For Debbie Gibson’s extended family, Sundays at the dinner table strengthen the ties that bind

November 11, 2009 9:59:00 AM

Jan Swoope -


Once upon a time, big family-style Sunday meals were the rule rather than the exception. Aromas drifting from mom''s or grandmother''s kitchen promised delicious home-cooked dishes, hot from the oven. Children, changed out of their church clothes, romped and played, before being told to go wash up. Generations then gathered around the dining table to share family news, memories and maybe even a tall tale or two. 


For Debbie Gibson and her husband, James "Gip" Gibson, and their son, 23-year-old Wes, Sundays are still that special. Debbie, her sister, Lisa Jeffcoat, and mother, Sue Winstead (both of Columbus) take turns hosting and feeding their combined families every Sunday, after worshipping together at Artesia Baptist Church. 


Cooking for eight or nine people, plus guests, every third weekend isn''t overly-daunting for Debbie, who does as much in advance as possible. This experienced cook relishes the opportunity to debut new recipes she gleans from cookbooks, food channels and friends.  


"Sometimes one of the guys will joke, ''What are you going to be trying on us today?''" she laughed.  


Cooking for a crowd doesn''t worry Debbie, even after a long week at the family business, Puckett-McGee Electric Supply in Columbus. While still in high school, she worked several years at the B&M Restaurant her late stepfather and mother operated in Artesia. And, Gip comes from a large extended family, which helped condition her, too.  


"I guess that sort of helped me not be fearful of cooking; when they get together, there may be 50, 60 or 70 people," she said. 




Make it ahead 


When it''s her turn to make the Sunday meal, Debbie often focuses on recipes that can be prepared, at least in part, the day or night before. She shares several favorites in today''s food pages, including an out-of-the-ordinary three potato salad and a turtle trifle to satisfy any sweet tooth. Another family-pleasing mainstay is a roast cooked with club soda, a recipe she got years ago from a friend and co-worker, Mae Whitten.  


"I like to take that to church potlucks, too; it disappears pretty fast," she smiled. 


A cornerstone of her extensive cookbook collection is the Artesia Baptist Church cookbook, filled with local recipes. Inspiration can come, too, from TV chefs including Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten.  


"Plus, I get e-mails with recipes every day," added the businesswoman whose other passion is gardening. She uses the dill, thyme, basil and sage she grows in her herb garden to enhance dishes coming out of her kitchen. 


While interesting menus and good cooking are integral to the Sundays around the dining table, the real gift is interaction with family members. 


"We think this special time together is important for us; it seems to be something a lot of families don''t do nowadays," Debbie reflected. "We all feel it''s something to put a priority on, and we just feel honored that we live close enough that we can do it." 








Any cut of roast 


One package onion soup mix 


One package brown gravy mix 


1/2 cup flour 


2-3 cups club soda 








Three medium russet potatoes 


Three medium red potatoes 


One large sweet potato 


One medium onion 


1 cup mayonnaise 


2 tablespoons sugar 


1 tablespoon white vinegar 


1 teaspoon salt 


3/4 teaspoon dill weed 




(Source: Taste of Home magazine) 








One head iceberg lettuce 


1/2 cup green bell pepper 


1/2 cup diced celery 


1 cup frozen green peas 


Two 8-ounce cans waterchestnuts, drained 


Three bananas, sliced and tossed in 1/4 cup lemon juice 


3/4 cup raisins 


3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or peanuts) 


1 cup grated cheddar cheese 


3/4 cup green onions (green part only) 


10-12 slices bacon, cooked crisp 




For dressing: 


2 cups mayonnaise 


1/4 cup sugar 


1 tablespoon white vinegar 




(Source: Paula Deen, Food Network) 








Two sticks real unsalted butter 


2 cups self-rising flour 


One 8-ounce package sour cream 








One 8-ounce package mascarpone cheese, softened (may use 8 ounces cream cheese instead) 


1 1/2 cups whipped cream 


1/12 teaspoons vanilla 


1-2 pounds frozen pecan pie, thawed and cut into pieces 


1/3 cup chocolate fudge topping 


1/3 cup caramel topping 


1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped 




(Source: Taste of Home magazine) 








One stick unmelted butter 


Two 20-ounce packages frozen corn 


Four extra-large eggs 


1 cup milk 


1 cup half-and-half 


1/2 cup cornmeal 


One 15-ounce package of ricotta cheese 


3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 


1 tablespoon sugar 


1 tablespoon kosher salt 


3/4 teaspoon pepper 


1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus extra to sprinkle on top 




(Source: Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.