Sunday Lunch chit-chat by Juliet Ashton
Writing a novel about Sunday Lunch concentrated my thoughts on this most British of traditions.
Growing up in the UK you take for granted that roast full stop to the week, even if months go by without actually having one.
I started to make notes at my own Sunday Lunch table. As novels rely heavily on dialogue – that’s how we really get to know the characters, don’t you think? – one of my first lists was Topics of Conversation. I was not prepared for what I scribbled down in between fretting about the gravy (never as good as my mothers) and warming plates and trying to reconcile the incredible price of the beef with the fact that I’d overcooked it. Here, in random order, is a selection of the topics that came up over three lunches. Guests were random family, friends, frenemies, people-who-invited-me-to-theirs-so-I-had-to-invite-them-to-mine, and the dogs.
* Does love at first sight exist? (I voted “yes”.)
* How much money would it take for you to sleep with somebody horrible? (One v quiet woman would, and I quote, “sleep with a horse” for a million pounds.)
* Would you rather have a huge diamond or a swimming pool? (I lied and said swimming pool.)
* Brexit (immediately shouted down and another bottle of prosecco opened).
* Celebrities included in game of Shag/Marry/Kill: Donny Osmond; Hugh Jackman; Ann Widdecombe; Donald Trump; Heidi Klum (my friend genuinely though she was called “Heidi Klump”); Basil Brush; Hitler; Baby Spice. (Something for everybody there, I think you’ll agree.)
* Gender neutral toilets. (That had people standing up, hands on hips, in three seconds flat.)
* Serial Killers – do they make good boyfriends? (Surprising results there, you’re better off not knowing.)
This small experiment proved what we all know. People have fun at Sunday Lunch. Well, they do if you’re doing it right.
Like sex, there are certain prior conditions that must be in place to assure success. For a 10/10 Sunday Lunch, you’ll need not quite enough good chairs, twice as many roast potatoes as the cookery books advise, plus homely food. Forget the jus, tell the dauphinoise to bugger off. You need a hunk of meat, an alpine range of spuds and a gravy boat the size of a liner. Do not forget your vegetarian guests; they tend to be vocal. I throw ‘em a Spanokopita and have had no complaints yet. It’s a Greek filo pie filled with feta and spinach and onions. It’s sublime. (Just writing that down has made me want one NOW.)
The last ingredient? People, of course. Your auntie, your dad, the couple from four doors down, your ex, his ex, somebody’s children, your beloved. Stir them all together, stand well back, and enjoy.