The next of Silver Valley Girl's assignments for January is to do some kind of blog post about Mom.
InlandEmpireGirl reached back into the Sibling Assignment archives and reposted one of her favorite pieces of writing here and Silver Valley Girl has some catching up to do.
My stepdaughter, Adrienne, and her baby boy Jack are here in Eugene for a visit.
Soon after arriving, Adrienne requested that I fix a beef stew.
I turned to my trusty America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and the recipe didn't say go to the store and buy some stew meat, it said cut up a chuck roast.
I couldn't believe it. The thought would have never crossed my mind.
I bought a three pound Painted Hills chuck roast and as I stripped away some excess fat and silver skin and dreamed about how I would soon brown its thick, red, marbled chunks of rawness, locking in its juices, seasoning my new cast iron Dutch oven with peppery and garlicky splendor, my mind flashed to my mother.
Mom loves roasts.
She sort of collects them.
When I visit her, she always asks me early in the day what we should have for dinner and I always say, like a dope, "Uh..I dunno...what should we have?"
"I think I've got a roast in the freeze downstairs. Go down and see."
I open her freezer and little red holeless bowling balls spill out: chuck, rump, blade, round, round-eye, pork, loin, and sometimes a ham or three Cornish game hens.
She's bought them at Stein's or at Yoke's when they were marked down and as I pick them up off the concrete basement floor, I think back.
Thick hunks of beef.
I think about all those nights I arrived home after dinner thanks to basketball or baseball practice or play rehearsal or something to do with band.
I opened the oven.
The oven was on warm and there sat a plate, covered in aluminum foil.
I peeled back the foil and breathed in the steamy aroma of pot roast or roast pork and potatoes drowned in gravy and slightly charred carrot half sticks.
I loved the salt and pepper, maybe even a seasoning mix. The seasonings made me thirsty and two or three cold glasses of milk complemented the roast dinner perfectly, added to the richness and pleasure.
Mom is so good at fixing roasts, that I have lived much of my adult life feeling completely unworthy even trying to cook one.
Over the last three or four months, though, I have thought how Mom would find it foolish that I would be intimidated by her roast talents, so in September I bought a chuck roast.
Being with Mom over the summer had inspired me to buy an electric frying pan, and I decided to cook this roast with my new utensil.
I brought the roast home. It sat. When the time was right, I coated it with flour, pepper, garlic powder, and Montreal steak seasoning, browned all sides of it, put some water in the electric frying pan, surrounded the roast with red pepper, celery, mushrooms, potatoes, and carrots, covered the pan and let it all slow cook.
About half way through this process, though, I began to lose my nerve.
I called Mom to make sure I was doing things right. She was duly impressed that I was doing so much right, especially since I'd never cooked a roast in an electric fry pan before.
My family loved the meal.
After dinner, I called Mom back with the good news that the roast was a success.
I'd done it.
I'd broken through.
I've prepared about six roasts or so since that day, including a pork roast for me and Molly on Thanksgiving Day.
I've often wondered, now that I'm gaining confidence, could I walk into Mom's house, select a roast off the concrete basement floor after it spilled out of the freezer, thaw it, put everything together, and confidently cook a roast in her kitchen?