Sunday Roasts

There are many reasons why I love Sundays. There is something special, something sacred and warm and comforting about them. I think of the words of the Andrew Lloyd Webber song where the singer asks to be told on a Sunday that her love relationship has ended. The sentiment epitomises the energy of this beautiful day. Not being a religious family, when I grew up Sundays were for sleeping in, or listening to music - often musical operas that played through the house while my dad pottered around. Sundays were about afternoon drives to the country or Hout Bay, for tea and scones, or later on fancy gastronomical delights in the form of a three course lunch in the beautiful Franschehoek valley.

Sunday is more of a feeling for me then anything else. It is the best part of the week, a soft space you wish to linger in and an energy you hope will travel with you through the entire week, fading only in time for another Sunday. It is a day I feel creative, introspective, deep and philosophical. It is a day of love, of people that matter, and meant for making memories together.

Most of all, Sundays remind me of the Sunday roasts we had when I was growing up. Every week, for the full 10 years before my grandmother passed away, we would go through to my grandparent’s little Victorian style home in the suburb of Green Point for a family lunch. It was a ritual where the whole extended family gathered around the dark wooden table - one that was designed in such a way that sections of it could come out and be extended so that it was double its size, and we would sit around and eat and talk. I was young, but it was a family tradition I loved. I can recall right now walking up the steps and into the home, the oil painting of the flower seller that my aunt painted, on the right wall above the phone table. I can hear the sound of shoes against the wooden floorboards as we walked through into the living room where the dining room table would already be out and set for lunch. I can smell the aroma of meat and potatoes cooking in the kitchen and recall what it felt like to walk into that small, busy room and hug my grandmother, feeling her embracing warmth. As I write these words, I can see her clearly with her floral print dress and apron on, hovering over the stove with what felt like a hundred pots, boiling away. There was something about my grandmother that filled a room. It was a type of warmth and fullness that drew you in. She was an ample woman, but it was her energy that filled the space. She exuded a gentle, unconditional love that I can still feel if I think about her, which I do and have done almost every day over all these years.

Lunch would almost be ready and we would take our places around the table. Each place sitting had a rectangle wooden placemat, silver cutlery and usually a fabric napkin arranged neatly. The placemats were old English placemats with images of paintings on them. My younger brother and cousin would then fight as to who got their favourite picture. I can’t recall which one they wanted, but I think it was to do with English soldiers.

The food would be set down on the sideboard and centre of the table, on silver platters - a range of roast meats, roast potatoes, a large mince meatball or stuffing, carrots, peas and sometimes gem squash and of course a really thick brown gravy, made from the juices of the meat. These were the days everything was home-made, free of preservatives and artificial flavours.

I have never enjoyed eating meat and stopped doing so at a rather young age. In my twenties and thirties I would joke this was possibly a result of a past life as a hindu, but past lives or blood types, who really knows what makes us dislike certain food groups. I did however eat chicken at that stage and so that would be the protein on my plate. I remember however filling myself up on my gran’s roast potatoes, which were soft and flavoursome, cooked alongside the meat in the oven. Plates would be piled up, mouths would be full and conversation would cease, as everyone tucked in to the much anticipated meal. Afterwards pudding would be served - often something simple, baked and sweet accompanied by custard. Mostly I remember the custard - again home-made and warm, always served in the same art decor style jug made of thick glass. My cousin would happily devour most of it on his own.

Sunday roasts were a lot of work for my gran, something I can now appreciate, as I often do my own Sunday roasts for my family. I usually stick to one meat though and often will make roast butternut and creamed spinach to go with it. My roast potatoes are cooked in a dish by themselves and are crispy and free of the flavour of meat and occasionally I will make Yorkshire puddings as well, just because I love them. I am aware of how much planning goes into cooking a roast - it is a great kitchen symphony getting everything ready on time. I am also aware of how much washing up has to happen afterwards (something fortunately my aunt used to do for my gran in those days). The cleaning help was welcomed, since her Sunday gastronomic efforts didn’t stop with the pudding. It was tradition for the family to linger and as the sun set, out would come what she called ‘serveries’ - little salty biscuits adorned with savory toppings like grated cheddar cheese and cucumber. If the family continued to stay until late, we would have leftover lunch and ‘bubble and squeak’, to fill our already satiated stomachs, before trekking home.

It is interesting what sticks in your mind. These small things that became weekly rituals - little acts that formed the fabric of each Sunday and as such became stitched together to create the quilt of our lives. My dad stealing a piece of meat while my gran pretended to fuss about it; my brother and cousin arguing over who got the best placemat; my cousin licking out the custard jug; the older relatives falling asleep on the couches after lunch and my dad and uncle taking me, my brother and cousin to the park on the promenade, where we would ride the swings and metal oxen. All these events that mark a life. I also remember falling asleep in the car on the way home and moaning and crying as I got carried to my bed. It was a long day, the border of which was stretched by food and love.

After her death the lunches stopped. They needn’t have. My mom and aunts were fully capable of keeping the tradition going, but something crucial would always have been missing, so sadly it died with her. My gran was the glue that kept my family together. Sunday lunches will always remind me of her roasts, but it was never really ever about the meat.


“Don't write a letter when you want to leave

Don't call me at 3 a.m. from a friend's apartment

I'd like to choose how I hear the news

Take me to a park that's covered with trees

Tell me on a Sunday, please


Let me down easy, no big song and dance

No long faces, no long looks, no deep conversation

I know the way we should spend that day

Take me to a zoo that's got chimpanzees

Tell me on a Sunday, please


Don't want to know who's to blame

It won't help knowing

Don't want to fight day and night

Bad enough, you're going

Don't you leave in silence with no word at all


Don't get drunk and slam the door

That's no way to end this

I know how I want you to say goodbye

Find a circus ring with a flying trapeze

Tell me on a Sunday, please


Don't want to fight day and night

Bad enough, you're going

Don't leave in silence with no word at all

Don't get drunk and slam the door

That's no way to end this

I know how I want you to say goodbye

Don't run off in the pouring rain

Don't call me as they call your plane

Take the hurt out of all the pain

Take me to a park that's covered with trees

Tell me on a Sunday, please”