’cause life is hard enough

My very favorite line from the original Star Trek series is, “I’m a doctor, not an escalator!”

Hilarious, yes, but I kind of know from where Bones was coming.

On any given day, most people’s plates are too full.  Jobs, school, families, you name it, folks barely have time to draw a breath.  And getting three meals a day into bellies is practically a full-time job by itself.

After putting your heart into making a meal for the family, preparing different dishes for each diner is just cray-cray.

Dammit Jim, I’m an exhausted mom, not a short-order cook.

When The Kid lived at home, the three members of the Matthews family band ate dinner together every week night.  I usually cooked, and each night spouse and child had two choices.

Eat what I’ve cooked, or PB&J.

I know the palates of Petey and The Kid, and what they particularly like or don’t like; neither can stand cabbage or beets, but don’t ever get between them and seafood or broccoli.  So, I seldom cooked stuff that they vehemently dislike.

Luckily neither are picky eaters.

Growing up, my brother Bud, on the other hand, was quite the picky eater.  We did discover later though, that if the food in question was drench-able in cheese sauce or ranch dressing, the chances of ingestion were vastly improved.

But often my mom would make, if not two entirely different dinners, at least two sets of sides.  There weren’t tons of foods that everybody liked.  Although my dad, having been in the military, will eat anything that’s on a plate and doesn’t move.

One time when I was in elementary school, we visited my dad’s family in Pittsburgh.  My Aunt Eliza made us dinner during our stay.

My dad’s big sister was what used to be called a “career girl.”  Unmarried, she was an executive of a bank, and lived by herself in her own home.  Nowadays it’s known as being a woman.  To me, she was very glamorous and exciting.  She is also the person that taught me that in the winter-time you don’t have to shave above your knees — big thanks, Aunt Eliza.

The dinner she made for us that night was a revelation.  We all loved it, even Bud.  It was a dish that was super popular for ’70s dinner parties.  My mom, between bites, asked for the recipe, and it’s become one of our family’s favorite dinners.

Here is that original dish.  I’ve tried different twists on it, but it’s never as good as when Mom makes it directly from the instructions Aunt Eliza gave her all those years ago.

Beef Stroganoff

 2 pounds sirloin tips, cut into bite-size pieces

 2 beef bouillon cubes

 3 or 4 cloves garlic, diced

 ½ yellow onion, chopped

 ½ cup sour cream

 1 tablespoon sherry

 2 cups water

 1 pound mushrooms, sliced

 3 tablespoons tomato paste

 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

 All-purpose flour

 Butter

 Salt & pepper

Season flour.  Put some butter into large frying pan and melt over medium heat.  Coat sirloin tips with flour and brown in butter. Put chopped onions and garlic in with meat to soften.  While meat cooks, heat water and bouillon cubes separately in a large pot.  When meat has browned, empty skillet into the bouillon-water along with sherry and turn to low, stirring often.  When meat is cooked tender, melt a bit more butter in the frying pan and cook mushrooms, then stir in tomato paste, sour cream, and Worcestershire. Cook a couple minutes, then add to pot with meat and combine.  Cook for about 10 minutes –bingo (the word bingo was actually in the recipe Mom sent me).

Traditionally, this is served over noodles.  The other night Petey and I enjoyed it over some porcini egg pasta I’d scored at Big Lots.  But like most unctuous, meaty, sauce-y types, it’s delicious over any kind of starch.

Although Bud and I share the same chin (thanks bunches, Dad), we are really very, very different people.  Like Donny and Marie used to sing, he’s a little bit country, and I’m a little bit rock ’n’ roll.

But we never disagree about our love of Aunt Eliza’s stroganoff, by way of Mom.

Je suis Charlie.

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