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Where's the Beef?

(by Patricia Fieldsteel)

My mother had a beef with, well, beef. Her problem was not one of taste, neither was it moral, dietary or ethical. It was more mathematical. Beef came attached to numbers and calculations. “Business was excellent this week.” We had standing rib roast. “Business was bad this week; we’re going to have to tighten our belts.” We had tuna-noodle casserole with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup topped with Corn Flakes. Business was good, we had rolled roast beef. She cooked a four-pound roast for four hours. That’s what is known as cement.

Steaks were the domain of men, cooked outside on the grill. My first memory of steak, always a T-bone and cooked rare, was from when I was around two. Grandpa Jack, my father’s father, was cooking one on a small charcoal grill in our driveway, and as he speared it to go from grill to platter, he dropped it on the ground. There was a communal gasp from the gathered family and a few screams from Grandma Ruth, his wife. With grace and aplomb, he picked the steak up and proceeded to carve. To my two-year-old self, this was hilarious and great fun, and the steak was delicious, forever after tinged with comedy and the dramatic, not to mention a certain je ne sais quoi of dirt and grass.