Gordon Ramsay starts the great Sunday lunch revolution

Sunday Lunch Campaign: The famously abrasive celebrity chef has a message for the nation - revive the tradition of family meals at least once a week. We agree, which is why today we are launching the Sunday Lunch Campaign. Terry Durack , the 'IoS' restaurant critic, reports

Gordon Ramsay is not happy. He's taken a look at the way the average British family ignores one of our happiest national traditions and he doesn't like what he sees. More and more people are turning their backs on the family Sunday lunch. Inspired by Jamie Oliver's success in starting a school dinners revolution, Ramsay is calling for us to change our ways.

So today we launch the Sunday Lunch Campaign. We'll be publishing regular recipes and reporting on what we hope will be the first green shoots of the tradition's revival. And we won't be fighting alone. A whole kitchen full of celebrity chefs, including Michel Roux, plus Supernanny Jo Frost and experts from Childline, Relate and leading hospitals are backing us in trying to restore something as venerable as, well, as the roast beef of old England.

Never has such a message been so needed. In the 1950s, British families sat down together for a meal nearly every day. Today a mere 29 per cent of families eat together more than once a week, and, even when they do, more than three-quarters watch television rather than talk. A quarter of families don't even have a dining table, and among the ones who do, most never use it for eating on. Instead, around 80 per cent of them use it as support for those great family meal wreckers: the computer and television.

Where did it all go wrong? According to many, the Sunday lunch dates back to medieval days when the village serfs would be fed mugs of ale and a feast of spit-roasted oxen afterweaponry practice on a Sunday morning. Fast-forward a few hundred years, and here is mother, cheeks flushed, carrying the rib of beef, leg of lamb or joint of pork to the table as father stands by, sharpening the carving knife. Not just last Sunday, but the Sunday before, and before and before. That's the idea of Sunday lunch: continuity, family, security, bonding and plenty of horseradish.

It's time we picked up our weapons - carving knives and roasting pans - and fought to defend a tradition that has the power to keep us together. There used to be feast days, church on Sundays, and a sense of community. There used to be a village hall, a village pub. Hell, there used to be a village. Now it's just Mum ferrying the kids around, and Dad getting home late (or vice versa). Meals are for re-fuelling; breakfast is skipped; lunch is something you do, rather than have.

Sunday lunch is all the quality time we have left. Come on, you know you want it. You want the security, the warmth, the wine, even the arguments. Most of all, you want the roast. When the BBC asked the British public about their favourite foods, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding romped in as the top lunch. Antony Worrall Thompson agrees: "My favourite meal is a roast rib of beef. A big joint can last you the week. Cold on Monday, curry on Tuesday, shepherd's pie on Wednesday and so on."

But rather than go back to the Sunday lunch as was, we should go forward to a new, improved version that takes into account modern life, the changing role of women and the needs of our children. Catherine Collins, chief dietician at St George's Hospital in London, says: "For toddlers, family meals around the table are a constant learning experience ... Studies show that eating as a family tends to involve more vegetables. Children tend to favour ready-made or junk food."

Everything should be looked at anew. Does Sunday lunch have to be every Sunday, or could it be every second or third Sunday? Can it be cooked occasionally by Dad? Does it have to be a roast with all the trimmings, or could it be a roast with a light, fresh salad? Does it have to be overcooked? Does it have to be British? Look at the way the Italians throw their family feasts; how Australians gather around the barbecue in summer; how Chinese families gather around tables of steamer baskets in dim sum restaurants. Indeed, does it even have to be at home? Perhaps once a month it could be in a good pub, with all the other families.

It's not where it is and what it is that is important, it's who it is. Parents, children, the parents' parents, the children's children. Modern life is so segmented, each generation leading such exclusive lives, that to place a six-year-old at a table next to a 72-year-old is to leave both entranced. Jo Frost, TV's Supernanny, says everyone should be brought into the table talk: "Encourage each family member to share details about their day, including challenges and positive things that may have occurred at work or school."

There has to be one meal a week that lasts for more than 30 minutes, when you can relax, eat more slowly, digest more easily, and let your body ease out. Then, because it's Sunday, there is time to have a good old-fashioned walk or an even better old-fashioned nap; further proof, if any were needed, that all is well with the world.

What's the secret of getting the family round the table for Sunday lunch? Each month we will publish a selection of your letters, with a mouth-watering prize for the best one. Write to: Sunday Lunch Campaign, The Independent on Sunday, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS. Or send us an email (subject: Sunday Lunch) to: sundayletters@independent.co.uk

For starters...

Author and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, right, says: "There's no point in getting hung up on having a traditional roast. Get the kids involved. Why not let your children discover what a real burger is by getting them to make one themselves? Youngsters love making the little meat patties with their hands. The beef is the most important ingredient - it's best not to buy it ready minced, as the beef used is often quite poor. Ask your butcher for 'topside' or 'top rump'. A little bit of fat on the outside will improve the flavour."

The recipe: Home-made beef burgers

INGREDIENTS (to make four burgers):

Coarsely minced topside or top rump of beef, about 500g; half a small onion; parsley; a small bunch of thyme leaves stripped from their stalks; about 1 teaspoon (or a pinch) of dried mixed herbs.

A little oil for frying; salt and black pepper; four floury baps or large, flat burger buns

PREPARATION:

Chop the onion finely and add to the mince. Chop the parsley and add, along with the thyme, a pinch of salt and a twist of pepper.

Divide the mix into 4 portions, form into balls and flatten with palms. Around 2cm thick is about right.

Heat oil over a medium heat. The burgers cook through in 7-10 minutes

From 'The River Cottage Family Cookbook' by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr, published by Hodder & Stoughton

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin