The 19th century author Margaret Wolfe Hungerford once said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, meaning what one person finds admirable may not appeal to another. This I feel applies to every picture posted online of someone’s Sunday roast. In a world where everything and anything is digitally documented through social media, I feel it has become very apparent that a picture of your Sunday roast should not, ever, be allowed to be posted. What you think looks like the best thing you’ll ever put in your mouth, about 90 percent of people who view it will look at it and shudder as they scroll past it on their Instagram feed. It’s just not a photogenic meal, and we all need to accept that.
The humble Sunday lunch, or Sunday roast depending what it’s known as in your household, has been a staple in traditional British cuisine since the early 15th century, during the reign of King Henry the VII, where the roast beef his royal guard would eat every Sunday after church gave them the nickname ‘beefeaters.’ In the 19th century, households would put their Sunday roast joint of meat on to cook before going to church, so by the time they returned it was cooked and ready to serve the family.
Nowadays, like any tradition, the Sunday roast has been adapted in every family. Some have roast potatoes, some have boiled, others skip them entirely and only have roast parsnips and are not to be trusted. I mean, why would you choose to abandon the roast potato for the parsnip? It’s wrong, it’s unnatural and it’s not something I condone. The one exception is when they’re roasted in honey, where they become some kind of hybrid between a vegetable and hard boiled sweet, making you wonder why you don’t roast everything in honey. I digress.
In my house, the weekly scheduled Sunday lunch wasn’t a thing. If the weather was grim, or we were particularly craving one, very occasionally a full roast dinner would be whipped up. I’m talking a whole roast chicken, all the trimmings, two types of potato, gravy that wasn’t Bisto and every vegetable covered in butter. I never felt like I was missing out on a weekly roast until my friends would rush home from the park early to make sure they were sat at the table for 1 o’clock on the dot.
It seems that this British tradition isn’t dying out anytime soon, but more so taking a new turn. The family Sunday roast isn’t limited to the dining room table anymore, with people venturing further afield for their stomach cramp inducing feed.
The pub Sunday lunch menu is a firm favourite in the UK and here in Jersey, usually being cheaper than the A La Carte menu and a lot more satisfying. A particular venue for a monstrous Sunday roast in the UK is The Toby Carvery, where you queue in a school canteen like fashion to be served your mammoth portion, offers a king plate. It’s the size of two dinner plates, so essentially you get two meals at once. It’s like something the NHS would use as an advertisement on how people get heart disease.
I know my parents grew up only ever eating as a family around the dining room table. Streets would be deserted every Sunday, and they’d always make sure they were home for their Sunday roast. Their meals didn’t involve over processed food that you bung in the microwave or collect from the local chippy, it was always home cooked food. The Sunday lunch was a meal that potentially lasts for days on end, with leftovers re used in other meals throughout the week like cold cuts for sandwiches, and potatoes and vegetables used for bubble and squeak. It’s no wonder that my grandmothers would put a roast on, because it could always be stretched further and save them money and time in the week.
Although I love to eat out, and pretend I can afford it, there is nothing I love more than sitting down at the table with the family and sharing a meal together. It allows us to all catch up about the past week and have discussions about things we care about, upcoming plans, and even reflect on the good old days. The afternoon long naps and family movies that come post lunch are the best part, as well as going back to the kitchen throughout the evening to pick at the leftovers.
Family time should be quality time, spent together and away from phone and laptop screens. Food brings people together, and every family has their favourite dish or day to eat together. Creating your own traditions is what being a family is all about, and the Sunday lunch is one that’s far from ever dying out.