(by Lucy St. George)
Lazy afternoons spent preparing and eating the famous St. George roast dinner with my mum and two daughters—these are my fondest memories.
A roast dinner in the St. George household is a meal that symbolizes inclusion; my mum extends invitations to these meals with abandon, and we never know what interesting character will be joining us at the table that week, winter or summer. A roast dinner is always a good idea for a woman who thinks of a stranger as a friend not yet met—it’s a meal that can be expanded to feed an appreciative, boisterous crowd.
Ever since childhood, our home was filled with a gaggle of people, including lodgers and visiting students. We rented out two rooms to students from the local international school, so quite often there were Chinese, German, or French teenagers in the house. They each introduced different food and music, and it was wonderful to share a traditional English roast with them. My parents had an antique lamp shop in West Hampstead, so customers and dealers were often invited too. Mum seemed to collect people as well as plates—an eclectic mix of passionate free spirits. Now that I think about it, they somehow mirrored the intriguing variety of cutlery and serving dishes in the antique shop (where, no doubt, my love of housewares became a professional muse). They didn't conform to the "norm," and I learned a tacit lesson about traveling to the beat of your own drum.
Food preparation is not just about the meal itself; it’s about a family dynamic, working as a team, and about the journey as well as the delicious destination. There was always an opportunity for me to help, often peeling the potatoes or Brussels sprouts grown in my aunt’s garden, and Mum graciously looked the other way when I would sneak spoonfuls of her special gravy, which I could eat like soup. As we cooked, the St. George soundtrack included my mum’s favorites: the Beatles, Eric Clapton or Fleetwood Mac. The music was loud, danceable, and a little bit mad, which was just fine with all of us.
Continuing the tradition, I now love to cook a roast for my family, mostly on a Sunday, which continues to be a day of relaxed responsibilities. It's a crowd pleaser, and my daughters relish getting involved, each making her own contribution. Grace, my youngest, composes veggie accompaniments that are all the colors of the rainbow; Ella, my eldest, roasts both russet and sweet potatoes—the crispier, the better. I cheat a bit, using a British gravy powder called Bisto. (I'm from the generation that grew up with the “aah! Bisto” package, so it is totally acceptable.)
(with daughter Ella, Ella's beau Reece, and daughter Grace)
It’s really lovely to have the three generations of St. George women carrying on the tradition of the roast dinner. Growing up, it was more of a male-dominated house, with two brothers who perpetrated practical jokes, like putting a bucket of water on top of a door, or leaping from a hiding place when you least expected it. Both my brothers now live abroad, so it's more of a "girly house." We often all sit around the kitchen table and talk about life and love—and, of course, food.
The Famous St. George Gravy
The best gravy requires homemade stock, made from chicken wings and giblets, onion, carrot, and celery (proportions don’t matter too much) simmered in water for 30 minutes to 2 hours, to make about 2 1/2 cups of stock.
whole head of garlic
1 T. flour or 2 T. Bisto
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and roast until softened, about 40 minutes.
Squeeze garlic cloves out of their papery skins and set aside.
After making a roast, pour off most of the fat.
Place the roasting pan over medium heat, sprinkle with flour, and stir, scraping to loosen any bits on the bottom.
(If using Bisto, first mix it with 1/2 c. cold water, then stir in this paste.)
Add the roasted garlic and stock.
Bring to a boil, stirring.
Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring regularly, until thickened.