• Rachel Anne Baer

Childhood Roast Dinners

#childhood #childhoodmemories #roastdinners #pheasant #families #homemadewine

Enjoying a flavorful roast dinner is now pretty common, you can buy meat for a relatively affordable price and it's not uncommon for families to enjoy this meal on a weeknight or even on several days of the week.

During my childhood we would enjoy a roast meal, for our Sunday lunch, it would be a slightly later lunch, maybe 1.30 or 2.00 in the afternoon. A good quality joint of meat was much more expensive then, it would come either from our local butcher, a friend's dad who raised his own animals or occasionally if my dad hit a low flying pheasant on his drive home along narrow country roads lined with fields of corn or other crops where the birds were plentiful. During certain times of the year this would happen every few weeks, my dad would bundle up the unfortunate pheasant and the village butcher would dress the bird making it ready for roasting.

I was never quite sure if I liked pheasant, a rich meat with a distinctive taste. Some days it would taste better than others, I do remember how proud my dad was when he arrived home with a large bird or two, a free meal or two. The birds would hang from the doorway of our shed in colder weather until they were ready to be plucked. I always felt a little sad that they were dead, marveling at their beautiful feathers, I was often given the prettiest ones which I would keep in my room, stroking them through my fingers, enjoying their softness on my face. They made great plaything for our cat too, it was a great way to get him involved in a game, moving the long smooth feather slowly in front of his paws as he lay quietly resting.

My dad always did the cooking for our Sunday roast, he was quiet happy in the kitchen, prepping the vegetables, often this would involve a trip to the garden to dig up a selection of carrots, potatoes, parsnips or whatever else he fancied that he had growing out there.

Food prep was more involved then, often he would be aided by a tumbler of some strange colored liquid, otherwise identified as his homemade wine, the suspicious looking dark yellow was made from home grown parsnips. From around ten years of age I was allowed a sherry glass full of wine with my meal to try. The parsnip wine had a bad taste and had the appearance of urine, I would force down a few small sips trying to appear "grown up" usually my dad would polish off the glass for me as my wrinkled up face must have shown my distaste for it.

My mum would often have a pre lunch glass of sherry if we had any in the house, on special occasions or if my grandmother or other relatives were visiting there would be a bottle of wine or two to share among the adults. If my Uncle Dave was there he would bring along some of his homemade wine and a taste testing and comparison would ensue. The two dads would usually take any remaining wine and further conversation into the kitchen after the lunch and do the dishes between them, no dishwashers in those days.

One Sunday lunch time I remember very well because it didn't happen as planned. We were living in Scotland at the time. My dad had got the joint of beef out of the freezer the night before where it sat on the kitchen counter to defrost. The following morning we awoke to my dad's raised voice, unusual as the mornings were his happy time to pootle around in the kitchen. Our poor dog of that time was skulking in the corner of the living room, the cat was no where to be seen.

Apparently during the night the cat had pushed the joint of beef onto the floor where he and our sweet natured collie dog had tucked in, sharing a special treat together. It wasn't really their fault, they were just taking advantage of the situation. My parents grumbled their way through lunch that day, still a great selection of vegetables, amazing crunchy roast potatoes but with meat from a can. My parents talked about "that bad cat" for weeks, in his wisdom he knew to keep out of the way. As children we knew to keep quiet and out of the way, if our parents were both angry it would be easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No one dared to complain about the canned meat that was usually reserved for sandwiches or as in this case emergencies.

I did learn from that day, even now, many years later when I leave food on the counter for any reason I make sure it is covered. We have cats that I know not to trust if a tasty morsel might be left within their reach. Mostly I have very good memories of our family coming together for Sunday lunch, especially if we had relatives sharing the meal. As children we had to be on our best behavior, not speak unless we were spoken to. The exception to this rule was my youngest brother, he must have been only a few years old, still at the really cute stage. Sunday lunch was the only time we were allowed to have fizzy drinks (soda) every week would be a different color. Often this gave us hiccups and make us burp, my brother was young enough & cute enough to get away with producing on demand the loudest longest burps we had ever heard. The first few times it was so shocking it was funny, even the adults would laugh and marvel at how he did it. After the first few occasions even he would get "the look" from my mother. If you were a recipient of "the look" you knew not to cross her or there would be swift and severe consequences.

I enjoyed listening in on the adult conversation until we were dismissed from the table to go and read or rest while the adults continued chatting in private, we never dared disturb them unless there was a dire need, an injured child was pretty much the only event that was acceptable to disturb their peace. They had worked hard all week and this was their time to relax.

Do you have good memories of mealtimes from your childhood? Did you have set meals on certain days? What was your favorite meal? What stands out in your memory?

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