Madeline Harper

United Kingdom

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A bit of a science nerd ngl
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The Beauty Of A Sunday Roast

June 14, 2020

Growing up in England, I’m constantly surrounded by foods of innumerable cultures across the globe. Anywhere, there’s guaranteed to be a decent place to get a curry, Chinese takeaway is a household staple; and who could forget a certain South-African born chain, famed for Afro-Portuguese inspired chicken? This isn’t even mentioning the array of European food - French, Italian, Spanish are particularly popular.

So where’s the traditional English food? 

Well, we still eat many of our own classic dishes. Due to our chilly climate, we don’t have a huge selection of spices or tropical fruit in traditional meals, 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 the 15th century.

There are many components to a great Sunday roast. It all starts with a delicious, tender cut of roast meat; chicken is my preference, but many English folk prefer the darker, meatier flavour of roast beef. The meat is accompanied with roast potatoes - a crispy exterior with a fluffy texture on the inside - and one or two Yorkshire puddings. 

After this, people 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, rich gravy is an absolute must.

It’s not just the taste of the Sunday roast that appeals to me - although it’s a mouth-watering, hearty meal - it’s the experience. For a plethora of families, it’s a weekly ritual for everyone to congregate in the family house or flock to a local pub and indulge in a roast dinner. In my family, we tend to have a homemade Sunday roast in the evening instead of lunchtime.

We’ve had a roast almost every Sunday since I was four, and my brother was two (he started with potatoes and plain meat). My mum insists on cooking by herself, becoming incredibly stressed and flapping a tea towel in my face if I steal a spoonful of gravy. She shuts the door, sending me to lay the table; when we were younger, my little brother ran around and got in the way, and suddenly I’d relate deeply to my mother and banish him to the living room. 

Now that we’re older he isn’t as annoying, but he’s certainly not helpful either!

Then comes the moment we’ve been waiting for. The kitchen door reopens for the grand entrance of the slow-roast beef rib, juicy and steaming, promptly followed by large bowls brimming with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, vegetables and a jug of beef gravy. 

We rush in, grab a plate, and load it up with the good stuff. I’m quite a foodie and have no problem tucking in, but my brother has always been fussy and eyes the vegetables with disgust. 

Sunday evenings are our time to reunite before the week begins. It’s just my parents, brother and me - my grandparents live far away, and we don’t have aunts or uncles nearby. We check in with each other, discuss our plans next week, and my dad tells funny anecdotes. This ‘family time’ doesn’t happen too often, as he’s incredibly busy; we don’t eat together during the week due to his work hours, and as a result from increased homework on my end, sometimes we can’t even spend weekday evenings together. 

We always do our best, though. Family is invaluable, and every meal together is precious to me.

One bite of the roast beef is enough to take me back to my early childhood, struggling to cut the meat and begging my mum for another Yorkshire pudding (‘no, Madeline, leave some for your poor brother!’). We’ve sat in the same places around the table since we began having a roast, and my brother sits opposite me; we used to kick each under the table (ah, sibling love), until one time I was a bit too aggressive and knocked over the gravy jug! 

Needless to say, that didn’t happen again.

For my brother’s entertainment, we used to play endless games of ‘eye spy’. Even now, my brother inevitably requests a few rounds; we groan, but play anyway. Through the years the range of new objects to spy has decreased, and we try harder to spy something different. Whilst playing, my mother attempts to slide a parsnip or carrot onto my brother’s plate (much to his horror), and my dad complains that there’s no potatoes left - ‘I thought I told you to do more spuds this week!’.

Somehow, amongst the palpable stress from my mother, my father’s complaints about the quantity (or lack thereof) of potatoes, and my brother whinging about carrots, I always feel relaxed at a Sunday roast. Mum’s stress isn’t worse than any other mother’s cooking stress, the complaints aren’t serious, and it’s almost comforting to know that no matter how tall or deep-voiced my brother gets, he’ll never eat a vegetable. The whole meal is so familiar, so routine and so normal, I’d struggle to live without it.

And even though my brother and I are angsty teenagers, we always end up in raucous laughter, my brother wiping away tears as I clutch my sides after a hilarious story from my dad.

Whilst Asian restaurants fill up the streets, Italian places appear round the corner and a huge variety of food becomes available at our fingertips, it’s easy to lose that connection with your home country’s dishes. Remember, it’s important to have pride for your culture and traditional cuisine - I’m certainly proud of our classic Sunday roasts!

And if you don’t have frequent meals with family, I really urge you to. The memories, the laughter, the time to just chill out together - you can’t put a price on it.
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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1 Comment
  • Stone of Jade

    This made me so hungry -- i'm not even kidding. This is so well written and the descriptions are perfect!

    over 1 year ago