Love him or not, when it came to my father, everyone who ever met him agreed on one thing: Without question, Loren Young was the biggest character they had ever met. And most people DID love him; his humor still lives in their hearts.
(Mom told Dad that if he didn’t marry by the time he was 30 to forget it. He married her on his 30th birthday.)
His expressions, delivered in his own unique style, were his unique gift.
He spoke in a kind of code that didn’t take an official from the CIA to figure out. His booming voice could be heard up to a block away. And although he earned a college degree, in chemistry no less, he never lost his country twang. In fact, he honed it.
Those colloquialisms helped him sell everything from lawn furniture to acreage in the Antelope Valley.
And from early childhood, my brothers and I knew exactly what each phrase meant.
If you “didn’t have brains enough not to carry guts to a bear in a leather apron,” it meant you had made an error in judgment.
If someone was “wilder than a peach orchard boar,” it meant they were out of control and acting crazy.
If you “couldn’t hit a bull’s butt with a bass fiddle,” it meant you weren’t doing a job correctly.
(Not sure why Dad looked so happy here. He had USC tuition to pay)
And if something was “eatin’ food,” it meant it was delicious.
And in Dad’s book, beef stroganoff was definitely “eatin’ food. ” It was “hog heaven. ” Mom charmed him with it in the early days of their marriage. It remained one of his favorites throughout his life. Mom got the recipe from “The Mystery Chef’s Own Cookbook,” written in 1943 by a radio personality who dubbed himself “The Mystery Chef” and never gave his name to protect his high-born family from humiliation.
Delectable strips of steak tumbled in a sour-cream sauce laden with mushrooms — this classic Russian dish was named for the 19th-century diplomat Count Paul Stroganov. It was often the centerpiece of Young family birthday meals. And yes, Father’s Day dinners.
Mom loved it because she could make it ahead and refrigerate it, reheating it just to below the boiling point. The Mystery Chef suggested serving it over biscuits or julienne potatoes. Mom served it over wild rice (she said white rice had no nutritional value – and never served it) and accompanied it with fresh green beans and a tossed green salad.
Oodles of sour cream and beef didn’t make it a diet dish, but Dad didn’t have to worry about high cholesterol. His cholesterol hovered at 170-180, which doesn’t make much sense when you tally the amount of cheese and bacon he ate for 89 years.
Dad special toast at family gatherings? “No fools, no fun.”
With Dad, there was plenty of fun. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.
RUSSIAN BEEF A LA STROGANOFF
Yield: 4 servings
1 1/2 pounds lean beef, such as trimmed top round steak
3 tablespoons beef drippings or butter, divided use
1/2- 3/4 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
1-2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
Garnish: ground paprika
Garnish: sprigs of fresh Italian parsley
1. Cut the beef across the grain. It’s very important to cut across the grain of the meat. If you cut with the grain your meat might be stringy. First stretch the meat and you can see which way the grain runs — then cut across the grain. Cut beef into thin strips, 1-2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide.
2. In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of beef drippings or butter on medium-high heat. Add beef and reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Allow to cook slowly, tossing occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If pan becomes dry, add a little more butter.
3. When the mushrooms and meat have cooked (25 minutes in all), remove them from the pan and set them aside with any meat juices.
In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat.
Add flour and stir 1 minute, scraping up brown bits in pan. Add sour cream and stir until heated. Stir in the meat juices, then pour this mixture into the beef and mushrooms. Cook until heated through on medium heat; do not boil. Season to taste with salt.
Presentation: Spoon over cooked rice or noodles. Garnish each serving with a little paprika and parsley.
Nutritional information (per serving): 527 calories, 34.3 grams fat, 18.2 grams saturated fat, 156 milligrams cholesterol, 660 milligrams sodium, 59 percent calories from fat
Source: “The Mystery Chef Cookbook” (1943)
(After years as a successful businessman, Dad broke the promise that he made to my Mom before they were married. He had promised that she would never have to live on a farm. But he must have forgotten. In their sixties, they sold the San Fernando Valley home that I grew up in to my brother George and his wife Sue. They moved to a ranch where Dad grew fruits and vegetables, and raised Black Angus steers and hogs. No more ties. Overalls.)