Beginning in Junior High I was fortunate enough to fit into the smallest size at my father’s clothing store. The Tack Room was a clothing store for women which in its heyday was the hottest thing in Fort Lauderdale. There was no Galleria Mall or any other mall for that matter! It was Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. I remember cars pulling up with Palm Beach plates driven by liveried chauffeurs. They pulled right in front of the store, the doors would open and laughing, excited teenage girls would come spilling out followed by their wealthy mamas. Dad always chuckled when he saw them. He liked that. A certain electricity cracked in the shopping air. When I was a little girl I begged Dad to give me something to do, some work…anything in the store. In 8th grade I no longer wanted to work. Dad had decided that I was responsible for the display in the front window. It had to be changed completely at least every two weeks; every week was better. The problem was that it had to be changed when the least number of people would be window shopping or strolling the boulevard. And that meant Sunday after church before Sunday dinner. That was also prime beach time. I took a little consolation in the fact that Dad said Cynthia had to drive me AND help. I have always been inclined to feel if I have to go to hell at least let me drag someone, ANYONE, with me. True to form, we were predictably in dark, surly moods often snapping at each other before we even got in the car. Ah! Teenage girls. Ya gotta love ’em. Dad would give me the keys to the store, we would park in the back and let ourselves in. Unfailingly, we would be assaulted with heavy, muggy air that would put us in fouler moods knowing that our hair would also not be happy. Dad had entire walls of fish tanks encircling the back room bubbling away with his priceless Discus breeders serenely gliding through the water. The store was hot. The AC had been off since Saturday afternoon, it smelled of…well, hundred gallon fish tanks and we were missing choice beach time and maybe even the chance to win the hearts of our secret crushes. No, we weren’t happy. I flipped on the air and we went through the double doors to the front of the store. Lights on I took a quick inventory of which merchandise was new and which pieces went with which. Then I needed music. Dad didn’t play music in the store. “Not necessary” was his sentiment. However, there was a small tape deck with one (1) cassette tape. Yes. It was the original score from the musical “Hair”. And, truly, if you need jump up-get-damn-creative-indignant-move-your-ass music then THAT is the soundtrack for you.
We had to get all the display merchandise out of the window, steam and fluff all the pieces and hang them back up. Tops, shorts, dresses, belts, shoes and bags. Everything back. Slowly we would turn the music louder and louder. We loved it. I loved the fact that there are ALL kinds of bad words and dirty words and I could sing my heart out and not get into any trouble. And we danced. Boy, did we dance. The front display window was raised up on a platform and we would sail off and jump back up all the while gyrating to “Donna” and his “sixteen year old virgin” or “Ain’t Got No” with some of Daddy’s favorite lyrics that we still quote to this day. He’ll say “ain’t got no money” and in unison, whoever is around him, automatically responds “ain’t got no underwear!” I’d toss Cynthia a pair of white Bernardos and ask for the new navy pair that just came in. She’d chuck back the sandals along with the navy, jewel-neck, sleeveless, cotton pique top and madras Villager shorts I’d pulled. The window was taking shape. All the while singing and dancing to the delight and entertainment of the passersby. We were tanned, barefoot and, though loathe to admit it, happy. By the time “Black Boys” and “White Boys” came on we were adding the finishing touches. A straw bag at the foot of the white, navy and green, sleeveless color-blocked Villager dress. White canvas and hemp espadrilles over there. And don’t forget the belt on the shorts. Then to the finger-poppin’ beat of “Abie Baby” we’d put away the empty shoe boxes, careful not to muss the pretty, patterned tissue inside. While wailing, “Bang? BANG? Shiiiiit, I ain’t dying for no white man.”, we’d make sure the final product was perfect. Collars were popped or straight. No pins showed. And the final detail? No smudges on the glass. Dad would just have a fit if there were smudges on the glass although he regularly told me how popular our windows were based on the number of nose prints he had to wipe off Monday morning. Tape deck back in place, AC and lights turned off we’d jump in Cynthia’s VW and drive home. To Sunday dinner. And, if we were lucky, this is what we would have.
One of the two dishes Mama just rocked. Roast beef. I don’t know how or why but it ALWAYS came out dark and black on the outside, red and juicy on the inside and always tender. Actually, I know how she did it it’s just she was so unbelievably bad in the kitchen and then she would come out with this gorgeous piece of beef? Anyway, I know most of us eat very little meat now, some of us eschewing it altogether. But my boy Jamesy loves it and I want him to have this receipt because the preparation is supremely easy and from this one dish you can make at least three more meals. Obviously, sandwiches but how about a Cold Beef Salad? Thin, thin slices of rare roast beef on top of a cold and crunchy romaine salad tossed with a Dijon mustard and walnut oil dressing? Or Shepherd’s Pie? Or throw it in the crock pot with a chopped onion and either homemade or your favorite bottled BBQ sauce? Saute some vegetable and make fajitas. If you have a restrained portion the damage is minimal to your digestive system. Especially if you never have it. But, again, this is for the young, meat-lovers in the family. So, enjoy, and “Let the Sunshine In”!
- 1 eye of round, sirloin tip or rump roast. Today I’m roasting a 3 1/2 pound bottom round roast.
- salt and pepper to taste
- Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master (totally optional! Mama used it, I use it!)
- Remove roast from refrigerator 2-3 hours prior to roasting. It needs to be at room temperature when it goes into the oven otherwise it will steam and come out looking grey and nasty.
- Preheat oven to 550°.
- Place the meat fat side up in a shallow roasting pan sprayed with non-stick spray. If your roast has a very thick cap of fat, place the meat still fat side up but on a rack.
- If using, rub the roast all over with Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master.
- Pat on salt and pepper.
- Place in the middle of your oven and immediately lower temperature to 350°.
- Roast 18-20 minutes per pound for medium-rare. 140° for rare and, (please tell me you wouldn’t do this!), 170° for well-done.
- Towards the end of roasting insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast not touching the fat or bone if your roast is bone-in.
- After removing from the oven let the beef rest for at least 30 minutes. If you wish you can lightly cover or “tent” with tin foil.
- Carve into thin slices AGAINST the grain for a more tender result.
- And that’s all there is to it!!