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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most