Esther O’Moore Donohoe on the comfort of a roast, and her new podcast with Emer McLysaght
The clocks went back at two o’clock this morning and at first light, tights were pulled out of storage countrywide marking the start of Cosy Season, a time when carvery consumption peaks. And what could be a better accompaniment to a roast Sunday lunch, than listening to a weekly podcast all about carveries like Emer & Esther’s Sunday Roast Potatoes with Emer & Esther hosted by me and my cosy pal, Emer McLysaght.
But before I explain why myself and Emer are spending most of our disposable income on carvery dinners every weekend between now and Christmas in an attempt to delight and entertain, we must click our heels three times and travel back in time to a dismal place of drear.
There we were. Dublin City, Ireland -high pandemic. We were all scared and tired and still thought The Home Edit on Netflix was good. Bon Appetit hadn’t yet been cancelled and people still liked Ellen. We got into board games and ate all around us, seeking comfort wherever we could find it. And we walked. Holy Christ did we walk. For hours a week, at all times of the day and night, going on looping jaunts of every route known to us. And during that time, my chief walking buddy was Ms Emer.
Some days we’d walk along the canal and admire the ducks and swans, always careful not to go too far one way in case we got tipped into the water by the Mad Lads. Other days, we’d go rogue and bobble about on undefined paths like two explorers, pointing out historical places of interest such as the apartment block where Jedward filmed Jedward: Let Loose.
Most often though, we’d trot to IMMA and follow the same grassy loop day in, day out. There, we’d track the seasons through the plants and flowers like two gentle wallies. We’d squish open fallen plant pods to see what the seeds looked like within and take pics for later reference in case we ran into Monty Don. We’d notice every centimetre of new growth and point out apples on trees, saying brilliant things like ‘Look. There are apples on that tree’. We slowed down and found joy in birdsong. And I’d rather pick off my fingernails one by one and dip my exposed flesh in vinegar than ever go back to that hellscape again.
But it was on these Black Mirror walks and days of never ending Netflix, that one of the greatest ideas we’ve ever had, was formed. Forget Leonardo de Vinci’s early helicopter designs or the invention of electricity, for myself and Emer put our two cauliflower brains together and decided to create a very exclusive group comprising just two members to help us pass the time. And lo, the Sunday Roast Club was born.
With little to entertain us, we leaned into the idea and the routine of it. I made score cards with categories like ‘Eavesdropping’ and ‘Number of roast potatoes offered’. We drew up a list of where we could get to within our postcode and made sure we could sit at a distance from other diners like two Covid fearing lick-arses.
Our first trip was to The Patriots Inn in Kilmainham where the roast served to us was pure delight. The plate was perfectly balanced with even a rare Yorkshire pudding for us to enjoy. Better still, the table next to us was loud enough for us to hear every single word they said clearly – ideal for two gossip starved, nosy shites like us.
Sadly however, we didn’t get to enjoy our roast trips for too long before another lockdown happened. But even though we couldn’t go anywhere, we never let the light go out on our carvery dream. We dillied and we dallied, but finally this September, we made real our silly idea and went for our first, restriction-free carvery.
But what is it about the roast dinner that we love so much? For me, they represent comfort and allow me to enjoy my favourite hobby – eating potatoes. Roasts have associations with long, lazy, teenage Sundays when I didn’t have shifts to go to or deadlines to make. I simply bobbed about the house like a lazy sloth whilst my mum lovingly prepared a delicious meal for us all.
And while the composition of plates may vary, a carvery dinner never presents any major gastronomic curveballs. They are familiar – uniform and undemanding. They don’t want to challenge us or require us to think and reflect. Once you enter the door of a pub, 80% of the human brain shuts down. You simply grab a shiny laminated particleboard tray and queue like a hungry lemming, knowing that PG13 cosy time is on its way.
Roasts also teach us to be more tolerant of others. Take for example, the case of mashed potato. Until our first episode went out, I’d never thought much about them. They are the lesser potato confection in my opinion but I’ve learned that there are people out there, people that I know and love in real life who, and please hold onto a wall if you’re prone to fainting, believe that MASHED POTATOES ARE BETTER THAN ROASTIES! It has shook me. I’ll never understand what cards life has dealt those people in order for them to reach such a conclusion, but what else can I do but continue to love them and support them in their completely wrong beliefs. However you want to configure your roast plate is entirely up to you, just keep your gravy away from my veg and we’ll get along fine.
But wait, I’ve more batsh*t takes to offer you. A carvery dinner is a force for good. Don’t believe me? Next time you go for one, try picking a fight with your dining partner – you simply won’t be able to. The wholesome energy of the plate overpowers any bad vibes. I mean, how could anyone frown when glueing marrowfats to a beef joint with an ice-cream scoop of mash? And what’s more, even the staff know it’s a nice time. We haven’t been to one location yet where a chef or a server hasn’t sincerely told us to ‘Enjoy that now’. They’re the nurses of the restaurant industry.
With the world in a terrible state o’chassis and the nights drawing ever closer until winter solstice, we must try and remain soft and silly and eat as many potatoes as our bodies will allow. So join us, won’t you, aboard our metaphorical gravy boat of discovery. Together, we will chart a course towards joy, comfort and above all else, roast potatoes.
Emer & Esther’s Sunday Roast Potatoes with Emer & Esther is available wherever you get your podcasts.