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Family holiday recollections come and go. Some years, we quickly forget, while others get passed down from generation to generation.

This year was one for the record books, with my middle son s grandchildren sure to hear about it.

Having prime rib on Christmas became a family tradition close to 30 years ago. At the time, it required a two-rib-roast to feed my sister, brother-in-law and mother, in addition to me. My sister s oldest son at the time was not yet eating adult food and was very content gnawing on a bone in a high chair.

Fast forward the tape some 30 years. That high-chair bound boy is now married with his own child. Indeed, through marriage and inveterate procreation, the family now must buy the whole side of the cow as a standing rib roast to feed anywhere from 14 to 20 people. It cannot be carried in one hand and comes with its own payment plan from GMAC financing.
Needless to say, the care and feeding of said roast consumes much of the preparation plans. My wife and I double check to make sure each of us has not ordered the roast, as happened one year. We double check who will pick up the roast, and when it arrives, the family huddles around said roast to marvel at it s size and cholesterol clad beauty before tucking it away in the basement refrigerator for safe keeping. Then, around 10 a.m. on Christmas morning, we retrieve the lovely beast to allow it to sit at room temperature before entering the oven. We then use the searing method of heating it up until 475 and then slow-cooking the monstrosity through to mid-afternoon.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the basement refrigerator this year. Somehow, the beast was handed off from my wife to my middle child. So far so good. Then an order was given or interpreted as being told to put the roast in the freezer. Said middle child claims to have double checked with his mother as to whether or not she meant the freezer or the fridge. Said middle child swears his mother said the freezer, so into the freezer it went.

Now, it is tough to say who made the faux pas of epic proportions this year. Maybe it is early stages Alzheimer s cluttering my wife s mind, or maybe it was a teenage male being, well, a teenage male. Given one occasionally provides conjugal visits while the other more regularly provides angst, it is not too hard to determine who I decided to throw under the bus for this transgression. No one in the family argued with the choice.

The expression on my wife s face as she lugged the side of beef to the kitchen was priceless in a horror movie kind of way. She looked at my middle son and said, You stuck it in the freezer?

This, of course, brought the other men into the kitchen in horror. We all, like our silver back forebears, had to go and poke the kill and then grunt to ourselves that we truly were going to have to order Chinese food for Christmas dinner. Cinder blocks are softer than this half of beast was at that point in time.

But then, the silver backs began thinking. The first order of business was to cut the beast in half to see just how frozen it was. Side bets were taken as to whether or not the splitting of the roast would require a trip to the emergency room. The ice crystals were almost to the center. Next was water in the sink, which we guesstimated would take until New Year s to adequately do the job.

Lastly came the microwave compuDefrost button. Problem here was when we punched in nine pounds for half the roast, it came back as an error message. Apparently, the Japanese do not think there is a family in ostentatious America that would consume that much beef in one sitting, let alone twice as much beef in one sitting. We had to get down to three pounds before the programming would take. And hence, each half received 45 minutes of compuDefrost a side as the other took a bath in the kitchen sink.

This alternative method of precooking care left us all a little rattled. Remembering the year we had had it professionally removed from the bone and then tied back on and it came out brown all the way through, my wife was anxious not to repeat that little faux pas and to be sure it remained in second place behind this year s little screw up. The meat came out a little on the raw side, to which all were thankful, and the centers were able to be heated up while we gnawed on the medium-rare-cooked outside.

It was, indeed, another one for the books. Christmas 2005 will forever be remembered in this family as the year my son put the cow rib roast in the freezer.

Mr. Woollacott is president and founder of Renaissance Group International Inc., a market research and consulting firm focusing on the information technology market. Contact him directly at gwoollacott@cs.com.

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