‘Fat legs of lamb, roast spuds and drippings: Mum made the best roasts’

Oct 03, 2020
Julie reminisces about the delectable food of her childhood. Source: Getty

This tale will jog your way-back-when taste buds! Recently, I was shopping in the local supermarket for a tasty roast to cook and found only tiny portions of lamb. They were nothing like the great legs of lamb, or forequarters of lamb, that my Mum and Grandmas used to make for us.

Those were the good old days. Yes, a giant leg of lamb, surrounded by peeled potatoes, pumpkin, sometimes parsnip and onions. Maybe the ovens were larger then. The old roast dinners sizzled as the vegetables roasted in the fat oozing off the leg of lamb. The aroma was enticing, tempting our appetites. Hungry, hungry.

Being a good, obedient girl, I would pick fresh mint growing in a pot by the back doorsteps, nice and handy. The mint leaves would be chopped up and turned into homemade mint sauce. Then some of the fat would be drained from the roasting dish and made into mouth-watering gravy. None of these packet gravies I use nowadays.

After gorging ourselves, we would take a rest. Following the pudding, lovers of roast potatoes would eat spuds, cold from the baking dish, covered with the lamb fat. My loveable Grandpa would let the fat really solidify and scoop it up by the spoonful. He claimed it was good for the immune system.

My late Mum, being a retired nurse and a prophet of doom, told him that he would get kidney stones, life-threatening. Well, he did get kidney stones, but survived to live to a ripe old age. Totally plump!

Ah, way back when. Even with the expanding Baby Boomer family, the day after the hot roast dinner, we ate cold meat in sandwiches, plus another meal of cold lamb with the basic Australian salad of the day and the obligatory accompaniment, slices of tinned beetroot. Plus, of course, more cold roast potatoes. “What won’t fatten will fill!” as my Nanna used to declare.

Many people liked to keep the solidified fat in a separate enamel bowl. This fat, known as dripping, was smeared onto doorstep slices of bread. The bread was delivered by our baker’s cart, clodhopping down our gravel road, drawn by a Clydesdale horse, who sauntered along. The horse knew when to stop at each house, never hurried anywhere.

Way back when, there were no supermarkets, and no loaves of pallid, prepared sliced bread presented in plastic wrapping. Food seemed to have different aromas and more flavours. Did that tempt your nostalgic taste buds? Let’s fondly recall our hot roast dinners from a world that no longer exists.

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