21 July 2007

The shared lunch

One of the traditions I'm bringing back to my home is Sunday lunch with family and friends. When I was growing up, this was the big meal of the week; the meal everyone looked forward to. Anticipation played a big part in this tradition too. The preparations and the smell of food roasting in the oven made us all think about the lunch long before we sat down to eat it.

was quite common in the 1950 for everyone to sit down to a family meal at lunchtime on Sunday and if you had walked out into our neighbourhood at 11am any Sunday morning, you would have been able to smell the roasting meat and vegetables cooking away slowly in all those old ovens.

My parents shared the cooking of Sunday lunch. It was usually a leg of lamb or pork served with baked potatoes, pumpkin, onions, carrots and sweet baby peas. The thickish brown gravy that was poured over the meat was Dad's speciality. He also carved the meat, but he had to fend off my sister and I who would stand close hoping to get a small piece of meat before it went onto the plates. Mum peeled the vegetables and started the meat cooking and then would sit back for the rest to be done. Dad would check on the meat as it cooked and added the vegetables to the roasting pan when the time was right. My sister and I were eager servers, taking all the plates to the table that we'd set beforehand. That table was yellow and black Formica with metal sides. We always set the table with an embroidered cloth and mum's best pearl handled cutlery - which I now have. I don't remember what we had to drink with our meal, but I'd guess it would have been water. Dad might have had a glass of beer and Mum would have had the thick black coffee she always enjoyed.

Our dessert was usually fruit based. It might have been a peach cobbler, apple crumble or stewed pears, or sometimes baked apples stuffed with dates, but all these would have been served with a real egg custard, hot and steaming and running down the sides.

Later that evening, just as the family was sitting around the open fire in the lounge room and Mum was testing our spelling by conducting her own spelling bee with my sister and I, Dad would walk in with a tray piled high with bread, butter, sliced roasted meat, and a little salad. We would all toast our bread over the fire and make our own sandwiches. 

When I grew up and had my own family, I lived a long way from my parents' home but we started serving those Sunday lunches again. I'd cook a leg of lamb while listening to Radio National's Science Show with Robin Williams. Sometimes we'd invite friends to join us, but often we enjoyed our meal with just our small family. Then we stopped. I started working and was too tired for the big extravaganza on Sunday. We had lonely sandwiches instead.

Our Sundays have changed a lot over the years but we've started those lunches again. We don't eat meat now so we don't roast a leg of lamb, but I do bake bread and make pizzas. Often we've had visitors who have been delighted with a salad and soft boiled eggs with everything freshly picked in our backyard, and served with hot wholemeal or rye bread. In winter we have hot vegetable and barley soup with herb or spinach dumplings, or a warm frittata made with our home grown kipfler potatoes, spinach, capsicum and garlic.

The style of food has changed a lot over the years but the anticipation and
the enjoyment of sharing the abundance of our backyard with friends and family is ever present. This, my friends, is another simple joy that cannot be bought and a family tradition worth keeping.
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