December 14, 2007
Speaking of taste
Originally published June 6, 2006
My mama was raised on a farm. I've noticed a common trait among ALL people who tended their own live animals for a while, then slaughtered and ate those critters. They like their meat cooked to a crisp.
We never had steak at home when I was growing up. We couldn't afford it, for one thing, but I'm kinda glad we ate simple foods the way we did. My mama was a wonderful cook, but she woulda fucked up a decent steak by burning the crap out of it when I was a boy.
HER idea of a well-cooked piece of meat was one that she either boiled into a tender mush (like chicken in dumplings) or blackened like asphalt and cooked as stiff as a roof shingle (like sausage).
When I moved out on my own and started cooking my own suppers, I became pretty good at it. I never mastered the art of making biscuits and gravy the way Mama did, but I made BETTER hamburgers and I could cook a damngood steak.
I decided to treat my parents to a culinary delight once, years ago, so I bought several rib-eye steaks, some salad fixings, a few BIG-assed Idaho potatoes and a fat loaf of garlic bread. I went back to the old homestead and starting preparing supper for me, my brother, his darlin' wife, Mom and Dad. I got really imaginative and brought some candles to light and place strategically on the kitchen table, to create a romantic ambiance.
When I started to cook the steaks, I asked everybody how they wanted theirs. "Medium rare" was the choice of everybody but Mama. "I want mine well-done," she said.
I looked at those beautiful, marbled rib-eyes. I thought about the obscenity of cooking one of those to "well-done" and I wanted to poke Mama in the eye with a long-handled grill-fork for asking me to commit that kind of sin. So, I cheated. I LIED to my mama.
I cooked all four steaks medium rare, but when I served them, I made a big deal out of telling Mama, "Okay. This one is YOURS--- well-done, just the way you like it."
I figured that I could get away with the hoax. That's one of the really good things about dining by candle light, besides the romantic ambiance. You can't see the food very well, either.
Mama tore into that steak and ate it as if she had been starving for a week--- she even made those contented, blow-through-your nose "Ummmm" noises while she chewed. When she was finished, she said, "Rob, I believe that you just cooked the best steak I ever tasted. You've gotta tell me what kind of spices you use."
When we cleared the dirty dishes from the table, Mama turned on the kitchen light and was shocked by what she saw. "ROB!!! There's BLOOD on my plate!!! YOU told me that my steak was well-done!!!"
I told her that her steak WAS well-done (technically... it WAS, because... I DONE IT and she liked it VERY WELL) and she probably mistook some spilled salad dressing or KETCHUP for blood on her plate. "Mama," I said, "Would I lie to you about something like THAT?"
She didn't answer that question, because she knew what I had done. But I changed her life that day. She never WOULD ask for a medium-rare steak after that. She just said, "Cook it like you did the last one I had. That was pretty good." Heh. Don't ask, don't tell wasn't invented by Bill Clinton.
Sometimes, you've just gotta do things like that... for somebody else's own good.
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