British Classics (that nobody can agree on)

I like the idea of countries being identified through food. It’s the sort of living heritage that we should be really proud of. Indeed, many countries go to great lengths to protect the identities of their classic, home-produced food and drink. The French have their appellations and the Italians their Denomionazione. And with them are clearly identifiable products : pasta = Italy, Camembert = France. And Britain ? Well, Britain is a rather confused nation that doesn’t really have one overriding classic dish. But I actually like that some prefer fish and chips, some prefer Ploughman’s lunch, some prefer steak and kidney pie. But I’m sure we’d all agree that once in a while there’s nothing better than the great British Sunday lunch. We’ve all been there, whether it’s beef, lamb, pork or chicken. Absolute foodie heaven.

I cooked what I believe to be one of the best Sunday lunches imaginable today: rib of beef, still on the bone, that’s been aged for 30 days so that it is deep burgundy in colour with exquisite marbling. And with it, classic roast potatoes cooked in goose fat, proper gravy made from a good, full-bodied wine that has bubbled its way around the roasting tin, deglazing all the gorgeous crunchy bits as it goes. And not forgetting horseradish sauce, fresh broccoli, roast parsnips and garden carrots. Salivating yet ? As I piled my way through far too much of it I wondered where on earth the Sunday lunch found its origins.

According to Wikipedia, the great British roast dates back to when the squire would treat his serfs to a meal of roast oxen every Sunday to reward them for a week’s work. Seems perfectly sensible to me and I applaud the fact that it has continued as a tradition to the present day. It does dismay me though that this culinary equivalent of your favourite pair of old shoes should be absolutely annihilated by cheap pubs around the country. Any establishment that can live with itself selling a “Sunday pub grub” lunch for a fiver, where the beef is so overcooked you may as well be eating your favourite shoes, where the roast potatoes are deep fried (yes, I have seen this) and where the gravy came from some dust in a packet that has never been near a cow in its life, well in my view they should be hauled in front of a magistrate for treason. Is it any wonder that our nation is growing up not admiring or respecting our traditional dishes when they are so appallingly murdered like this ? I wonder what the patrons of these places would think if they sat and ate the rib of beef that I did today, cooked to medium rare as it should be.

Would they be able to tell the difference ? Probably not – their tastebuds having been destroyed by 40 Lambert and Butler and Skol a long time ago. Well, all I can say is good luck to them with their Sunday chamois leather and lard gravy. Means more great quality beef for me to thoroughly enjoy.


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