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Why fathers are a cut above their sons.


There is only one majordifference between my generation of men and my father's generation of men.

My father's generation knewhow to carve a roast.

This occurred to me theother day when a male friend of mine, in a state of panic, was frantically looking through cookbooks. The reason was that he and his wife were having people over to dinner, and he was going to have to carve the turkey.

My friend had no idea howto carve a turkey, just as he had no idea how to carve a roast. Ever since his wife had casually announced that the dinner menu would consist of turkey, he had been losing sleep and imagining how he would react at the big moment. The guests would be seated at the dinner table, the wife would carry the steaming turkey from the kitchen, everyone would lean expectantly toward his plate . . . and my friend would stand there, carving utensils in his hands, without a clue about where to start cutting.

I sympathized. Like my friend, Ihaven't the foggiest idea how to carve a turkey. And let's be honest: Turkeys are generally eaten only on special occasions. The real test of a man's carving skills is whether he can carve a roast. I can't do that, either.

I have taken an informal survey ofmen in their late 20s, their 30s, and their early 40s. It is almost unanimous: Virtually none of us can carve a roast.

Carving a roast used to be the verydefinition of manhood. If you were a husband and father, you were the person responsible for hacking up the meat. Maybe you never went near the kitchen--but when the meat was carried out to the dining table, it was your turn at bat.

Most of my memories of childhoodtend to get a little foggy, but in the meat department the scenes are crystal clear:

We would be at the dinner table.The meat would be hunkered down on a wooden base; it seems to me now that the meat and the base were placed on some sort of separate small table right next to the dining table itself, but I can't be sure about that. In any event, there were little troughs cut into the wooden base, to catch the juices from the roast.

This whole setup was just to my father'sleft; my father, of course, sat at the head of the table. He had been home from work for about 45 minutes; he was still wearing his white shirt and tie from the office, although he had taken off his suit jacket, and now he had another duty--he had to carve the roast.

I recall him holding utensils in bothhands--this is getting dim, but it seems that there was a long, wooden-handled knife in one hand, and in the other hand an elongated rod used to sharpen the knife. I sense him running the knife back and forth over the sharpener; logically the sharpener should have been replaced by a fork or another knife at some point, but I'm not sure. Not knowing how to carve a roast, I have no idea of what the correct tools were, or are.

My father would ask each ofus how much we wanted. Then he would carve. We would each pass our plates to him. He would carve precisely the right amount of meat, then put it on the plates. And then we would eat.

This all sounds simpleenough. It's deeply symbolic, though. What happened between generations? One day there was a whole country filled with men who knew how to carve roasts. The next day the same country was filled with men who couldn't carve a roast if a gun were held to their heads. Who taught out fathers? Why didn't our fathers teach us?

Social custom undoubtedlyhas had a lot to do with this. During our fathers' generation, families did not eat meals boiled inside plastic bags in individual portions; families did not eat meals heated under tin-foil coverings. As odd as it sounds now, families shared meat cut from the same slab of beef; there was actually food that didn't come precut and enclosed in cardboard with a colorful picture of itself printed on top.

Also--and I may be wrong here--itseems that people did not eat out as much then as people do now. Today restaurants have become almost an entertainment medium; people have become used to eating in restaurants so often that restaurants are reviewed and rated by critics just like movies and plays. And of course the fast-food places have added a dining alternative that simply didn't exist during our fathers' generation.

Still, those are just weak excuses.When the final score is tallied, the men of my generation are going to have to hang their heads and meekly admit it. Our fathers could carve, and we couldn't, and that is the legacy we will pass on to future generations.

I know for a fact that this mustcause great glee among the men of my father's generation. For years, the message they got from us was that we knew everything there was to know about politics, education, sex, and virtually every other area of life that mattered. Most of the time we made them feel as if we thought we had invented all those things.

Now, finally, it is their turn togloat. Our fathers are getting old now, and we are the ones moving into society's mainstream. Finally it really is our turn to take over the world.

But that doesn't matter. Anytimeour fathers want to show us who's still boss, they don't have to say a word.

All they have to do is roll a simmering,steaming roast into the room. And then say to us:

"All right, smarty. Let's see whocan cut it.'
COPYRIGHT 1986 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:carving meat is an art lost to new generation
Author:Greene, Bob
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1986
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