THAT very same day when my Mom's new (split-level?) air conditioning unit was installed in her bedroom, I had thought that I may as well supervise and do the actual general cleaning of her room. Dust had thickened because of the drilling of holes in the wall, so Mom's household crew had to polish the furnitures and dust collectors, mop the floor and return the bed linens and every minute item to its proper place.

Needless to say (but I will nevertheless say it), it was a totally exhausting task for an extremely hot summer afternoon. In short, I was a wreck!

-oOo-

In the midst of all the dust and grime (and blowing my nose and wiping my sweat), my sister Angela handed me the phone out of nowhere, informing me that my brother-doctor Miguel (who was in his clinic) wanted to talk to me. This was unusual as Miguel and I only talk over the phone when there is a medical emergency - and I do the calling, not the other way around.

In any case, unaware of the bedroom chaos I was in, Miguel and his doctor-wife wanted me to cook a steak dinner at his home that SAME evening.

Speechless, I somehow managed to ask them for more information. Apparently, this unexpected steak dinner was their brilliant idea to urgently consume a box of caviar cheesecake that someone had gifted them... because it was about to expire, like the next day.

Well, everyone knows that steak must be TOTALLY defrosted before cooking. It was 4 in the afternoon, and this huge slab of Australian beef was still sitting in the freezer! Would I know how to slice a completely frozen rock-solid slab of beef? Worse yet, after all the physical work of cleaning Mom's bedroom, would I have the strength to slice this completely frozen rock-solid slab of beef? Miguel proudly announced that he owned an electric knife. The problem was do I even know how to operate an electric knife???

-oOo-

Flashback. Several months ago, my niece-in-law Tin had this craving for steak. Many have recommended that in order to make beef tender, it was best to wrap it in crushed papaya leaves for at least 30 minutes. Filching some papaya leaves from the neighborhood barangay hall, Tin and I tried this technique. It sort of worked: the steak was tender, but the crushed papaya leaves was sort of an unruly mess.

A few weeks later, Mom had a better idea. We bought Angus steak slices at a nearby delicatessen. No need for tenderizer as the butcher had shared with me the secrets of cooking perfect steak! Thereafter, I had to cook up a steak dinner (for not more than eight people) at home as a regular "must" every time I went home to Manila.

However, unknown to me (as always), the news of my amateur sole culinary claim to fame had evidently spread to the rest of the family.

-oOo-

Sigh. I told Miguel to tell his cook to begin defrosting the huge slab of Australian beef, only to be informed that their cook was out on a day-off, and that it was their laundry lady (who knows nothing about cooking) who would be helping me out. Okay, okay, I said, just tell your laundry lady to bring out the damn beef slab.

-oOo-

Dinner was to be served at 7 that evening. By 5pm, exhausted and anxious, I found myself all alone in Miguel's kitchen figuring out what on earth I was expected to cook. (Plan B: I had earlier told Mom to be prepared to buy Max's fried chicken in case the steak dinner proved to be a disaster.)

It was indeed a huge... nay, an enormous slab of frozen rock-solid Australian beef. With only the laundry lady to assist me, it took me a while to figure out how to assemble and operate the electric knife. And it took all my 60-year old strength, or whatever was left of it, to slice through this solid rock.

By 6pm, slices of frozen steak were neatly lined up like soldiers in a tray on the kitchen counter. Thank heavens for the summer heat and the electric fan, the steaks began to gradually thaw out to welcome the salt and pepper seasoning needed prior to cooking.

-oOo-

The angels were with me that day, for the steak dinner for about a dozen family members turned out to be quite a success! The caviar was excellent, and the fresh green salad balanced out the entire meal!

And my reward? I had rummaged through Miguel's wine rack to treat myself to his most expensive bottle of French red wine (which he didn't even know he had).

Cheers to an unexpected steak out!