Madeline Harper

United Kingdom

Flute player
A bit of a science nerd ngl
Animal Lover
Plant Collector

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Please feel free to leave comments/criticisms, I haven’t been writing poetry for very long and I’m determined to improve!

The Beauty Of A Sunday Roast

June 6, 2020

Growing up in England, you’re constantly surrounded by foods of innumerable different cultures across the globe. At any given location there is guaranteed to be a decent place to get a curry, and Chinese takeaway has become a household staple. Some of the most popular restaurants include those which serve Japanese cuisine, and who could forget a certain South-African born chain with Afro-Portuguese inspired chicken meals. This isn’t even mentioning the array of European food - French, Italian, Spanish are particularly popular - in addition to Mexican food. 

So what happened to traditional English food? 

To be honest, we still eat a lot of our own classic dishes. And no, we do not live off beans on toast, marmite on toast, or sausage rolls (though they are a delicacy in England). Due to our chilly climate, we don’t have a huge selection of tropical fruit in traditional meals (at else not until the 1970’s gave us pineapple upside-down cake), but we do make great use of meat, potatoes and vegetables. One of my favourite examples of this is a ‘Sunday Roast’, a family favourite that has been around since King Henry VII’s rule in 1485.

There are many components to a great Sunday roast. It all starts with a delicious, tender and juicy cut of roast meat; chicken is my preference, but a lot of English people prefer the darker, meatier flavour of roast beef. In fact, back in the 18th century, French people referred to Englishmen as ‘les rosbifs’ due to our excessive consumption of it! 

The meat is accompanied with crispy roast potatoes, with a cloud like, fluffy texture on the inside, and one or two Yorkshire puddings. After this, people tend to follow their personal tastes. You could opt for honey-roast carrots, sweet and soft, or peas, or even herby pork stuffing if you’re lucky. But, in my opinion, it should be illegal to have a dry Sunday roast - a flood of thick, flavoursome, rich gravy is an absolute must for me. 

It’s not so much the taste of the Sunday roast that appeals to me - although it is a mouth-watering, hearty meal - it’s the experience. For a plethora of families, it’s a weekly routine for everyone to congregate in the family house or flock to a local pub and indulge in a roast dinner. Homemade is by far the best; you can taste the love that your mother put into preparing the potatoes, cooking the meat to perfection, giving you an extra Yorkshire pudding with a roll of her eyes and a deceiving grin. It’s an invaluable family tradition, one I hope will be continued for many years to come. 

Another of my favourite British foods is, of course, fish and chips! It may not be the most elegant meal, but it is undeniably delicious. It first came about in 1860, when Jewish immigrant Joseph Malins opened up a fish and chip shop in London. Imagine this; crispy fried batter coating a fillet of haddock - not too oily - accompanied with a substantial portion of chips. It’s the ultimate drunk food. Once you’ve tried fish and chips, you too will see the appeal - the soft chips perfectly complement the crunchy batter and the flakes of haddock.

Sure, it’s not embellished with millions of herbs and spices, but it’s simple and effective.

In fact, fish and chips was rated Britain’s favourite takeaway in 2019 (according to a survey of 2000 people), beating Chinese and Indian for first place. For me, this classic combination takes me right back to primary school, trying to avoid the infamous mushy peas and exchanging a couple of chips with a friend for some of their leftover batter. 

Whatever memories you associate with it, it’s iconic, that’s for sure.

After all that savoury food, and endless plates of meat, potatoes and pastry (don’t get me started on the pies and pasties), it’s time for something sweet. My personal favourite dessert is arguably the best English pudding around - a sticky toffee pudding. It’s a treacly sponge cake thought to have been invented in the 1970’s by chef Francis Coulson and, true to it’s name, it’s rich, gooey and very sticky, chock-filled with dates for a fudgy texture. 

Upon taking the steaming sponge cake out the oven, it’s drizzled with a warm butterscotch sauce, and any leftovers are poured into a jar for later. Some choose to serve it with a ladleful of creamy custard; for me, it has to be a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a cool contrast to the heat of the sponge.

This dessert takes me right back to Sunday evenings, sitting in the living room after a nice big Sunday roast. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t have the slightly stodgy and sugary pudding very often, which only made it more of a treat when we did have it. I’d be sitting on the sofa, dozing and watching the television, when a waft of toffee sauce would drift up my nose and make my whole body tingle with excitement. The second the first spoonful of sponge hits your tongue is pure bliss, and for a moment the world stops, and it’s just you and a little bowl of heaven (ok, I may exaggerating a little, but this really is delectable!).

So, whilst we may have European and Asian restaurants filling up the streets, I still find that I’m perfectly content with sitting in a little village pub with a comforting plate of meat and potatoes. Of course, variety is pleasurable and I adore learning about different world cultures, but I will always have pride for my home country’s food, and any English people reading this should have nothing but pride for their country’s cuisine too.
I’m not at all complaining or trying to put other cuisines down, just sharing some pride for English food! Apologies for not including Scottish/Welsh/Irish dishes, but I’m English and wanted to share personal feelings towards my favourite foods.

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