We eat simple, frugal food most of the time at our house. And we like it! But that doesn’t mean that every dish I make is the cheapest possible meal to make. In fact, I purposely try to balance out my simple meals with nicer ones.
And I find that historically people did the same thing too. So many farmer’s wives cooked simple, but hearty bean dishes, cornbread and the like during the week, and then would serve a large meat dish with the sides on Sunday. So while everything could be quite simple and even repetitive during the week, Sunday would be the highlight with everyone feasting on a generous meal.
Many people, especially those in the last generation, remember pot roasts or roasted chicken being served each Sunday, continuing that tradition.
I find the same happened in the city during the Victorian era in all of the classes.
The more well to do would encourage frugal practices in the kitchen to stretch their food budget so that they would put more money into hospitality and social events. By cutting corners during the week, reusing leftovers, and serving leftovers to the nursery (who ate separately from their parents most of the time), they were able to have more for “feast days”.
The poor weren’t so interested in parties, as many, especially on the lowest rung of society, were concerned with simply surviving. But this is what I find interesting. It seems like all of the ladies (who, by the way, if you were poor in the Victorian Era, you were a working women) were careful to save a little more money for every Sunday. If they could afford a little meat during the week, they would buy a nicer cut for Sunday, with maybe even a dessert. If they could not afford any meat during the week (which the very lowest paid workers often couldn’t during certain periods), then they would splurge and buy some bacon to cut into their potato hash.
You see, Sunday was their family day and their rest day and they wanted to make it special. They would spend a significant amount of their food money on that one day. I am sure that having Sunday to look forward to helped get them through their scanty weeks. There is something so heartwarming and inspiring to me about these hard working, careworn women still putting time and effort into making a feast day for their family. It just goes to show that even in the worst of circumstances, you can bring a little enjoyment and light into your family with your cooking.
So how does that translate to my house? I find that if I serve some budget cutter meals, that I can also fit in some really nice meals too. For a long while, Sunday was our only dessert day. This helped the dessert seem even more special and helped with our budget which allowed me to splurge a little on Sunday. However, Sundays have been quite busy days for us more recently, so sometimes I have just had our nice meal on Saturday or another day of the week. But I hope to eventually get into a routine of having a “look forward to” day, where everyone knows that’s the day I make something nice for the family.
In the spirit of this principle, I plan on trying to share my nicer meals and desserts on Friday as a way of gearing up for the weekend. For example, I want to share the delicious salmon recipe soon that is pictured above! Salmon is one of those nice meals that we can only afford by cutting back what we spend on other days, and it’s certainly worth it! I just wish I could fit it in every week.
How about you? Do you have a “feast” day? Does this idea appeal to you?