Sunday Roast: A Proper Dinner

Sydney, Saturday

Tomorrow is the last day before we leave for our 3-month trip, but we won’t be spending it packing, or at least not most of it.  Due to the working schedules of various family members, we’ll be having a Sunday afternoon get-together, which will include a meal.

What Do You Call It?

When I was growing up in New Jersey and we went to our grandparents’ house on Sunday, my mother said, “We’re having roast beef.”  Clive says, “We’re having a roast dinner,” or, “We’re having a baked dinner.”  I thought baking was only for cookies, cakes, and pies.

Clive says, “Surely you don’t serve roast beef on its own.”  I say no-one would serve meat all by itself, without vegetables and trimmings.  He asked me, “What do you say if it’s lamb, or pork?”  In my U.S. family, we say, “we’re having a leg of lamb,” or “We’re having a pork roast.”

In Australia, I now call it a roast dinner.  To me, everyone seems less interested in what kind of meat is served, and more enthusiastic over the fact that it’s a roast dinner.

Roast Dinner = Proper Dinner

Clive’s father is English through and through.  He has his main meal in the middle of the day, followed by “tea” in the evening.  For the main meal, he really, really, really wants it to be what he calls A Proper Dinner.  The ideal Proper Dinner is roast meat accompanied by roasted potatoes, carrots, and peas.

The classic British “meat and three veg,” such as a lamb chop with potatoes, carrots, and beans, would be a close second to his ideal roast dinner.  A disappointing third place would go to fish and chips, nowhere near a Proper Dinner but acceptable as backup.

A few years ago before he met me, Clive took his father on a day outing.  They looked for somewhere to eat the meal I call lunch, and Clive pointed to an Italian restaurant whose menu in the window indicated a range of dishes with pasta and meat.  His father said, “No, they don’t do a proper dinner.”

You Can’t Rely on Pubs Anymore

British pubs used to be a fast, reliable source of a proper dinner.  But something seems to be happening across England, with many traditional pubs being either bought outright or their meal operation contracted out to top chefs and foodie people who are dramatically changing their menus.

This is a topic for later; suffice it to say on our trip there this past March, we were dismayed to discover that many pubs that looked appealing from the outside had (1) nothing in the way of traditional pub food on offer, except perhaps fish and chips, and (2) unbelievably high prices.  We nicknamed these establishments foo-foo pubs, then learned they’re commonly referred to as “gastro-pubs” and are becoming quite a phenomenon.

It can be challenging to search for a Proper Dinner with a hungry eighty-eight year-old in tow, but thus far we’ve always managed eventually to find one.

Easy with Family

When Clive first arrived in Australia in the 1960’s, he was much like his father in terms of his food preferences.  He’s branched out enormously since then, thanks to the wealth of food choices and varied cuisines available in Sydney.  But I’ve noticed that deep in his heart, and his stomach, he still really loves a traditional roast dinner.

Best of all, we’ve learned roast dinners are easy to do at home.  When we have the family at our place, we can have everything in the oven (roasting and baking) before the gang arrives.  Then, instead of rushing back and forth to the kitchen, we have valuable time to enjoy the company of the people we’ll be missing the most during the next three months.

2 Responses

  1. Yes you’re right Carolyn. The mere mention of a baked dinner is enough to make any Aussie start licking their lips in anticipation. The choice of meat is irrelevant. Although you probably remember the ads for lamb a few years ago where the young woman passed up a date with Tom Cruise because her mum was cooking roast lamb. Of course Tom Cruise is a out of fashion now, but roast lamb is never out of fashion!

    Hoo roo

  2. sophiesdad, I forgot about that ad but Clive remembers it! Very good.

    Thanks for your comment and here’s to the baked dinner.

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