Roast the One You Love
I look at the slab of red meat in front of me, the slight smell of blood still present. I massage it in several places. It feels weird even as it has a nice buttery texture. I haven’t prepared this kind of dinner in a long time. I slam the heel of my hand as deep as I can into it. Why? Why? I hold it firmly in place with one hand and take out a small sharp knife with the other and carefully cut slits into the meat in choice places. I press the fresh garlic tightly into the slits. Will he wince when I tell him I know? I spice the beef with salt and pepper and mixed herbs, the smell of pepper going straight up my nostrils, making me want to sneeze. I rub the rough mixture of herbs and spices all over the slab, turning it over in one hand. When did he stop loving me? When did he fall in love with her? And with, of all people, my best friend!
I reach for the butcher string and measure out a meter. That should be enough to tie it up nice and tight. I wind the string all around then back, pull it tightly until it digs into the soft flesh and knot it up. That should keep everything in place. I leave it to rest while I heat up the pan. I’ve invited her to have dinner with us. She probably thinks the whole gang will be here but it’ll only be the three of us. It’ll be a meal they’ll never forget.
The house is filled with the long-stemmed pale pink roses she loves so much that I’ve arranged myself in crystal vases and bowls. I’ve brought out my most expensive silver that I had the maid polish until they gleamed, the crystal glasses we got for our wedding, the Limoges dinner set I treated myself to when he was promoted to vice-president, and the beautiful linen tablecloth from France. A bottle of expensive Chateau Margaux 1989 waits to be consumed, a recent Christmas gift from her and her pathetic husband.
I heat up the pan on all sides at 350 degrees. I feel the heat on my hands, on my face; the tips of my eyelashes feel like they are being singed. Was it because I haven’t been able to conceive? I lift the slab and hold it tightly as I sear it on all sides, careful not to burn the string. Shall I tell them I know? Finally, the beef is ready to be cooked.
While I wait for the meat to release its juices I prepare the vegetables. They, too, will be roasted with the beef. I first peel the onions, slowly pulling off their skin from their tips to their knobby bottoms with the help of the small, sharp knife, revealing their white, translucent skin. Why, with the thousands of readily available women, my best friend? I next scrape the skin off the carrots and slice them into rounds. Sure she was vulnerable. Her husband had just left her for the office ingénue. I toss the corn the maid has stripped and cut in half in with the other vegetables. I want to see her face when I tell her I know. Should I slap her? Last to go into the flat sheet are the boiled baby potatoes. I take the small, sharp knife again and wash the onion smell off it. I peel the potatoes and with its sharp tip I carve out the many potato eyes and slice them into rounds, too. Did they think I would never find out? I slip the tray full of vegetables right under the beef, which is ready to be basted with a mixture of butter and olive oil. As I pour the fiery liquid over the slab over and over again, I notice how well the beef is turning a nice crispy brown. The vegetables are roasting nicely, too. May they roast in hell!
Finally, the beef is cooked.
Medium-rare. Exactly the way he likes it. The vegetables are cooked, too—crisp on the outside but nice and tender inside. I now need to make the sauce. I remove the roasting pan from under the roast beef, the juices still boiling, and pour it all into a skillet where I sauté the chopped shallots that make my eyes tear. I will miss the bastard. I pour wine into the skillet and down my throat. I need all the help I can get to face them. To thicken the sauce, I add beef stock and stir until it is slightly thick. Then I remove it from the heat, add herbs and butter, and pour it all into a gravy bowl. But he’s got to go.
I carefully sit the roast beef in the middle of the porcelain serving dish and arrange the roasted vegetables all around it. I personally bring it out to the table where they sit waiting. As I walk in they applaud and are all smiles, teeth showing. But as I get closer I see fear in their eyes. They know I know. May they choke on this amazing feast.
By CARLA M. PACIS
Illustration by BK Peña