I should have listened to the little voice in my head telling me to keep my mouth shut. Before I knew it I was in deep water. “Why don’t you take the evening off,” I said to my wife. “I’ll cook dinner tonight.”
“I don’t feel like spaghetti or tacos,” she said, ruling out my specialties.
“Very funny. I can cook other stuff.”
She leaned forward on her stool at the kitchen counter where she was balancing our checkbook. “Like what?” She looked amused.
“You like pot roast, don’t you?”
“It’s rather complicated. Tell you what; go ahead and make your spaghetti.”
Under no circumstances was I going to make spaghetti, which in my case meant opening a jar. “Pot roast it is!”
“Making pot roast isn’t as easy as you think.”
I shrugged. “I grew up on pot roast, and I’ve seen you make it often enough. How hard can it be?”
As it turned out, pretty darn hard.
When Sue left for the beauty salon to get her hair trimmed I made the call.
“Mom, I’m making pot roast for Sue tonight. What do I need?”
“It’s about time you helped out more in the kitchen. Do you have a pot roast?”
“I suggest you get one.”
“I’m writing this down. One pot roast. Do they come in different sizes?”
“Yes. Three pounds is a good size. Get one with a bone in it for flavor. Ask the butcher for help if you can’t find one. And fat. The meat needs fat on it. Remember: fat is the magic carpet on which flavor takes its ride.”
Little wonder I started out in life as a fat kid. “Thanks, Mom. See ya; I’m off to the store.”
“Hold your horses, young man.” She’s the only living person who calls me a young man, or thinks I have horses. “You’ll need a few other items.”
“Like an onion and several stalks of celery, two cloves of garlic, red wine, bacon, cumin, bay leaves, potatoes and carrots…”
There were other items but my hand got tired from writing and I just said uh-huh and let her ramble on about how all of this went together.
At the grocery store I couldn’t believe how much all of this cost. Sue had been complaining that everything was getting more expensive but I’d turned a deaf ear. To make matters worse, I encountered half a dozen guys from the nearby fire station. If Sue had been there she would have referred to them as “first string,” meaning they were good-looking enough to douse her with their fire hoses any time. I’ll never understand the attraction women have for firemen. Big deal! Any dude who happened to be quick as lightning, trained in firefighting techniques and oozing with courage would race into a burning building to save a kid.
The butcher was holding court over the meat counter. His hands were the size of the roast I was searching for. He didn’t look like he wanted to be bothered so I grabbed a package of shrink-wrapped beef, along with the other ingredients. I nearly strained my back lugging grocery bags from the garage into the kitchen. It had taken forever to find all this stuff in the labyrinth that was our grocery store and Sue was home from the beauty salon by the time I returned. I poured her a glass of wine—not too much because cooking was thirsty business and I needed to be well lubricated—and suggested she enjoy it upstairs while soaking in the tub. I was determined to show my wife that, when it came to cooking, she’d married a guy with skills.
When she’d gone I emptied the grocery sack and lined up all the ingredients on the counter. These all needed to end up in a dish…or a pot…or a pan, or …or….
I grabbed the phone and dialed.
Mom picked up on the first ring. “I’ve been waiting for your call. Did you get everything?”
“I got enough! What kind of a pan do I throw this stuff into?”
“Sue has a cast iron Le Creuset. Use that.”
“It’s big and red with a matching lid, and heavy as the dickens. You want to put it
directly on a burner and heat up three or four tablespoons of olive oil. Use the good
I resisted making a saucy comment.
“Brown the roast on both sides to build up a crust. Then add a cup of red wine, a cup of water and drop in a peeled and sliced onion, along with the two cloves of garlic.”
“Is all of this really necessary?”
“It is if you want it to taste good.”
I hung up and followed her directions.
She called back fifteen minutes later. “Why did you let the phone ring so long?” she
asked. “And what’s that blaring noise?”
“That would be the smoke detector. I can barely see in here.”
“Why didn’t you turn on the vent over the stove?”
“You didn’t tell me to turn on the vent.”
“For cryin’ out loud, son, use common sense.”
In addition to the smoke alarm, my ears were now being blasted by a brain-numbing
siren. From our dining room window I could see a fire truck the length of a football field pulling up to the curb in front of our house.
“Mom, I gotta go!” I barked into the phone.
“Why? What’s happening?’
“The first string just showed up!”
Next time the conclusion: Out of the Oven and into the Fire.