OPINION: Five reasons a Sunday roast is Britain’s most overrated meal
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Columnist Nick Richards says Sunday’s traditional meal is far from all it’s cracked up to be
If I had a pound for the number of times I’ve heard people hark on about how having a roast dinner is an essential part of their weekend I’d be a very rich man.
I am sure this will be met with a chorus of boos and an online, er, roasting, but I just don’t understand the fuss about Sunday roasts and why they are held in such high regard in this country. This is my opinion – am I really the only meat-eating person who feels the same?
How can a meal that dominates a whole day be so savoured? It really is an unmoveable feast which rather than galvanises families across the nation in a stale whiff of nostalgia, probably leads to plenty of arguments and annoyance that it divides a day in half and restricts plenty of activities we’d normally rather be doing on the Sabbath.
It’s 2020 – can’t we just accept that this meal is not a cornerstone of our weekends, rather a tedious, time-consuming meal that has had its day and not actually all it’s cracked up to be.
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To support my argument, here are five reasons why I think roast dinners are overrated.
1) The smell
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It was Christmas 1978 when I was three that I first cottoned on to the ridiculousness of a roast dinner, which is always amplified by the festive offering. As Boney M’s Mary’s Boy Child pumped out of the radio at 8am my mum was putting a turkey in the oven. I thought we were having it for breakfast. Four or five hours later we had dinner and I remember the house smelling, literally, foul, all day. You may argue that fish or bacon stinks a house out for days, but a roast dinner lingers like nothing else, especially in the winter with windows steamed up and the heating on. It doesn’t make me feel all cosy and nostalgic, it just makes me want to fling the garden doors open and get some fresh air.
2) The effort
I have a theory that the enjoyment of most things is based on a simple equation: time plus effort equals end result. If the end result is a dismal roast then no time and effort is worth it. A fried breakfast requires just as much effort and concentration and can be completed in half an hour, which is why it is so much better than a roast dinner. After at least three hours of chopping, prodding, roasting and stirring, a roast dinner is ready to serve. Just let the meat rest, the Yorkshires rise and the vegetables drain and time it all to perfection. Simple! Even worse is when people let the meat cool and serve it cold. Delicious.
There are foods that can be quickly served with little effort and taste good – it’s why we love eating pasta, pizza and curries.
3) End product
As if the smell and effort wasn’t bad enough, once it’s served is where the sadness starts to sink in. The meat, the bones, the skin – it’s not great is it? It’s always hard to get the spuds right, the veg is usually too hard or too soft and it’s all devoured in 20 minutes.
And all this talk about Sunday not being complete without a roast is bonkers. It’s the same school of thought that says fish and chips taste better at the seaside (wrong – there are no gulls at home and you don’t have to pay crazy prices for ketchup) or that Guinness tastes better in Dublin (it does because you have to drink it to mask the rip off prices).
As a child my mum used to serve all the giblets in a Pyrex bowl as a starter. They were sold to me as “the best bit” and I’d unknowingly tuck in. I think you’d be getting a CRB check if you did that to a child in 2020.
The roast is finished and ready to serve, but, wait, this savoury feast beloved by the UK can’t be eaten without the addition of something to jazz the taste up. If it’s bland old grey pork we need to put some nice sweet apple sauce on it which we can also dip the delicious crackling (that’s overcooked fat in other words) in. If it’s lamb we need to lather it in green mint sauce, if it’s beef then out comes the horseradish to burn our taste buds away. Worse of all is cranberry sauce if it’s turkey or chicken. It’s basically like putting jam on meat. This is akin to putting pineapple on pizzas for me. And don’t get me started on putting honey on parsnips or carrots. Whoever thought these food partners up in the first place?
And when your roast is finally on the table what are we supposed to do? Turn every bit of it that’s dry and crispy and may offer a modicum of texture into a bleak muddy sea of mushiness with good old gravy. How many times have I seen Jamie Oliver tell me I mustn’t throw away the residue of the tray the meat was cooked in but must scrape the living daylights out of the bottom of it until bits of silver tin flake off and add some water and strain it before making my plate resemble a brown swamp?
If a roast really was that great why would we have to disguise its taste in so many ways?