The Sunday Roast
When it comes to classic British meals, it doesn’t get more traditional than a Sunday roast.
Every Sunday my parents would pop a joint of meat in the oven before we headed off to church, precisely timed to be cooked to perfection when we arrived home, the aroma hitting us as we opened the front door.
On the odd occasion that the church service ran past its usual finish time of 12 o’clock, the minister would apologise to the congregation, joking about how he knew everyone had their lunch in the oven. This comment would be awkwardly received, as the idea of the meat being overdone was no laughing matter.
On returning home, my parents would finish cooking the rest of the meal while my brother, my sister and I cleared and set the table. During the meal we would discuss what to do that afternoon – always a struggle between my parents who wanted to go for a walk somewhere boring, and the three of us who wanted to go to the park or stay at home (we usually ended up going for a walk).
By the way, for the uninitiated, a Sunday roast is made up of roast meat (chicken, lamb, pork, beef, or something more exotic), roast potatoes, a selection of vegetables, and various accompaniments. It’s like a smaller version of the traditional Christmas dinner.
When I say “something more exotic”… this could be something like gammon, goose, turkey, duck (we tried that once and there just wasn’t enough meat on it) or kangaroo. Yep, kangaroo. I remember we were once served up an unidentifiable piece of meat, and my mother wouldn’t tell us what it was until we’d tried it. Instantly suspicious, we all refused to touch it. Later inspection of the bin found an empty packet labelled ‘kangaroo’. I’ll never understand quite what inspired that purchase, and safe to say my mother stuck to the more traditional options after that.
While we always ate our roast at lunchtime after church, for some families the tradition is to eat a Sunday roast as an evening meal – perhaps as leverage to get the kids to go on that boring walk in the first place.
And speaking of different traditions between families, can I just mention Yorkshire puddings for a moment? I was not brought up on these, not even with beef (to which they are the traditional accompaniment). But I had a friend whose family had Yorkshire puddings with every roast, regardless of the meat, and I just couldn’t get used to it. They were frozen ones too, not homemade.
These days, I’ll tolerate a Yorkshire pudding with my roast beef as long as it’s a homemade one and has lots of horseradish sauce on the side (don’t get me started on pubs and restaurants that think it’s ok to run out of horseradish sauce). But roast lamb and Yorkshire pudding? No thanks.
Actually, the matter of what makes a perfect Sunday roast can be pretty divisive. Potatoes roast, mashed, or both? Is gravy mixed with cauliflower cheese the perfect combination or an absolute abomination? Gravy homemade (risking lumps) or from a packet (not as authentic)? Are Brussels sprouts only for Christmas? I could go on.
But I suspect that in most cases, the true answer to the question “What’s the perfect Sunday roast?” is simply “The one my mum makes.”