I had some of the cast, all Brits, over for a good old-fashioned Sunday lunch today. Despite having come to Amsterdam regularly for the last 21 years I’ve never done this before. There are many reasons for this.
First, for many, many years I used to fly home most weekends so it wasn’t a possibility. Second, this is the first time in a long while that I’ve done a show here with enough old friends who not only understand the concept of Sunday Lunch but who are also not flying home themselves every possible weekend. I’ve got used to spending Sundays here on my own. And third, this is the first time I’ve found a butcher who sells roastable joints of meat. Roasting is not something the Dutch generally do. Meat is normally stewed, fried or grilled. There must be historic reasons for this which I can only guess at, but the mere existence of the so-called Dutch oven, which is really a heavy stewing pot, must be a clue. It’s not something in which you’d stick a leg of lamb.
I was nosing around the Albert Cuyp market the other day and was surprised to see several roasting joints in one of the butcher shops that line the street. Not only that but they sold pork in joints with skin still on. This is something I’d never, ever seen here before and I was so excited I promptly bought a piece of belly for my supper. I’ve only ever seen belly in slices with the skin removed. I also bought a craft knife from one of the market stalls so that I could score the skin for crackling. Got to have crackling.
The same butcher had lamb shoulders and legs so I headed back there yesterday for my Sunday joint. Bugger me if all the lamb had gone. None in the cold store either. Damn. I’d even bought mint for some good old fashioned mint sauce. There was a large slab of beef but it looked unwieldy and difficult to roast because of its uneven shape. I was sure if I had a go I’d end up with a joint that was overcooked and dry on the outside and raw in the middle. Too risky. A shoulder of lamb would have been perfect. The only option was a shoulder of pork that was still on the bone – not how you’d buy it back home where it would be boned and rolled, but it would do.
I realised later that I could probably have got a shoulder of lamb at a halal butcher, or even a leg, but to be honest I worry about the welfare of animals that end up in halal butchers. That might be terribly unfair, and I really need to find out, because if could be sure of that I would have absolutely no problem with buying halal meat. Why should I? I’ve bought it before but always with a slight feeling of uneasiness. A quick trawl on the internet and I’m none the wiser. Some claim that ritual slaughter is humane and others claim it isn’t. More research needed I think, and even if the slaughter is painless, under what conditions have the animals lived? It’s something I really miss from home, the ability to buy meat direct from the farmer without having to mortgage the house first.
Enough rambling. Lunch was a success. There were five of us. Our Dansker, Gwynne, is 73 and has sung with all the greats in a long and illustrious career. It was an uncommon treat to share lunch (and the two bottles of red he brought) with him while he told stories of productions he had sung with the likes of Pavarotti, Sutherland and Boris Christoff. And the crackling was pretty good too.

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