Grandma Miller (Mom's mother) said this nearly every Sunday afternoon until I was about twelve.
She frequently threw in, "Those green beans are so stringy! I don't even know how we'll eat them." And, "Yes, I baked some rolls. But they're a sorry excuse for yeast rolls if you ask me!"
Mom would begin reassuring Grandma. "It's going to be fine, Mama. You're worst roast is always better than anyone else's!" (That was no exaggeration!) "These green beans are beautiful! I don't see any strings at all." "The rolls look like they're ready to float away!"
I could count on her diatribe each time we ate Sunday lunch at Grandma's. (Unless, of course, we went to Blanche's Boarding House in downtown Pensacola!)
A steady stream of complaints would begin emanating from her tiny kitchen just as each platter or bowl of steamy deliciousness arrived at the dining room table. She stopped the negative reports only long enough for Dad to ask the blessing.
Then it would start again until every plate was filled to the edges with her "inferior" cooking.
As our forks sliced through the roast like hot butter and ice cubes clinked in the frosty tea glasses and yeast rolls began melting in our mouths, all you could hear were sighs of culinary contentment!
Then compliments would begin rolling in from every corner! We each offered reassurance for Grandma that we found every item on the table to be truly delicious!
Grandma Miller had learned to cook while growing up on a farm in Indiana. She knew exactly what she was doing! Both with her cooking and her complaining.
There are two measures for a roast dinner in my adult life:
- Did I use an "Aunt Dorothy" roast? (A cut of meat just a bit more expensive. Mom's perception was that Aunt Dorothy was the only one in our extended family able to afford such meat.)
- Does it smell like a "Grandma Miller" roast? (That magnificent fragrance that wafts heavenward when the lid is removed for the first time! Causing your mouth to water and your heart to be thankful for taste buds!)
But when I lifted the first roast from the pan to begin slicing, panic hit!
Normally, I have to use a second meat fork and sort of scoop the meat on to the platter because it just falls apart in tender morsels. Not Monday!
I stuck the first fork into my beautiful "Aunt Dorothy" roast and held up the entire thing like a.......like a........ Well, like a huge piece of brown shoe leather!
Before anyone could see the horror, I dropped it back into the roaster. It took some effort but I managed to extricate the fork from said piece of meat and tried to skewer the other roast; hoping against hope for a better result.
TWO PIECES OF SHOE LEATHER!
By this time, Joy had slipped over to assist. (She's the real Rachel Ray in our family.)
"What happened?" she asked. Somehow managing not to laugh out loud as she attempted her own version of "Stab the Rubber Roast."
"I don't know," I really was dumbstruck.
Then it hit me. After dashing in from work to hurriedly get dinner started, I had put the oven on 350 degrees out of habit. You can not cook a tender roast on such a high temperature!
"What will we do?" Now Kristin was whispering with us. "I can run to Publix and get some chicken." When all else fails, serve the Gospel Bird!
My frustration was mounting! "Let me get the electric knife. We should be able to slice it thinly and pour on the au jus for camouflage."
I'm sure I saw a wisp of smoke coming from the straining motor as the electric knife attempted to saw through the unyielding bovine bounty. The girls and I looked at one another in shock.
Part of me wanted to burst out laughing. But the other part was hurt and embarrassed that my beautiful dinner was ruined. And how long have I been cooking? Um, let's see.........over thirty years!!
Who can't make a decent roast dinner after thirty years of practice?!!!
Fortunately, I had some left overs in the refrigerator. So we snatched those out and scrambled to get them reheated.
Joy grabbed a sharper knife and once again attacked the edges of both roasts. It required some serious elbow grease, but she started the salvage process with a few slices from each one.
I began dishing up the vegetables, potatoes and bread. Moving around the kitchen like someone in a daze.
We quickly placed every possible option on the table then called for the fellas and babies to join us. The dining table is in our kitchen. Getting all the high chairs, daughters, sons and sometimes a couple of guests squeezed in around it takes some Jedi maneuvering.
Finally we were settled. We reached to join hands for the blessing and that's when it happened.
To the surprise of every adult at that table, Spencer called out, "I pray!"
We looked to Poppa at the head of the table. Frank smiled and said, "Okay, you pray buddy."
Heads bowed as the two and a half year old said reverently and sincerely, "Fahver Jeshush. Tank you for a food! AMEN!"
And with those eight simple words, Spencer turned "Shoe Leather Disaster" into "Resplendent Roast Dinner" for me!
We did laugh til our sides ached when the unsuspecting Meagan (who didn't know about the electric knife failure) tried to cut her first piece of roast.
And the platter of left over ribs and chicken cleared out pretty quickly.
A sign hangs over our patio door that reads, "We may not have it all together. But together we have it all!"
Shoe leather roast, stringy green beans, failed yeast rolls...........and family laughter. Who could ask for more?