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Start a Sunday Lunch Tradition

Make Sunday afternoons special with a casual, stress-free meal where friends and family pitch in.

The scene: Good friends and family show up in the late morning on a lazy Sunday, bearing bags of groceries, tasty cakes and bottles of wine. Everyone pours inside, where the scent of something wonderful is wafting from the oven. Someone puts music on, another starts putting together prelunch nibbles and soon the feast is on the table. Think Thanksgiving but with less work. Casual yet special … in other words, something you can actually repeat regularly without stressing yourself out. Start a new tradition or revive an old one: a standing date for a leisurely, collaborative Sunday lunch where all are welcome.

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Get ready to host. We’ll cover what jobs you can farm out to friends and family in a moment, but there are a few things you’ll need to take care of as the host. Namely, neatening up your place a bit; making sure you have enough clean dishes, napkins and glasses for everyone; inviting people; planning the menu; and assigning tasks. Having a few small nibbles and drinks on hand for guests as they arrive is also nice touch.

You might choose to prepare the main dish yourself but ask others to bring side dishes and dessert. Or you might choose to do it all because you love it. Just remember that you are starting this because it is meant to be fun — if you realize it’s no longer working for you, consider farming out more tasks to others to ease your burden.

Corynne Pless, original photo on Houzz

Develop your concept. Having people over for a big Sunday lunch once is nice, but if you want to make it a tradition, it helps to give it a bit of extra thought. A fancy name wouldn’t hurt … something like the Sunday Supper Club, the Sunday Roast Beef Society or Lunch at Luke’s. Then call your best friends and alert your family about the new event.

Decide on the menu. Do you want to cook the same menu (with small tweaks) each week or use the Sunday lunch as an opportunity to try new things? The traditional English-style Sunday roast includes roast beef, mashed potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. But there’s no reason you couldn’t do French bistro favorites, a vegan feast, Moroccan tagine or a classic American-style turkey dinner. It’s your thing … do what sounds yummy.

Corynne Pless, original photo on Houzz

Let people mingle before lunch. Get everyone in a good mood by welcoming guests with a few tasty little nibbles and something festive to drink (alcoholic or not), and put some music on. The Sunday lunch is all about comfort and ease, so let guests wander where they will — some are bound to stick around in the kitchen, while others may prefer to get cozy in the living room. If you live somewhere warm, having an outdoor area open would also be lovely.

Mina Brinkey, original photo on Houzz

What you can ask guests to do. I am a big believer in having guests help out with the meal, especially when those guests are close friends and family. Most people don’t mind one bit, and in fact, it makes them feel more included and like part of the family. Play to your guests’ strengths when assigning jobs: If your brother can’t cook to save his life but loves wine, give him the task of picking a bottle to accompany the meal. Others can take complete control over a certain dish or part of the meal each week, so they know what will be expected (for instance, one person brings bread, another makes a veggie dish, a third brings dessert). Make things easier on yourself!

Table setting ideas. Think simple but special. Definitely use the real cloth napkins, glassware and dishes, but don’t worry if not everything matches, or if you have to grab a few jam jars to use for water. If you think of it ahead of time, enlist a friend with a lovely garden or great taste in flowers to bring something for the table. Or, if you have kids, get them to create something to use as a centerpiece. If you forgot to get anything, fill a simple wooden bowl with fruit and nuts, or place fresh herbs upright in glasses of water.

Farmhouse Dining Room, original photo on Houzz

How to squeeze in a few more friends. Being generous with the invitations makes for more fun, but when extra guests show up, where do you put them? After pulling in all of the chairs you can fit, you may need to resort to more drastic measures. Pull a console or desk away from the wall to seat a few more, scoot a card table up to the sofa or rustle up some extra furniture from your outdoor areas. If you are looking for a more permanent solution, consider having a big piece of plywood cut to fit over your existing table to extend it, then simply cover it with a pretty cloth.

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Plan après-lunch activities.It’s nice to have a plan for a short, fun activity after lunch. A walk in the fresh air is always a good idea and can help wake people up after they indulge in a big meal. Perhaps go out for a quick stroll around the block and return for tea and cake.

If it’s a chilly day, light a fire in the fireplace when you return from that postlunch walk. Put on more music, pour hot drinks and move into the living room for a bit of downtime after dessert. And if anyone offers to help with the dishes, say yes!

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Make it your own. Weekly meet-ups sound like too much? Try a monthly gathering instead — or agree to rotate houses among a group of friends. Lunch not your favorite? A standing date for a weekend breakfast or brunch at home (complete with fresh-squeezed juice and enough Sunday Times to go around) could be just the thing.

Original article written by Laura Gaskill on Houzz.

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