Her­itage food Roast lamb

This month, our her­itage food con­trib­u­tor, Karen Dud­ley of Wood­stock’s The Kitchen, re­mem­bers a Sun­day tra­di­tion that turned a feast of meat into the stuff of leg­end.

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In the af­ter­math of Sun­day lunch at my Granny’s house, you would find Aunty Yvonne draped lan­guidly over a set­tee here, and Aunty Pat nap­ping on a couch there; one un­cle sit­ting, some­what dazed, in the sun­room, an­other un­cle wash­ing up. And, al­ways, Aunty Mau­reen obliv­i­ously vac­u­um­ing around them all. A par­tic­u­lar stu­por would set in. Lunch was a mam­moth af­fair.

It in­volved my jovial builder and church­plant­ing grand­fa­ther Leonard, my mother and her three sis­ters, their hus­bands, all the grand­chil­dren, any friends that fam­ily wished to bring along, and then sundry great aunts and fam­ily friends.

For a typ­i­cal Sun­day lunch at Stone­haven, my granny Caro­line would have been pre­par­ing for days. On Thurs­day, the butcher would de­liver var­i­ous pieces of meat wrapped care­fully in white butcher’s pa­per, tied with string. Although the Group Area’s Act had forced their move from De Smidt Street, Green­point, to Church Street, Lansdowne, butcher Nap­perell from Ebenezer Street still de­liv­ered the Or­monds’ meat all the way to Lansdowne.

Lunch in­volved at least two roast meats. Of­ten, there would be a leg of lamb, a very slow-slow pot-roasted beef top­side, a corned tongue per­haps, and al­ways an ox­tail casse­role or mut­ton for a bean curry favoured by the sons-in-law. Lunch was so all-con­sum­ing that my granny did not even go to church on Sun­day morn­ings! (We grand­kids went with Grand­dad to the Docks Mission Sun­day School at Bloemhof Flats in Dis­trict Six.)

Along with all the meat were veg­eta­bles, all cleaned and pre­pared in a vast enamel bowl the night be­fore, ready for cooking on Sun­day morn­ing. There was al­ways proper gravy and roast pota­toes, and the ever present sig­na­ture stewed fresh tomato spaghetti with strong cheese. Pud­ding would in­clude baked custard or sago, stewed fruit, pump­kin frit­ters, crates of sweet cooldrinks (Stork and Bashew’s), and my mother’s favourite: a gin­ger beer float.

You un­der­stand now that some­thing pow­er­ful hap­pened over the course of Sun­day lunch!

Butcher Nap­perell’s packages were trans­formed by chem­i­cal re­ac­tion brought on by heat and love, ren­der­ing some­thing raw and sim­ple into a de­li­cious com­plex feast that for us was sim­ply lunch at Granny’s.

My granny’s care­fully browned meat and slow cooking had melted fat and trans­formed mus­cle fi­bres, break­ing down col­la­gen, ten­deris­ing and moist­en­ing the meat. The caramelised fatty edges evok­ing ravenous­ness in all of us squeezed in around that ball and claw ta­ble.

Eat­ing meat is so vis­ceral. We can hardly stop our­selves from de­vour­ing it, yet we of­ten barely stop to savour its sim­ple flavour. No other food evokes such pow­er­ful emo­tions and brings us so close to our hu­man­ity: death and life, sac­ri­fice and feast. We are more mind­ful now of where our meat is com­ing from and how it is be­ing farmed since mod­ern farm­ing meth­ods have come, more of­ten than not, at an in­or­di­nate cost to the planet and to our bod­ies as well.

Those ral­ly­ing lunches at Granny’s are now the stuff of leg­end, although at the time we thought them the most nat­u­ral thing in the world. I can al­most savour that carved meat and fine gravy and re­mem­ber the ca­coph­ony of fam­ily hul­la­baloo around that ta­ble.

Even though my own Sun­day lunches are a sadly more con­ve­nient af­fair and our quan­tity of meat de­cid­edly smaller, we hope to in­voke a sim­i­lar sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion for the shared meal, grat­i­tude and rev­er­ence for the world we live in.

Karen Dud­ley

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