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A Shout From The Attic: The Esmé Years - 4

Ronnie Bray tells of facing up to the challenge of a defiant steak.

Steak and Mistake

When we were living at Longroyd Bridge, and I was working for Handy Angle Ltd., Esmé went to Bournemouth for a week to visit her mother. Her father was also at home, but mother was the object of her journey. Like most young women, she loved her mother.

I continued my short-lived selling career during her absence and succeeded in placing a reasonable order at Smith’s Garage, the Ford main dealers and distributors on Huddersfield Road, Halifax. Then, buoyed by this unusual success, I went window shopping up Kings Cross Road and found a butcher’s shop displaying a massive piece of affordable steak in its window. Being a confirmed steak lover, I went in, paid the amazingly low price and carried it home on the bus to cook for my dinner with some mushrooms and a couple of eggs.

The excitement of having a steak of such dimensions was almost more than I could bear, therefore, the journey home seemed interminable. Inside our flat, I removed my outer garments and hit the kitchen, a small but utilitarian room, unfurled the frying pan, and slapped the steak in to sizzle.

It sizzled alright. It sizzled alarmingly and I had to reduce the heat to reduce the smoke, but then it began to curl up, almost into a ball! In my innocence – alright, ignorance – I figured that this particular piece of steak had come from an extremely angular part of the ox, and that the butcher had flattened it with extreme violence to make it cower flat and lifeless in his display window.

The application of heat had alarmed it to where it began to resume its original conformation, but if so, I thought as it continued to curl almost into a ball, it must have been a beef animal of spectacular proportions and structure. I continually flipped the steak onto its other side and then re-flipped it from whence it had come, until both sides were the colour of a mahogany dresser.

When I came to take a bite of it, I found that it not only aped a sideboard in colour, but in density and in adamantine texture. It would have dented the gobbling apparatus of a colony of the most determined termites. It was suited to an Olympic chewing event, but my teeth were not. My incisors were the beautiful plastic handiwork of Saadi Hilmi the Turkish dentist from Larnaca who had made me a half plate to fill in the gap where my front teeth had been.

Having a low bite, the plate had to be ground almost to destruction to allow my molars to meet and do the work for which they were intended. That produced a weak spot immediately behind the two indistinguishable but plastic upper incisors. The weakness was so pronounced that when I attempted to make a chopping action, having almost worn out my canines by tearing at the indestructible piece of leather on my plate, I heard and felt a crack, and my plate parted company with the two front upper teeth it was holding. My teeth were ruined, my smile was defiled, but the steak was unimpaired!

I learned later that it was not frying steak but braising steak, and that if I had cooked it as it ought to have been cooked, I would have had a feast fit for a king. Further, had I done that, I would not have had to leave my teeth for two days at the dental laboratory up Imperial Arcade and have to pay a £1 0s 0d ransom to redeem them.

A few years later I had the plastic half plate replaced by a chromium-cobalt steel plate that has never let me down. Now, the worst thing that happens is that one or other of the teeth separates itself from the imitation plastic gum, but instead of heading for the nearest dental laboratory, I get out my super glue and penknife and take care of it myself, thus saving time and money.

I have often learned things too late to prevent an initial disaster, and sometimes I have made the same mistake more than once, thinking that the fates could not continue to be unkind to an innocent abroad. I eventually learned that that was another mistake. Well is it said that experience keeps a hard school, but fools will learn in no other. I am almost graduated from it now, but only time and life will tell.

**

To read earlier episodes of Ronnie's engaging life story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

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