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The history of the Great British Roast

By The Babbacombe Royal Hotel & Carvery  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

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The Noble Roast Beef of Britain and a British Sunday Lunch

When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food,

It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.

Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good

Oh! the Roast Beef of old England,

And old English Roast Beef!

"The Roast Beef of Old England" an English patriotic ballad written by Henry Fielding for his play The Grub-Street Opera, first performed in 1731.

The British love of beef, and particularly for lunch on a Sunday is nothing new. It is such a part of the national identity that even the French call us "rosbifs" (roast beefs) and the Yeoman of the Guard - the royal bodyguard - have been affectionately known as, "beefeaters" since the 15th century. A telling observation by Henri Misson who staying in London in 1698 tells how "it is a common practice, even among People of Good Substance, to have a huge Piece of Roast-Beef on Sundays, of which they stuff until they can swallow no more, and eat the rest cold, without any other Victuals, the other six Days of the Week".

Startlingly, contrary to modern thinking about meat eating, in 1871 William Kitchener, author of Apicius Redivivus or The Cook's Oracle, recommended eating 3 kg (6lb) of meat each week as part of a healthy diet (he also recommended 2 kilos of bread and a pint of beer every day). Today in the UK we eat approximately 1.5 kg of meat each week - only 200g of which is beef - and some think even that is too much.

Kitchener also describes in the book how to roast "the noble sirloin of about fifteen pounds" before the fire for four hours for Sunday lunch. This method of hanging the meat on a spit or in the 19th century, suspended from a bottle-jack and certainly that size of a joint, demanded a sizable fireplace and would be to feed a large household not only on the Sunday but as cold cuts, stews and pies throughout the week.

The less well off did not have the luxury of a large fireplace or the money for much meat, so the smaller weekly roast would be dropped off en-route to church at the bakers to be cooked in the cooling bread ovens - bread was not baked on a Sunday. With access for all to cook meat on a Sunday, the tradition of the British Sunday lunch began and still continues today.

Though meat is no longer roasted in front of the fire, but today is baked in the modern oven we still cling on to the term Sunday 'roast'. On Sundays throughout the UK, pubs and restaurants are packed full for the roast dinner - some even serve the meal on other days of the week such is its popularity. But for many, cooking and serving Sunday lunch at home is the very heart of British food and cooking. It is the time for families or friends to get together and share.

Thee Babbacombe Royal Hotel & Carvery offers great value, home cooked food served using fresh ingredients and local produce as you would expect, and our award winning chef has designed a menu to suit all tastes with classic british pub food, world cuisine and amazing desserts...

The daily Carvery is renowned locally and served from 12 noon until 2.30pm Monday to Saturday and all day from 12noon until 8.00pm every Sunday. A choice of the finest joints of Beef, Turkey, Gammon and Pork are available and served with delicious fresh roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and home made gravy. Prices are £8.95 for adults and £6.95 for children under 12. All food is cooked fresh on the day and our succulent locally sourced meats are rotated regularly to give you the best cuts direct to your plate. Come and see what makes our carvery the original and best in Torbay.

If you just come for a well deserved pint or glass of wine with friends, our extensive bar has everything you could ever want. We stock all leading brands of beer, lager and cider as well as some great local ales. Our refrigerators are full of bottled beer, cider, pre-mixed drinks and fruit juices. Our wine list offers everything from specially selected house wines to exquisite whites, reds and rosés, perfect for enjoying with friends or family.

Whether you want a glass of wine or a full 3 course meal, a sandwhich or a coffee, you will always be offered a warm welcome and attentive service from the Babbacombe Royal Hotel & Carvery,

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