One of my memories of dad was his love of steak. The stories I use to hear about my grandfather it was obvious he had handed down his love of steak to his son. Dad was maintaining the tradition. He had a variety of ways that were acceptable to cook steak, but once a decision was made he was very particular about the finished product.
Steak was used to celebrate almost any special event. Large cuts of steaks were celebrated and anticipated. I can remember the birthday boy or girl having their picture taken with steak. I can remember on more than one occasion after eating a large steak my dad would ask. “I wonder what the poor people are doing”. It was a rhetorical question and I don’t think it was meant as a slight to poor people. It was an affirmation how great it was to eat steak.
The good thing for me was my dad actually knew what a good steak was, and yes I have carried on the family tradition of eating steak. Maybe not as much as back in the hay days of steak, but still we are a very discerning family when it comes to steak.
My first meaningful job that would eventually fund my way through college was cutting steaks at Safeway. Steak made me what I am today. I am grateful for steak and all it has meant to me over the years.
The following is just one story about my dad and steak, but I think it will paint the picture and deliver the message without fail or ambiguity. Believe me there are others.
We were returning from a trip to South Dakota my parents birthplace back to Texas. We rarely ate out on cross country trips, preferring to create a masterpiece along the roadway. Earlier in the day we had stopped somewhere in Kansas at a small grocery store. Dad wanted a steak.
He was talking to the butcher as they made their way to the back of the store near the meat display case. Dad always favored a T-bone steak, his favorite no doubt about it. Nothing in the meat case passed muster, I was sure we were stopping at another store before dinner that night. At last the butcher seemed to sense he was no fool and wanted a good steak.
The butcher retrieves what I know today from my career in the steak cutting business as a short loin from the walk in cooler. That piece of steak heaven between the Prime Rib and the Sirloin, dad was nodding in the affirmative. Things were looking up; an early dinner was entirely possible.
Later that afternoon we were pulling into a park somewhere in Kansas. The softball fields were full of players and their familys sitting in the stands. There were walkers and other people out enjoying the day the park was abuzz with activity. There must have 500-700 people there as we rolled into the park.
Like clockwork our roadside kitchen began to take place. The centerpiece of the kitchen was a Coleman Stove. It ran on white gas and had to be hand pumped to put the fuel in the tank under pressure. I thought it was a pain in the ass, but dad seemed to relish the fact he often got the right amount of pumps into it to make it work.
Side dishes, setting the picnic table, everything was beginning to fall into place. Sometime before the steaks were done and eating them had commenced the northwest sky began to darken. In a short time, it was not just dark, but menacing. People were beginning to leave the park, orderly at first then with more purpose. We were soon alone, a family of five awaiting our steaks. I think it was my brother who stated the obvious, the sky was turning dark as night and the winds had shifted, something bad was coming.
What ever it was, it would have to wait our steaks were not ready to eat. Once those steaks hit our plates we began to eat all the while keeping an eye on the sky that was beginning to terrify. Terrifying at least to those of us less committed to the steak life style.
Once done the roadside kitchen was packed and stowed in record time. This was usually the time where dad would begin to philosophize about some topic that was sure to cause an argument. Bourbon was a frequent expedient to the philosophy side of his personality.
Not tonight however, the black sky and park absent another living soul prompted my dad to get the Ford back on the road and save the argument for another night. Do we take a right outside the park? Which way is Texas and how far is it?