June and Wanda
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She came along, our lone sister, the last of a necklace of siblings, strung out along a twenty-five year continuum.
The story goes that the nineteen year old Luther saw the sixteen year old Najgy picking cotton in a field and declared to his brother that there was the girl of his dreams and that she would soon become his bride! Najgy was not so quick to acquiesce, but that very event came to pass not long thereafter. What romance was in their young hearts their children could only imagine in future years for them to choose their mutual birthdays, June 15th, as their wedding date, also June 15th.
Often, the six of us would grumble that we did not know which to celebrate – the birthdays or the anniversary. Many times, however, the day became a nod to all three occasions, but a tribute to none. In their later years and after we all became adults and had scattered elsewhere with our own families, the date became a time for reunion.
More often than not, Najgy would prepare her (and our) favorite meal – chuck roast with all the side dishes. She rarely allowed any of us to help her before the meal; but afterward would remove her apron, and with dishes stacked to the ceiling (or so it seemed), she would tell her “girls,” particularly the sister mentioned above and myself, that we could take over. She was going to rest a bit! What she actually did was sit on the porch and talk to her sons! Talk about gender bias – Najgy invented it!
Wanda has been able, more so than myself, to capture the essence of that reunion meal. There are few aromas more enticing than that of a loin of beef browning slowly over a low flame in a cast iron skillet. With the addition of a large onion sliced thinly and placed on top and along-side, the allure of the meal to follow became almost unbearable. Yet NO ONE was allowed to sneak a little bite or our hands would get smacked with a wooden spoon. Now, on this day in
June of 2016, Wanda has become the bearer of this tradition; the perfectly cooked chuck roast and thick onion gravy just right to spoon over softly cooked rice. Alongside she has brought to our Conway table Adam’s favorite mac ‘n cheese, (made with hoop cheese, of course), tenderly simmered green beans, and for Heather, a pineapple casserole. What bliss! what heaven! to sit at table with one’s family and share not only a meal of delectable flavors, but, more importantly, a meal of remembrance and love.
At Crady’s we prepare a similar meal of slow-cooked beef with gravy, mac ’n cheese, and green bean casserole for our newest addition – Gourmet To Go.
Slow-cooked Chuck Roast
Choose a 3-4 lb. chuck roast (bone-in is preferable, but becoming more difficult to find).
Season both sides with salt and pepper and dredge with all-purpose flour. Place into an appropriately sized cast iron skillet into which has been melted 2-3 tablespoons of shortening. Adjust heat to allow a slow browning of both sides of the meat. Remove roast from pan and set aside. Place into pan approximately 2-3 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions and lightly brown until onions are somewhat caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside. Replace the roast into the skillet and top it with the prepared onions.
Simmer gently until fork tender, turning occasionally to prevent burning. You may also need to add a little water from time to time. This step will allow for the gravy to start developing,