2015

The time honoured tradition of Sunday Lunch has featured in all the communities in which I have lived. A gathering of family and friends to eat, drink and be merry, it is a custom that affirms the ties that bind, restorative to both body and soul. I have enjoyed this feast in Zimbabwe, with family in KwaZulu-Natal, with friends all over Southern Africa, in England and in North America. Budgets and menus may vary, but it is the same delightful occasion of tremendous conviviality. For sheer exuberance, awesome music and dancing, Sunday gatherings in townships are hard to beat. Especially in Grahamstown's Joza. Energetic affairs of great ubuntu and hospitality second to none.

However, I have a soft spot for Sunday lunches hosted by my parents on our sugar farm in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe way back in the last century. Sunday lunch at the pool on a sweltering summer’s day. Louis Armstrong’s immortal voice would fill the air as Dad set up the tables and chairs under the trees near the pool. A barricade of tables would be covered in white tablecloths, behind them galvanised bath tubs with huge blocks of ice for ever important beers, mixers and kids’ soft drinks. Alongside, a vast semi-circle of chairs and side tables. Dad would get cracking with the fire in a sawn-off drum. My sister and I would set the tables. The drinks’ table with glasses and ice buckets, sliced lemon and Angostura Bitters, crockery, cutlery, napkins. Out would come the salads. Solomon, our cook, would start cooking the meat. The game was on!

Guests would arrive, park intelligently on the side lawn. Long lost greetings were exchanged even though we had all seen each other the day before! The ladies would sit down and be served their toots – pink gin and tonic was fairly de rigueur. The kids would all be in the pool where they would remain. As the eldest, I would take over as DJ – the voices and the shows of the 50’s and 60’s interspersed with light classical sounds. Laughter, chat, gossip, the news of the day, the tinkle of ice.

Mum was an organised, relaxed hostess who could have entertained in her sleep. Meat was loaded onto platters. Kids would be dished up first, most wives plated for their husbands. It was dog heaven!

Our Sunday Lunches ended long after dark. Well swum, sun-flushed kids gathered by their tipsy parents leaving in dribs and drabs. No one parked in! Summertime and yes, for some, I have to say, the living was easy!

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