Mennonites, farmers and Sunday night popcorn


On Sunday, my friend, Becky, who just happens to be married to my cousin, Gary, made the comment on Facebook that they were having popcorn for supper. She and Gary both grew up having popcorn for Sunday supper, sometimes accompanied by cheese and veggies.

That comment set off a slew of responses from other friends who also grew up having popcorn for Sunday night supper. Most of us still do. Coincidentally, all of those responded are (a) Mennonite, (b) grew up in the Midwest, (c) have farming roots, and (d) grew up having huge Sunday dinners.

Looking back, maybe the popcorn tradition grew out of sheer exhaustion on our mothers’ parts. They’d cooked for the family all week and by Sunday night, were ready for a night off.

So we discussed this a little bit more, and discovered that several of our families also deemed Sunday supper the one meal where we could eat wherever we wanted. Becky’s family often watched tv on their little black and white that probably got all of three stations. My family — the last in town to get a tv because my dad insisted on waiting until his boss — the college president — got one, played games or read.

Becky says she asked Gary where he thought this originated. He had two explanations: 1) that we were all members of the same cult, and 2) that “it started with the farmers, on the Sundays when the horses weren’t working they gave them a high fiber diet of bran. They figured if it was good enough for the horses it was good enough for the family, and so they used popcorn as the high fiber diet!”

Here’s the thing. There’s a slight hole in that theory. Gary and I share the same grandparents. Our moms are sisters. They come from a long line of “teasers” and I know for a fact that Gary has inherited that tendency. But hey, the horse idea is a good one.

When my husband and I married, I suggested we continue the popcorn routine. I suspect he never was crazy about it, because often he would bake cornbread. But our girls loved the idea, especially the option of eating wherever they wanted to.

And so…we carry on…popcorn, cheese, veggies, fruit and a good book. And for Fred, some cornbread with maple syrup. What better way to end the weekend?

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11 responses to “Mennonites, farmers and Sunday night popcorn

  1. I came from a Dutch family – and we often had popcorn Sunday evening, after a meatloaf dinner (during my early childhood – it was the only meat we had all week).
    Have you ever tried maple syrup over the top of the popcorn? To be eaten IN THE KITCHEN, of course! pretty good! This being in Michigan where maple syrup was very available for low prices.
    Haven’t thought of that for years……Thanks! Jean

  2. I think you could have been talking about my childhood. We often ate popcorn with cheese on it while watching Wonderful World of Disney. Now that I have my own children we still eat popcorn for supper with apples and cheese and have a movie night. I didn’t know anyone else had the same tradition.

  3. We also love our popcorn for supper on Sunday evenings. Don’t know where that tradition got started. My husband and I were both used to that so we continur=ed the tradition.

    Blessings~

    • Pannabecker Steiner Mary

      Thanks so much for your comment. I checked out your blog. Maybe it’s the Amish/Mennnite connection?

  4. Excuse my spelling. Happening to hit = instead of backspace only made the word worse and I didn’t notice until the instant I hit the Post Comment button.

  5. Debra Bucklen

    I was just trying to research the popcorn for Sunday supper tradition. My mom always served it on Sunday nights. She was from a Brethren family in Central PA. Could be either a Mennonite or ultimately a PA connection.

    • Pannabecker Steiner Mary

      Thanks for your comment, Debra! That’s possible, although I’ve since heard from others who are neither Mennonite, Brethren or from PA, who had this as a tradition, too. Interesting, eh? Maybe we could start a Sunday night popcorn club.

  6. Our tradition was spaghetti, BUT, we did do the “Wonderful World of Disney” that someone mentioned up above.

    I was going to have popcorn for supper tonight and wanted to know what to put with it. I had no idea it was a “traditional” Sunday night meal in some areas!

  7. Pannabecker Steiner Mary

    We always had (have) cheese, veggies and fruit…probably the reason that combination is still one of my favorites. What did you end up having with it?

    • We had sliced cheese, watermelon and blackberries, with a small dish of ice cream for dessert. Perfect, light meal for the end of a hot spring day!

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