Breaking Traditions with a Memorable meal

Breaking Traditions with a Memorable meal

Breaking traditions in my childhood home was actively discouraged. One such tradition was to eat a Sunday roast. It was one of the few special experiences we shared as a family.  It meant a lot of work for my mother, Becky.  She was the homemaker while my Dad, Merv, was the breadwinner, and my sister, Gai, and I were the kids who went to school.  None of us challenged those old-school family dynamics.

The Sunday Roast always comprised some hunk of meat with veggies: potatoes, onions, parsnip, turnip, or swede, all roasted in the oven along with some boiled green beans, peas, or carrots. The meat was often a leg of lamb, or a shoulder of lamb. Lamb was the staple meat in Australian households. We loved leg of lamb, not only because it was delicious and came with mint sauce, it also came with a knuckle.  We sucked those knuckles and dried them to add to our knuckle collection. Our granny had taught us to play the knuckle game. Another cut of meat mom roasted was beef.  That was a treat because, following the English tradition, beef was always served with Yorkshire pudding.  That was over-the-top delicious.  Whatever the cut of meat with its unique gastronomic accompaniment - mint sauce or Yorkshire pudding - there was always the fabulous gravy made from the drippings in the roasting pan and Becky’s cauliflower and white sauce.  The white sauce was a classic Béchamel sauce.  After the cauliflower florets had been boiled (not steamed back then), they were placed in a pyrex dish; the Béchamel sauce was poured over the top with a generous amount of grated cheese added as a final layer.  It was browned in the oven resulting in a light golden crispy top.

A Walk in the Park

On the particular Sunday of this memorable meal, we were living in London in a rented house opposite a little park.  It was a lovely, sunny day, so Dad suggested we take a walk in the park and let Mum get on with the cooking.  Yes, of course - let Mum get on with the cooking!  We kids did set the table and do the washing up afterward, so there was some help for her!

It was Spring time, still a bit nippy, but lovely to be out in the park with the trees beginning to get their fluffy yellow-green leafy down with crocuses and daffodils popping up randomly across the grass and along the path. The sky was a very light, hazy blue. We made out way towards the pond and, to our delight, came across a mother duck with a number of ducklings waddling behind her towards the pond.  We oohed and aahed and watched the mother duck and her ducklings do their Pied Piper thing waddling down single-file towards the water, some a little insecure on their baby webbed feet. Mother duck glides onto the water and babies on a collision course rapidly follow. Plop! Splash! Plop! Splash!  They were adorable. In this tranquil, idyllic natural setting, we watched them with loving delight and wonder.

In that emotional state,  we headed back with our stomachs rumbling and mouths watering to eat Becky’s roast.  We usually knew what was on the menu, however this time, we did not. Mum wanted to surprise us, and it’s for this reason, that she encouraged us to leave the house and requested we stay out for at least an hour.

As we entered the house, the smell of the roast in the oven filled our senses, and almost in unison, we asked:  “Mum, what’s the roast today?”

“It’s roast duck!” my Mother replied with great joy and pride.  “I’ve never done it before. I wanted to surprise you.”

My dad, my sister, and I all gasped in uniform: “Oh no! We can't eat duck!”