The Sunday Roast is one of my favorite British traditions that is still alive and well. This weekly celebration of abundance and community is the inspiration for the items I've chosen to start the Briton Home collection.
We discovered the Sunday Roast by accident. A few weeks into living in London, we met another American expat at a pub for dinner. We placed our orders, and when the meal arrived, we had plate envy. I hadn't paid any attention when he ordered the roast- but what arrived at the table was a heaping plate piled with roasted vegetables, crispy potatoes, tender meat, a sausage, AND a golden flaky pastry full of yummy looking gravy (the Yorkshire Pudding). I assumed it was the equivalent to our "blue plate special," but it turns out it's a thing...
(photo credit- The Londonist, The Drapers Arms)
Every Sunday, all over Britain, in homes, village pubs, and gourmet restaurants, Britons enjoy the option of a "Sunday Roast." Various histories exist, but the gist is that the tradition began somewhere between King Henry VII and Queen Victoria. Good Anglicans typically abstained from meat on Fridays, so they feasted on Sundays after church. Some suggest that housewives would take advantage of the fact that the bread makers were closed on Sunday yet kept their ovens burning, so roasts would be dropped off before the service, and picked up on the way home. Yorkshire puddings seem to have humble origins, serving as filling appetizers in households where meat was stretched thin. Now days they are served with the meal, drenched in gravy or sauce. As times evolve, most pubs also offer chicken and vegetarian roasts.
Living in the South in the United States, we're familiar with the idea of extended families eating together on Sundays, but this tradition is fading, and there is certainly no fixed menu. Gathering around a table to eat together is such an important part of the human experience; It offers us a sense of belonging and community. Tables with abundant food and laughter are the surest signs of blessing and provision. From that place of plenty (even if it's simple food!), we experience gratitude and offer hospitality and generosity.
In our home, we try to eat dinner together most nights, but during the week, we are a paper napkin family. Generally, setting the table with placemats and cloth napkins is an extra step for special occasions, when we have guests for a meal. But I'm working on changing that, and we've started using our wedding silver for everyday (Yes, I totally put it in the dishwasher!) I love the process of creating the space- it helps prepare my mind and heart for the meal and time together. Truth be told, I enjoy setting the table more than cooking the food! When I take the time, I like to mix new or more modern pieces with family treasures or items from our travels. This layering and mixing reflects the abundance of our life and brings me joy.
After we caught on, we enjoyed some amazing Sunday Roasts during the five months we lived in London. I've shared the links to a few of our favorite spots in London, but our favorite roast was made by my cousin and her fiance', who we visited just outside the city. The time he put into preparing the meal and the hours we spent together around the table sweetened the experience in a way that even the most gourmet restaurant can't match (not to mention the fact that we still talk about the Pavlova he made for dessert...)
We've been experimenting with preparing various versions of a classic Sunday Roast at home. I haven't quite mastered pulling it all together, but we nailed the Yorkshire puddings! The beautiful placemats and napkins from Sam Wilson work well with my husband's grandmother's pressed glass plates and my wedding silver. For a moment, despite my difficulty perfecting the actual roast, we can have the best of all worlds- A meal in our home with those we love, at a table set with reminders of a season and place we love, sharing our stories, memories and dreams.