Cooking comfort in a simple Sunday meal

Cooking comfort in a simple Sunday meal

Every now and then when the walls start closing in and there’s trouble lurking in the shadows and leaking in through your very world’s chinks and keyholes, the only real cure is comfort food.

Last weekend required just such a remedy.

I don’t want to drag you too far into the weeds of my little problems because it wouldn’t make any difference and you probably couldn’t care less; after all, as the song by the Fortunes goes, you’ve got your troubles; I’ve got mine.

As a 10-year-old back in 1965 when that tune was a hit, I didn’t worry about if I had enough savings to afford retirement, though I was concerned my 50-cents-a-week allowance wasn’t going as far as it used to, though M.A.D. magazine remained a must.

Other necessities included baseball cards, licorice whips, Choc-ola, a title or two from Scholastic Book Services and, of course, 45s.

No matter how tight things got, I always made room for records.

But now that I’m a grown-up, or so my wife told me as she watched me fiddle with a new lava lamp light bulb, I’ve had to get used to the fact that I can’t count on blizzards to cancel school, metaphorically speaking, and that’s made me crave comfort food.

Who among us can’t relate to the restorative power of a grilled-cheese sandwich served with a piping hot bowl of tomato soup?

Or perhaps it’s time for a chicken pot pie.

Maybe what’s called for is a stack of Pringles.

But when life decides to pack a snowball around a sharp-edged rock and hurl it right at your face, there’s only one way out.

I refer, of course, to a pot roast dinner on a Sunday evening.

It’s nostalgic and nutritional, creates the most heavenly aroma and, best of all, sets you up for a week’s worth of leftovers, which are often even more tasty and satisfying than the main event.

Even more to the point, it’s among the simplest meals in the cookbook, though we all have our own personal quirks when it comes to the vegetables that are thrown into the pot.

I prefer, in addition to the potatoes — which are an absolute and nonoptional ingredient — onions, mushrooms and carrots. Though if there’s a can of corn niblets in the cupboard, I’ll add that too.

When, as a single guy living on his own, I went all in on a pot roast, gravy was something I left to the culinary gods, just adding a can of beef bouillon to help it along. But when the woman who would one day agree to become my wife entered the picture, I got to understand the beauty of the marriage of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and Lipton onion gravy mix.

What a blessed union that is.

The true star of the show is the roast itself, and you don’t need me to tell you this, but the cost of even the smallest cut is astonishing.

For a quick comparison, the 18-pound turkey we picked up for Thanksgiving cost less than $5. The bottom round roast, weighing in at just under 3 1/2 pounds, put us back more than $20.

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it was a modest little offering, no bigger than your hand might cover, but Mrs. Dewey was thrilled.

“This is better than Thanksgiving!” she gushed. “Or Christmas!”

I blushed.

“The tenderness!” she went on. “The flavor! It’s just wonderful!”

Unaccustomed to so many exclamation points in her dialogue, I turned my attention away from the NFL game that was playing on our big-screen — well, 32-inch — TV and thanked her with a nod.

But the truth is even though all I did was tend it for a few hours and carve it carefully, I was very pleased to see her so happy.

It’s been a rough slog lately, and with spending the holidays alone and having a proposed family reunion in a beach house in the spring go badly, sadly off the rails, we needed a Sunday like that.

We all do, from time to time, I think.

Just a little reminder that in spite of a balky car battery or ominous rumblings in the workplace, a sleepless night or a lingering ache in the left shoulder, the menace of Omicron or yet another Notre Dame loss in a bowl game, the blueprint for resilience remains.

All it takes is listening to something reassuring, say the “Bookends” album by Simon and Garfunkel, or another reading of Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” or a double-feature Friday evening with “It Happened One Night” followed by “Bull Durham.”

The recipe for feeling better is entirely up to you.

But if you decide an aromatic pot roast dinner must be your go-to comfort food — and I wholeheartedly recommend you do just that — keep in mind the most essential ingredient is love.

Without that, it’s just another expensive slab of dead cow.

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