Okay, I’m going to make, actually cook it, following a very simple recipe I found on the internet under, of course, “HOW TO MAKE BRISKET.” I thrive on the simple because my culinary skills are, at the very least, twelve or more levels below the worst sous chef.

I am good with some broiled things, like club steaks, lamb chops, filet of flounder- -foods that require some seasoning and a few minutes under a low flame. I make omelets and some crock-pot dishes if the required ingredients go no further than pieces of beef or veal cut for stewing, basic spices like salt and pepper; and vegetables that come in frozen packages. I also add either chicken broth if it’s veal, or French Onion Soup if it’s beef, and a couple of splashes of white wine if it’s the former or red wine if it’s the latter. The result of this concoction is edible, but it’s nothing to rave about.

Exactly why I chose to make a brisket can be attributed to my mother and mother-in-law; both made delicious brisket. My mother wasn’t a wonderful cook. Her culinary repertoire was limited, in addition to brisket, roast chicken, and turkey placed in brown bag before the bird in the bag was committed to the oven. But she compensated for cooking limitation by being a superb baker; whereas, my mother-in-law was an artist in both.

My wife, unlike her mother, was a minimalist cook. I leave it to your imagination what a minimalist cook is. But like my mother, she did justice to roast chicken and turkey using the paper bag technique. Perhaps another comment about her cooking will help define “minimalist” in relation to it – – she never saw a vegetable that she didn’t hate; and therefore, didn’t cook with exception to this phobia being baked potatoes and sweet potatoes.

So, now you know why I wanted to make a brisket. It presented a challenge; and since I became the chef, I was willing to accept it. Though at 87, accepting a challenge of any kind isn’t my game. But with brisket, what was the worst that could happen? Nothing cosmological or even life-threatening.

My simple recipe called for a layer of cut, sweet onions on the bottom of the pot, a ½ cup of red wine and a 2-1/2 to 3-pound piece of brisket; and salt and pepper. When everything was in the pot, it would be placed in the oven at 400 degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. The result would be a brisket worthy of its name.
I did not have a pot with a tight seal, so I used an aluminum baking pan, a deep one; the kind I use to make meat loaf, one of my specialties. I intended to create a tight seal out of heavy duty aluminum foil.

To be sure of what I was doing, I reread the recipe and the accompanying instruction that even had information about whether to leave the brisket’s fat side up or down during the roasting process, but leaving the choice to the cook. I decided to leave the fat side up.

The brisket I’d bought looked good, as good as any piece of raw meat looks. It was red with a band of fat on one side that I thought was too thick and had the butcher thin it down from about ½ inch to roughly a ¼ of an inch.

With all my ducks lined up, I was ready to go. Everything I needed was in the tightly sealed aluminum baking pan. I set the oven temperature to 400 degrees; and when the indicator showed that setting, I placed the baking pan in the oven. Two hours later, I lowered the temperature to 350 degrees as the cooking instructions directed. After a half hour passed, I shut the oven down, removed the baking pan from it and let the brisket rest.

When I first read the word, “rest” with regard to the preparation of various foods, especially roasts of any kind, I was taken aback. What did “rest” mean in the particular way it was being used? Roasts certainly were not active; they were acted on by the heat of the oven. Once outside the oven they automatically cooled. Was “rest” a synonym for cool? If it was, why wasn’t the word, “cool” used? But the more I looked at recipes for roasts and other dishes, the word “rest” was ubiquitous.

I looked at my baking pan in which the brisket was resting and hoped it was having a good one.

As you probably know, hope and wishful thinking are hand maidens and provide all sorts of impossible outcomes to a myriad of situations. So, when I finally opened the tightly sealed baking pan, I realized that I had converted a piece of raw meat into what looked like a much abused sole of a shoe or boot. My rendezvous with brisket was kaput – done.

I will stay with the simple fare that I had learned to cook; and like my wife, I considered myself one of the minimal cooks of the world.

Irving Greenfield has been published in Amarillo Bay, Runaway Parade, Writing Tomorrow, eFictionMag, and many others. In addition to short stories, he has published several novels. He has been a sailor, soldier, college professor, playwright, and novelist. He has had nine productions of his plays. The most recent, Schemer, at the Play Labs in New York. Two of his plays, Camp # 2, and Billy won awards. One More Time, a full length play, was performed at the American Theatre of Actors. Family Matters was performed June, 2016. He lives with his wife in Manhattan.