Joe Claro, King of the Roast Beef

Joe Claro makes a mean roast beef. That's my Dad, in case you didn't recall that from some of my other posts.

His method is simple just use some salt, pepper and roast the meat until cooked to your liking.

Everyday after school one of us five kids would get dinner started. Gran Fran would call us from her office (which was an actual office with a door and a ceiling, not a cube) and give us instructions. She talked at the lowest possible whisper, so we could barely hear when she said "Put the roast beef in for 1 hour. Make sure to put lots of salt on it." Trying to decipher her instructions took some time, and it often made me feel like we were involved in some kind of espionage instead of just dinner making.

Joe, on the other hand, always wanted to make sure that we knew the proper grammatical reason whether, when the roast was finished cooking, it was done or finished. I had to ask him to go back in time and outline his preference for the use of done or finished when referring to meat. We got in all kinds of trouble when we were kids. So, here's his definition (though he finally admits that maybe he's the only one who cares).

I am finished (with what I was doing). I have completed the activity I set out to complete.

The activity is done. It has been successfully completed.

I am (or you are, or she is) done should be used only when a person is the victim of cannibals, a tanning machine, or a hairdresser. Hence, the reference to roast beef.

On the other hand, if you check reliable usage sources,  you'll find that most otherwise respectable people no longer think this time-honored distinction is valid. This is one definite sign of the decline of Western civilization as we know it.

Let that be a lesson to you, young lady.

Now onto my all time favorite Joe-ism:  where does the inflection go when talking about roast beef?

The roast beef mispronunciation is a little harder to defend, but I'm ever willing to take on the extraordinary challenge.

In normal American English speech, a two-word noun-adjective phrase will almost always be pronounced with the stress on the noun. Nouns, after all, are far more meaningful than adjectives, which serve only to describe (or modify, in traditional grammatical jargon) the really important half of the phrase.

Of course, there are phrases in which we will on purpose emphasize the adjective, such as, "I wanted the GREEN beret, not the RED one." But that kind of pronunciation is by definition out of the ordinary, which is why we would usually exaggerate the emphasis.

So, unless you're talking about ROAST beef as opposed to BRAISED beef, emphasizing the adjective is careless, improper, and in some localities morally questionable.

And let that also be a lesson to you.

I am the grammarian about whom your mother warned you.

And so, goes my reminiscense of all things ROAST beef with Fran and Joe.

Roast Beef a la Joe


  • 2 1/2 pound chuck roast
  • Kosher or rock salt to coat the whole piece of meat
  • Ground black pepper to coat the whole piece of meat


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • Thoroughly dry the chuck roast.
  • Roll the roast in the salt and pepper, making sure to make a nice even coating, if possible.
  • Roast for fifteen minutes.
  • Reduce heat to 375 degrees and roast for an additional 40 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let rest for fifteen minutes.
  • Grab your handy electric knife and cut into thin slices.