You can imagine my reaction when Anne said this to me! What do you mean, "Watch Out For The Roast Beef?" I asked, not understanding.
"Ah," said Anne, "Thank you for asking!" And then she told me ...
The story begins with a young Daughter watching as her Mother prepares a roast of beef.
The Mother carefully trims off the fat and rubs the roast all over with flavorful spices. Then she takes a sharp knife, cuts off the ends, puts the middle section into her roasting pan, and tucks the ends of the roast down the sides of the pan.
Puzzled, the Daughter asks, "Mom, why do you do that? Cut off the ends and put them down the sides of the roasting pan?"
Her Mother thinks for a moment before answering.
"I don't know why. That's how my mother did it, and I guess I just copied her."
Not satisfied with that answer, the Daughter inquires, "Can we ask Grandma?" "Of course," says her Mother as she reaches for the phone and puts it on speaker so they can both hear what Grandma has to say.
The phone rang just twice before Grandma answered, "Mom, your Granddaughter just asked me a question I cannot answer! Why do we cut off the ends of the roast and tuck them down the sides of the pan?"
"Well, now that's a terrific question," said Grandma, "That's what my mom did, so I do it too. Isn't that interesting? Why don't you ask Great Grandmother, and let me know what you find out?" Mother offers to make a three-way call so that Grandma can hear Great Grandmother's answer too.
Mother presses the "add call" button and dials the facility where Great Grandmother lives. She asks the nursing station to bring Great Grandmother to the phone and says they will wait. A little while later, when Great Grandmother comes on the line, Mother explains that there are three generations on the call all hoping that she can solve a mystery. "Great Grandmother, why do we cut off the ends of the roast and tuck them down the sides of the roasting pan?"
Great Grandmother started to laugh. She laughed so hard she could hardly choke out the answer.
"When we lived on the farm, all the farmhands joined us for Sunday dinners. We needed a mighty big roast to feed our family and all of those hungry men. My roasting pan wasn't big enough to hold the roast, so to make it fit, I cut off the ends and stuffed them down the sides."
"I had no idea you were still doing that!" Great Grandmother was still laughing as her Daughter, Granddaughter, and Great Granddaughter said goodbye.
The other three stayed on the call. There was an awkward silence before Mother spoke up.
"Well, my darling Daughter, your question uncovered the folly of doing what has always been done, without questioning it. Now, your Grandmother and I can stop spending time doing something that doesn't need to be done."
When Anne says, "Watch out for the roast beef," she is telling us to be mindful of the reasons we do things, the way we do, so as not to perpetuate practices that no longer serve any useful purpose.