When I was 17 or so, I stayed with my dad at his apartment part of the week since my mum had moved out to the suburbs, away from my school. This had two advantages: 1) it let me avoid an hour-long commute (or the need to change schools in my last years of high school) and 2) it meant I would eat like a king, as my dad would either bring home food they’d prepared at work, or big, juicy steaks.
One night, I come home and find my dad’s already there (rare!) sitting around in his underwear and undershirt, relaxing. That particular night, I’d told my buddy and girlfriend that they could come by and watch a movie or something (my dad loved premium cable, even though he was rarely off work enough to watch it). I let my dad know and he offered to go sit in the bedroom and read. I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he went anyway. He also put on trousers and a shirt, which was probably necessary. When my friends arrived, he went off to leave us to our own devices.
A couple hours later, he emerged from his room and offered them food and drink, yelling at me for not feeding them and reacting in horror when my buddy told him he was a vegetarian. I think he got some drinks for them, then went back to his room.
After the movie had finished, my friends left and my dad came out and asked me if I was hungry. I hadn’t properly eaten yet, so I said sure, and he went to make some steaks.
For those that don’t know how easy it is to make a proper steak, my dad taught me, and I’ll tell you right now:
Step 1) Buy a good steak. It doesn’t have to be some super-expensive Kobe beef or a premium cut like a filet mignon. The most important thing is the marbling. You need fat to make your steak taste good! (The steaks we’d get came from the supplier for the restaurant my dad ran, the 360 revolving restaurant at the CN Tower. These steaks were dry hung for a couple of weeks to age, which makes them more tender and tasty.) About 1.5″ thick is good.
Step 2) Season the steak properly. A good cut of meat needs almost nothing to taste good. Simply rub it in kosher salt and some cracked pepper. That’s it. Rub it in with your hands. No sauce. No marinade. Not necessary.
Step 3) Let it sit a bit. You want the steak near to room temperature, not cold.
Step 4) Cook it. If you have a grill, awesome. If not, it doesn’t matter. Put a little pat of butter in a frying pan and turn the heat up high. High heat is important! You want to eat a good steak rare or medium rare. More than that and you’re just wasting the meat, really. Medium rare is warm the whole way through, and seared on the surface. Let the steak cook about 3 minutes, then flip it. Let it cook another couple of minutes, then press the middle of the steak with your finger or a spatula.
A rare steak is really soft. A well-done steak is an abomination, hard and firm. The juices are gone and it’s dry and you’ve just ruined your whole meal and might as well buy a strip steak and put HP sauce on it or something. Why do you hate and torture yourself and cows?
Step 5) Serve? When the steak is ready, take it off the heat and put it on a plate. Leave it there. Go do something else for about five minutes. My dad would fry chip-sliced potatoes while cooking the steak and used this time to pat the chips dry with a paper towel to absorb some of the excess grease, then plate them. The important thing is that you let your steak sit for about as long as it took to cook. This lets it soak up the juices inside and stay moist.
Step 6) Eat. Some people put a sauce on the side or whatever. It’s not really necessary, if you ask me. Just eat your delicious steak.
So, back to my dad and I sitting down to eat steaks. He’d made fried potatoes to go with the steaks and plopped the plate down on the coffee table in front of of the TV so we could eat like men, on the couch.
As I tucked into the meal, I heard him mumble to my right, “So that’s your girlfriend, huh?”
He nodded and we continued to eat.
“You know about condoms, right?”
Suddenly, a piece of steak was lodged in my throat. I coughed it back up into my mouth.
I managed to exclaim, “Yes!”
He nodded again.
“Good… We don’t need a bunch of little yous running around.”
I think I stammered out something like, “No, that’s not going to happen.”
We ate the rest of the meal in silence, watching TV.
My dad worked at the theatre for a long time, almost until he left Singapore for England. This allowed him to meet some movie stars when they were doing premieres, including one of his idols, Frank Sinatra.
The most interesting one, however, was a young actress named Hayley Mills who had debuted in the 1959 picture Tiger Bay. (“You know that girl. The one from the movie. She always licked her lips,” he told me.) Assigned to shepherd her around the theatre during the premiere, he found himself escorting the 11 or 12-year-old when the fans and media busted through a side door and swarmed into the theatre. Thinking fast, he did what you might do with any other kid her age: he basically just scooped her up and ran.
He made for the elevator to the top floor, jostling through the crowd. I’m sure it looked very dramatic and heroic. Well, at least until the part where he got to the elevator door, then fell through into the waiting car, he and Ms. Mills landing in a pile on top of each other in the lift in their evening best.