The shape of a week- a lucky dip

"To know what to expect, every single day, is priceless: it keeps you sound and sensible; it gives purpose and focus." Yotam Ottolenghi

I'm not sure I agree with Yotam Ottolenghi - it sounds marginally anal to me, but most of us do indeed have a particular and personal shape to our week - on Mondays we do this, on Tuesdays this ... or do we? Do you - like me- have some sort of vaguely synaesthesic shape to your week? Do you see an image in your head, however vague of what the shape of a week looks like? Does each day have a colour, a distinctive shape, a distinctive mood or voice? I think I do although I couldn't really describe it. Bits of it are clear with a definite shape, bits of it are vague and misty, in fact they almost don't exist. I tried really hard to find some artistic representation of this, but the closest I came was this rather twee teaching aid. Sort of up and down and coloured.

Or this, which focuses on a working week, which doesn't really fit my current situation even though it's a pretty good representation of how life used to be - time inevitably disappearing in a beige kind of world with short flashes of sunshine. Perhaps retirement could be seen as all sunshine with the beige sand trickling away ever faster.

Although, that said, it is difficult to get away completely from the concept of the weekend. But one has to wonder why really - every day is, superficially at least the same, one day further forward in the progression of one's life. Even the shops are open all the time these days, so there is no diffferentiation there. I guess though, because our families are at different stages of their lives, where the weekend does indeed matter - no school, no work, then that affects us too in that we tend to only see them at weekends.

In fact the weekend is a 20th century concept. Before then people worked every day of the week except Sunday which was indeed the Lord's day. You rested and you went to church - a different kind of work. Which brings me to the lucky dip aspect of this post. The book was Delia Smith's Winter Collection and the page was the introductory page to a section called A Sunday Lunch Revival and Other Meat Dishes. Now I'm pretty sure I have done the Sunday roast before - this one is a Roast gammon with blackened crackling, which is very British, as you just can't get gammon here. But the British Sunday lunch derives from those poor workers feasting after a week of hardship, by putting the roast in the oven before they went to church so that it would be ready to eat when they got home. Well, as Wikipedia states - this is just one of the origin stories of the Sunday roast.


"There are two historical points on the origins of the modern Sunday Roast. In the late 1700s, during the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom, families would place a cut of meat into the oven as they got ready for church. They would then add in vegetables such as potatoes, turnips and parsnips before going to church on a Sunday morning. When they returned from the church, the dinner was all but ready. The juices from the meat and vegetables were used to make a stock or gravy to pour on top of the dinner. The second opinion holds that the Sunday Roast dates back to medieval times, when the village serfs served the squire for six days a week. Then, on the Sunday, after the morning church service, serfs would assemble in a field and practise their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit."

Not that it would have been cooked by a monkey. There is another theory too which is something to do with Henry VII and beefeaters.


Whatever the origins really are it's still an amazingly popular thing in Britain and her anglo colonies such as Australia.


"The Sunday roast's prominence in British culture is such that in a UK poll in 2012 it was ranked second in a list of things people love about Britain" Wikipedia


Roast meat, lots of roast vegetables, greens and lashings of gravy and accompanying sauces. Who wouldn't like that? A lavish moment of relaxation and indulgence after a hard week, in the company of family. So lavish in fact that there are usually lots of leftovers that go into the repertoire of British leftover dishes such as bubble and squeak and shepherd's pie.


"No doubt in those times this was the best meal anybody had all week (which may explain why they ate it over and again as leftovers in stews, pies and as cold cuts), and why the Sunday roast became such an important part of the week." Good Food

Yes a British Sunday roast is a wonderful thing and I remember them well. The photograph above from Delia's book is very much how I romatically remember them, although we did not have the cut crystal or the wine either, and there would have been violent competition for the roast potatoes in particular.


And, it seems, even the immigrants such as Ottolenghi have adopted the custom albeit with twists from their particular culture. This Roast chicken with creamy garlic and peppercorn sauce is one of Yotam Ottolenghi's Sunday lunch recipes. The others were Radish and horseradish salad and Hazelnut roll-poly with lemon custard. Immigrant tweeks to a traditional custom.


I do think that the French, at least, do the same thing though, and I would be surprised if other Christian countries did not as well because of Sunday being a day of rest and celebration. I certainly remember the Sunday lunch in my French exchange homes being a celebratory roast - most often chicken. The French though also dine out in droves at Sunday lunchtime. If you are ever in France and want to dine at a popular restaurant on a Sunday then book in advance because it will be packed with large family groups.


But Sunday lunch was not really going to be my main thought for the day. Really it was what a week means to you and why is a week seven days anyway? Indeed is it seven days everywhere and in every time?


My week in my head has always had a sort of shape with the end of the week being somewhat misty and distant. It's definitely linear. At different times of my life different days have been significant. I vaguely remember, for example, that in my very young childhood, Monday was washing day when my mother would labour long and hard over the copper in which the clothes were washed, and over the mangle through which they were wrung before hanging on the line. Thus Tuesday was often a pile of ironing day. Sunday, of course was church. There was a market day in Romford - Saturday I think, and, of course there was school Monday to Friday. University student days were lectures and tutorials Monday to Friday, parties and hops and gatherings over coffee and buns with friends on Saturday and Sunday. Working life, parent life, and now retirement - all had their patterns, with changes such as opening hours for shops, babies... creating mini, sometimes life-changing differences.


Always though, for me the week began on Monday. It still does - even though theoretically every day is now the same. Tuesday for me is a sort of non day, like July is a non month. Neither one thing or another. Open to all sorts of possibilities therefore I suppose. Wednesday is a bit the same but it's sort of the middle of the week - even though it very obviously isn't, and so there is a kind of a peak to it. Thursday, for many years for me now has meant Italian lessons, which somehow shapes it even though it only takes up an hour or so of the day. Friday is exciting because it's the end of the week and somehow celebratory - partly because we have decreed that we only drink wine at the weekend and Friday counts as the weekend. Part of the excitement though is probably an ongoing reminder that this was the end of the working week. Saturday in my head is still shopping day, which is ridiculous because I have always shopped whenever I either needed to or felt like it. It's probably a hangover from the days when the shops would shut at lunchtime on Saturday and David and I would be rushing, because we got up too late, to get to the shops in Oxford Street before they closed. And Sunday is rest day. Again - not true as every day is now a rest day - apart from the work that is required to maintain house and home - and I fear these days David does more of that than I.


And who first thought of the seven day week? Well apparently the Sumerians way, way back in the 21st century BC. Why seven? Well it seems that the moon transitions between a phase - for example from a full moon to the waning half moon, in roughly seven days. You have to throw in an extra day here and there to make it work properly, just like a month is almost a full moon cycle, and a year is a tiny bit over 365 days. Adjustments need to be made.


The Jews, took the seven from the Babylonians and of course in the Old Testament God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, which became the Sabbath - Saturday and so the first day of the Jewish week is Sunday..


"Man was made at the end of the week's work when God was tired." Mark Twain

Although it looks like Adam was rather more exhausted than God, according to Michelangelo. But then all those cherubs look as if they're holding him up.


Have there been; are there weeks of other numbers of days? Apparently in Java they still have five days. The ancient Chinese used to have ten. The Romans had eight based on a market system with days from A to H which sort of came from the Etruscans, until Constantine decreed it should be seven. And because of the influence of the Romans and the Greeks who also had seven - much of the world adopted the seven day system, although whether the week begins on the Monday or the Sunday probably depends on your religion although there is an ISO standard that decrees that the first day of the week is Monday.


As to the names. Well that too is celestial. Amongst all religions I think, although I didn't really understand the complications of Eastern and other mythologies. In Europe and the Middle East it is based on the five planets that the ancients could see - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn plus the sun and the moon. All of these planetary bodies were named after their various gods hence we have:


In the romance language tradition (Italian and French in brackets) - Monday/the moon (lunedi, lundi); Tuesday/Mars (martedi, mardi); Wednesday/Mercury (mercoledi/mercredi); Thursday/Jupiter (glovedi, jeudi); Friday/Venus (venerdi/vendredi). For the romance language people Saturday and Sunday have been changed for religious reasons Saturday/Saturn (sabbato/samedi - for the Sabbath); Sunday/the sun (domenica, dimanche) - the Lord's day.


"Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


As an aside it's also the day on which I was born - "The child that is born on the Sabbath day is bonny and bright and blithe and gay". When I was very young this was recited at me often, which is why I remember it, as if it meant that I was somehow special, which I obviously was to my parents - all children are. I might have had all those qualities when very young, but definitely not now. And 'sabbath day' - surely that's Saturday? Still it does show the significance of Sunday to the Christians.


The English have mixed and matched their weekday names as usual with a few Norse gods thrown in along with the sun and the moon. Monday for the moon, Tuesday for the Norse god Tiw or Tyr; Wednesday for the norse god Woden/Odin; Thursday for the norse god Thor, Friday for the norse goddess Frigge and Saturday stays with Saturn for some odd reason. That's the British for you - a bit of this and a bit of that. They don't seem to have embraced the Christian religion at all though.


I imagine that if you have synaesthesia then each day might have a colour or a sound, or even a taste - and foodwise it has to be said that there are particular days associated with a particular food, whether on a regular basis - the Sunday roast, the Sabbath meal, Fish Fridays or just every now and then - Shrove Tuesday and pancakes for example. For me each day of the week does have a particular vague sensation but I really struggle to put that into words.


I love Winnie-the-Pooh. I found this picture when looking for an illustration for the days of the week. There are indeed seven pots of honey - plus a bonus pot in his hand. I have no idea what the Arabic says - presumably the days of the week? Anyway I thought it illustrates in a very happy way how the week is always moving forwards and at speed. In Winnie-the-Pooh's case with lots of his favourite food, even if the bees are chasing him he doesn't seem to be too bothered, and the flowers bloom.


"If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special." Jim Valvano



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