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It's Just Me Again, No. 321 : Grandma's Roast Beef

It's Just Me Again No. 321: Grandma's Roast Beef.Is Chuck Hinman your favorite Sunday with CM columnist, as many tell us? If so, we hope you'll drop him a line by email. Reader comments to CM are appreciated, as are emails directly to Mr. Hinman at:
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 173, Show and Tell at Tallgrass Estates

By Chuck Hinman

Grandma Mouser died of cancer when she was only forty-eight years old leaving my Grandpa the difficult task of raising a teen-age son, Uncle Orrel, by himself.

He hired a part time housekeeper and cook, Lucy Hiles, to keep the household together. Within a few years he married Mrs. Hiles and she became known to our family as "Hiles" or "Grandma Hiles."

I was ten years old. It was in the middle of the depression days. Things like going to Grandma's house for Sunday dinner was about as big a treat as there was. And really that suited me just fine. I quickly became a "Grandma's boy" and we hit it off fine.

I loved it when Grandpa and Grandma asked me to come home and stay a few days with them in the summertime. I liked it because I got some relief from day to day skirmishes with Brother Bob. I had no competition at Grandpa's and Grandma's! You would have been blind if you didn't notice that Grandma (not Grandpa) was partial to me over my siblings. I milked that partiality to the hilt!

I did things for them I never would have done at home. I wanted to mow their yard with Grandpa's push mower even when it didn't need mowing! Mom wouldn't have believed it if she had seen me grab a towel and help Grandma with the supper dishes while Grandpa vamoosed to the front porch to read the newspaper ... and chew tobacco ... and spit in his tin can. Secretly, I watched him with envy and yearned for the day when I would begin chewing and spitting like Grandpa. I idolized him and learned to spit "just like Grandpa"!

When the supper dishes were done, Grandma and I joined Grandpa on the front porch. I had a smaller rocking chain between theirs. I tried to rock in cadence with Grandpa. Oh, how I loved him!

Our family went to Grandpa's and Grandma's house most every Sunday after church for a fantastic Sunday dinner with all the trimmings. There was no question that Grandpa had done well when he hired Grandma as his housekeeper and cook!

Every Friday evening, in addition to Grandpa picking up the fresh meat for the supper meal, he also had a standing order from Grandma to pick up the roast meat for Sunday dinner. Mr. Wilson who owned the meat market in Blue Springs, Nebraska, obviously knew that he was dealing with the mayor (a-hem) and he better cut the mayor a nice roast!

Sunday morning rolled around and it was time for Grandma to show her colors in what she did best -- pull out all her culinary stops.

Grandma's first husband had died a premature death and to keep things going for herself she became the cook for the CB&Q (Chicago, Burlington and Quincy's Railroad) track repair gang wherever railroad tracks needed repairing. She was never at home in those days. She was with the repair crews until she became Grandpa's housekeeper and later -- wife. So you see she had wonderful credentials (resume in current vernacular).

I don't know exactly how she did it but she turned out the best roast beef and brown gravy you have ever laid your teeth to. I do know that she had this big black cast-iron roasting pan with lid. She wouldn't let anybody but herself wash this monster because some way in her expertise she "cured" the pan and lid before she put it away until the next roast was cooked. I don't know if it had anything to do with the good taste of the finished product but she had both a giant wood burning stove and a Jewel T (gas) stove to cook with. She cooked the Sunday roast in the Jewel T stove.

Of course, the traditional roast beef and brown gravy were just part of the Sunday fare. The other dishes like pickled beets, pickled peaches, mashed potatoes, breaded tomatoes, creamed peas, and new potatoes, and of course, save room (if you can) for her still warm apple pie, the juice of which had boiled over in the wood-burning cook stove oven and added a delicious scent to the myriad of other scents that drove your taste buds and nose on a roller-coaster ride for days.

Nobody can cook like my GRANDMA HILES. Don't even try to argue with me about it! I wouldn't be surprised when I leave this world to find that Jesus has retained my Grandma for his personal cook -- Wink! Wink! She was that good -- no kidding!- -Chuck Hinman

This story was posted on 2011-08-28 00:34:20
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