Food for Thought

Sitting Down to a Virtual Feast

You can always tell when I'm trying to lose weight because there's a sharp uptick in the number of articles I write about food. Today is no exception.

What I seem to be craving at the moment is pot roast, and unlike those folks who claim that dwelling on something you can't have is absolutely the worst thing you can do, I happen to believe just the opposite is true. The way I see it, there are no fat calories in imagination, and you can't gain weight just by thinking about food, so get ready because I'm about to sit right down at that great big serving platter in my mind and pig out!

For me, the best place to start my little "virtual feast” is at the front door, for that's truly where the magic begins. As a kid, a pot roast was always the go-to meal for lunch on Sunday because my mom could pop it in the oven before heading to church. What's more, when I was very young, the town we lived in was small enough that she could even dash home after Sunday School, add the potatoes and carrots to the pot, and still make it back in time for "Big Church”! Like one of Pavlov's little dogs, by the time the last line of the Benediction was sung at the close of the worship service, my mouth would already be watering in anticipation of what was waiting for us when we walked in the house.

I'm not alone in how much of a positive effect this meal has on one's olfactory senses. Way back in the book of Genesis, the first thing Noah did following the flood was to build an altar and roast some meat. So pleasing was the aroma wafting up into the Lord's nostrils that He promised never to destroy the earth by flood again. I know just how He feels. I might have been fighting with my sisters all the way home from church in the car (usually over whose turn it wasn't to sit on the hump in the backseat) but the minute we opened the front door and walked smack into those heady smells emanating from the oven, it's amazing how quickly I forgot all about being mad.

Speaking of potatoes and carrots, I'm a firm believer that no respectable pot roast should be cooked without them. Ditto those wonderful little onions. Of course everybody knows the meat and vegetables are mere formalities. They only serve as delivery mechanisms for the true star of the whole meal, which is the gravy!

As I sit here drooling over my thoughts of this delectable spread, I'm reminded of an occasion back when my husband and I were in college. It was Mother's Day weekend and three of our best friends (who were guys) invited us over for lunch. In honor of all our moms back home, they'd fixed a pot roast, only instead of roasting it at 350 degrees for three hours, these fellows figured they'd speed things along, so they cranked up the oven to 500 degrees and cooked the meat for just under an hour. The end result was a charred lump of leather about the size of a shot put – but without as much taste. What those boys didn't know is that the secret to a good pot roast is patience. Slow roasting is the only way to go, and if you don't have time to wait on it, then you might as well just serve tacos.

Nobody understood this better than my paternal grandmother; and my husband's Aunt Ella Mae; and my friend Britt's mother, LaVerne. These three women made three of the best pot roasts I have ever put in my mouth! Each version was unique, and even today I would be able to distinguish one from the other in a blindfolded taste test. If only…

The sad thing is, all three of those wonderful ladies have passed away now, and like so many cooks who have gone on before them, they took their distinctive methods with them. Even if I was lucky enough to locate their recipes, I know there's no way I would ever be able to duplicate their special touch.

Even now, just thinking about gorging myself silly on that rich brown gravy, poured all over that tender succulent beef and those sweet, caramelized carrots and potatoes, is almost as good as actually doing it.

And just thinking about it is also a lot better for my waistline.

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