Mr. S’s favorite food has always been steak. He’s a meat-and-potatoes kind of man. As in, pizza is, for him, “ethnic” food. His roots go down deep in New England-style cooking, and the rich influence of US immigration on American cuisine has done little to alter his palate.
He’s always been a great eater, Mr. S. And Mrs. S was, in her day, a great cook. After their retirement, they ate in restaurants a lot, because Mr. S wanted to give her a break from the endless multiple-course cooking that she did day in, day out for many decades.
When I was little, Mister and Misses (as we called them for short) used to have my family over for dinner, and, more commonly, would take us out for dinner. These dinners were, invariably, meat-and-potato affairs: steak and baked potato, hamburger platters, and the like. Mister always ate very slowly (“I don’t eat. I dine,” he would insist) but he ate quite a bit.
These days, though, Mister’s appetite isn’t very good. And although, these days, slabs of meat rarely feature in my cooking, I decided that I would suspend my own preferences and make an old-fashioned meat-and-potatoes dinner for Mister and Misses’ Saturday-night meal.
I consulted Fannie on the particulars, of course, and prepared, according to her wisdom, a broiled rib-eye with a mushroom cream sauce, roast potatoes, and green beans.
And for dessert, a chocolate chiffon pie in a (gluten-free!) chocolate-coconut shell, all at Fannie’s direction.
(The first custard filling came out dreadfully. I washed it down the drain, and told Misses about it at dinner. “That happens sometimes, oh yes,” she said in her quiet, gracious way.)
Mister still didn’t eat much, but he thanked me several times. “I don’t mean to belabor the point, but this is really special. The closest thing we get to steak here is a Salisbury steak that’s only 1/2″ thick.”
(Misses has never been much of a talker, but she cleaned her plates with relish.)
This meal got me thinking. On one hand, a meat-heavy diet is something I’ve got all kinds of concerns about. On the other, I see my friends, in their 90s, with very few comforts and pleasures in life. I might be happy with some vegetarian curry and brown rice–but a meal like that would do nothing for them. And so I can’t help but think that a steak dinner is the best I can do for them.
So I did it. And, oh, they may thank me, but honestly, for how glad I am to cook for them, and watch them enjoy some comfort food, I should be thanking them.
And maybe that joy is just a taste of the reward Jesus says we’ll get when we invite those who can’t repay to our banquet. (Or, you know, bring the banquet to them.) Maybe this meal is unsustainable on a global scale. Probably it is. (The veggies were from the garden, though.) Some people say old folks don’t even have sensitive taste buds any more. Maybe they don’t.
But maybe pouring expensive perfume on the feet of a man who’s about to die is an extravagant waste, too.