Friday, November 03, 2006

The Pot Roast Story

There’s a parable that we use constantly at my company.

There was a young woman who moved out into her own house. While living at home, she never cooked. Upon the move, she returned home to learn how to cook a few dishes. One of her favorite recipes was Pot Roast. So she asks her mother to show her how to cook one.

The mother begins to share her expertise with the daughter. She tells her to salt and pepper the meat well. To make sure the vegetables are all cut the same size. Just before the mom places the roast in the pan, she picks up a knife and cuts about a ¼ of an inch of roast from each end. Then she places the meat in the pan.

The daughter stops her mom. “Mom, I understand why we cut the vegetables the same size – that way they’ll cook uniformly. And I know the reason we salt and pepper the meat all over – and rather heavily, is so the whole roast will absorb the flavor of the seasonings. But why did you cut a little bit off each end of the roast before you placed it in the pan?”

“Because that’s what you do”, said the mom.

“But why?”, questioned the girl.

“Does it help it cook better?”

“Well, I do it this way, because that’s the way my Mom taught me”, said the mother. “But I’m not really sure why we cut the ends off. Next time we go to visit we’ll ask her.”

Several months later the family gathers at Grandma’s house for dinner. As grandma prepares the meal the mother and daughter are in the kitchen with her. The daughter asks her grandmother, “Grandma, you’re such a good cook, and I know you passed all your methods on to Mom, but I can’t figure out why we cut the ends off of the pot roast before we cook it.” The grandmother turned to her granddaughter and said, “What are you talking about? I don’t cut the ends off before I cook it.” At this point the mother jumps into the conversation and says, “Yes you do! The time you showed me how to make pot roast, you started to put it in the pan, and then you put the roast back on the cutting board and cut about a 1/4 inch off each end of the roast. I’ve been doing it that way ever since”, she declared!

The grandmother stared at her daughter in amazement. “Every time you cook a pot roast you cut a ¼ inch off the ends? Every single time?” “Yes!” She answered her mother. “Every - single - time, just like you showed me.” “Honey, all I can say is you’ve been wasting a lot of good meat over the years. The only time I ever cut the ends off the roast is if it’s too big for the pan!”

I use this illustration when a clients tells me they MUST do something “this way” and “only this way”. Many times if I ask them “Why?,” they can’t tell me why. It’s just because "That's the way it’s always been done."

This parable came back to haunt me this week. I was lamenting to myself (yes, not only do I talk to myself, but I answer) about how broke I was after the tire purchase. Being so broke would force me to eat rice and beans until the 15th, if I’m going to keep to my budget. The next thought that flashed through my mind was, “And even cooking rice and beans isn’t cheap”, I fumed. By the time I buy all those fresh herbs and … and …. Hey? Why am I buying fresh herbs? Because that’s the way you cook – with fresh herbs! But, WHY? WHY do they have to be fresh? You see other cooks using dried herbs and seasonings. As a matter of fact some recipes CALL for dried seasonings. Not only that – but in something like red beans and rice, the fresh herbs will be all wilty – and look like dead grass and twigs in your meal. Why MUST you have fresh?” And immediately the pot roast came to mind.

“D’oh – because that’s the way I ALWAYS do it?”


Bud Weiser, WTIT said...

Thannks for stopping by today. I enjoyed the stop. You write a great blog. Best of luck-


Joseph H. Vilas said...

I love it when other people say "D'oh!"

Anonymous said...

A drive by from a fellow NaBloPoMo-er!

Elizabeth said...

And another drive by! I've always loved the pot roast story, so it was a treat to read it retold with such feeling. (And maybe just buy a little dried whole cumin seed at the food co-op and toast a few in a dry hot pan before you add them to the rice and beans???)

Venti said...

Just wanted to let you know you indeed cheered me up! Thanks for the act of kindness!

K A R I™ said...

Returning the favor of the drive by comment. I love the pot roast story. I am very "thats the way it should be done" in the kitchen... I can't stand to watch my husband cook because he always does it "wrong"

Woodstock said...

Funny...when I heard this story first it was a ham. I've never thought "because" or "because we always have" was sufficient reason for anything (cooking, life, relationships, foreign policy). I guess, maybe, it's about living consciously, deliberately. Thanks for letting me drop by. I look forward to reading more.

Jenny said...

Excellent story! Sorry to hear about the tire fiasco- it's a stinker. Hang in there!

JMom said...

I'm the exact opposite when it comes to cooking...I don't ever cook anything the same way every time. Drives my husband and kids crazy.

I like your parable though. I'll be linking a post back to this story.

Thanks, from a fellow nablopomo participant who got here via the cool randomizer :)