All Aboard the Gravy Train…

It might be in the water, or even in the air. Maybe random, (doubtful) inherited or a complex part of our own unique DNA. Perhaps I’m putting way too much thought in this, yet somehow equate it with my being born and raised in Iowa. The greatest land with the richest black dirt, countless miles of corn and soybean crops. Hundreds of thousands of hogs making the world a better place so we can enjoy bacon with every meal. The rest of the fields not planted to feed the hungry masses are infused with huge herds of cattle, producing the worlds best beef-bar none. I’m all about the cows.

A housing project on the outskirts of Le Mars, Iowa. Awesome black dirt…

I was a Parish Visitor for 15 years. This job (more of a calling) included visiting the older members of the congregation. Some were still in their own homes, but most had moved to independent, assisted living or were in nursing homes. To help with my vocation, I took all the classes possible to ensure I could spot changes in behavior, physical failings, anything out of the ordinary, depression, change in eating habits, etc.

Several of the classes were on nutrition. A senior, living alone often does not have a very good appetite, sometimes does not recognize thirst, and who really loves or wants to cook for one? As we age, our tastes, habits, and routines change about a lot of things. They might go to bed much later than when they had to be at work by 7 before they retired. Now they’re waking up much later, which might play havoc with their prescriptions and eating habits. Plus they don’t seem to even like the same foods they have all their lives. What’s up with that?

Famous Iowa tradition. The Tavern…

I witnessed this whole food phenomenon with countless number of people I visited and my parents as they got older. The first food group that sort of gets shunned out of their lives is beef. (Hard for this beef fanatic to fathom, but we’ll get to that a bit later). Unless it was a super tender pot roast or something made with hamburger, beef just loses much of its appeal. Part is the taste, but also the texture, the chewy part. Also harder for their digestive system. Usually pork would be next to go, thus leaving chicken, fish and turkey if they craved protein at all. The last taste older folks give up is sweets. Yay! I’m right there with them on this one. And yes, I really am ‘one of them’ at least for sweets.

Crockpot Beef Stew…

All studies show red meat is not very good for us. I can truthfully say, I’ve noticed Hubs lack of bubbling beef enthusiasm lately already. A steak eater since he got his one year molars, we’ve enjoyed steak as part of our menu every week or 2 since we said I do. The last couple years, it’s rare (a bit of steak humor) for John to say, “let’s have steak tonight.” He just doesn’t crave steak like he used to. Yet, I find myself in daily arguments (with myself, it’s not always pretty) I still love and crave red meat. There, I readily admit another one of my many weaknesses and shortcomings. Last week I took out a sirloin for supper. Tossed salad, Texas toast and a pretty good sized hunk of meat for each of us. John had a dozen good sized bites he didn’t finish, unlike my plate which was empty. I did wait to lick the plate clean until I was around the corner. A side note, we’ve gotten just terrible about eating at the table lately. Maybe the last 5 years, the only time we eat at our table was for steak supper, or something that needed cutting or cracking like crab legs. OK the few times we have lobster or crab we still down and sup together at the tabke, but now, even for steak, we take out a cutting board, cut our steak in bite size pieces, then haul ass to the lazy boy chairs. We watch one recorded program while we eat. Not something gross cause well, we’re eating. Then I get up to clean the kitchen, make my lunch for work and do the dishes. I still do not fully understand why we’ve gotten this lazy about sitting by the table.

I use beef brisket for my canned meat a couple months ago…

Although it seems like a decade ago, the reality must be 3 or 4 years ago. Something happened to our cattle herds in the US. A sickness or wasting disease and thousands, maybe millions of the cows had to be destroyed. Causing the price of beef in the grocery store to skyrocket. My go-to bone in or boneless chuck roast that I use for my Vegetable Beef Barley soup, and stew meat which normally runs around $2.29 a pound was now costing over 6 bucks a pound. Outrageous. For soup meat! I fretted and ‘stewed’ over the lack of good old red meat in our freezer. My supply of home canned meat looked pretty meager, and I ran out months ago. For canned meat I buy 2 whole beef briskets which was way too expensive to buy 35 pounds. I trim off all the fat from the brisket, so there’s an awful lot of waste. Since then I’ve bought an occasional roast, stew meat when I was so hungry for comfort food I wanted to cry, but my beef consumption was lower than my mind and body was happy with. Finally a few months ago, beef prices started coming down to a more reasonable rate, making this retired gram a happy cook once again. I canned 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce and sixteen, 24 ounce jars of canned meat. My life and love with beef is good again.

Home canned beef, redskins, green beans, cranberry sauce & GRAVY…

I cook most nights, so every few days I head downstairs to our big meat freezer. It’s not unusual for me to take out 3 or 4 main course packages at a time. A couple of butterfly pork chops for the grill. A package of bite size beef pieces for crock pot beef stew. A package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (see, I can be good) for Chicken Tortilla soup, and almost always a package of ground round or ground sirloin. Meatloaf, Beef Skillet Fiesta, chile, ground beef-potato casserole, meatballs w/ mashed potatoes, Taverns. Spaghetti, my favorite meal is not included in the aforementioned list because I can my own meat sauce. When I want spaghetti, I just bring up a quart jar. I would eat spaghetti once a week, then eat leftover spaghetti for the next 3 days, Hubs wants it maybe once a month. Sigh, my cross to bear. I routinely hide spaghetti leftovers in the fridge in case the unimaginable happened and John decided to eat some for lunch. Since he’s afflicted with a pitiful illness and cannot spot a gallon of milk in an otherwise empty fridge, not a lot of thought has to go into my hiding process. Honest, my list of ground beef recipes is huge. I fight the urge not to have beef more than twice a week, because I love it and I am weak. Just when I think my menu is done and somewhat healthy, I remember GRAVY. Umm, hot roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and GRAVY. Or pot roast, carrots, potatoes and GRAVY. With a good sized portion of cranberry sauce. I really kind of dread the day (OK, except for the healthier life style and longevity) where a hunk of beef is not my top priority when dwelling on what to make for supper. With some of my lump-free, delicious GRAVY…

My home canned Spaghetti Sauce. My favorite meal…

3 thoughts on “All Aboard the Gravy Train…

  1. Paul, I've wondered about you for MONTHS! You haven't commented and I was sure you gave up on this hopeless storyteller. I've had some issues with my blog app and was unable to publish for about 6 weeks last winter. Got a different app and it too is giving me grief, won't let me add my own pictures. Ugh. Seeing Josh, my techie son tomorrow and hope he has help for me. Well, besides suggesting therapy. I'm so glad you wrote those 2 whopping words. Thanks a lot Paul! Denise…

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  2. Ok…..Im hungry now….beef, potatoes and gravy…my fav….but like the oldsters you mention, I'm not much into cooking for myself when Les is in NY….so more often than not its apple slices with peanut butter for dinner in front of the tv…..and yup, Les and I seem to plop our meals together down in front of the TV too….hum…why is this? I don't even like sitting at the table anymore!….. Your hubs is a lucky dude to have your cooking!

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