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Roast Beef, Medium by Edna Ferber
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Roast Beef, Medium

by Edna Ferber

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Reminiscent of an old Hollywood movie, Emma McChesney is a fast-talking travelling petticoat sales"man". She is divorced and plans to put her teenage son through college with her earnings. Being mindful of the risks involved in competing with male sales reps has not made her become hardened or any less professional. Still, she knows what to expect in a restaurant pie or stew and stays with the reliable "roast beef, medium".

Written in 1913, Ferber gives the reader an idea of what life was like for business women in the early 20th century. ( )
  VivienneR | Mar 7, 2017 |
Savvy, straight-talking, and self-reliant, Emma McChesney, is as witty and entertaining as the “fast-talking dames” found in old movies, but it’s closer to 1910 than 1930 or 40. Emma’s an early career woman, working as the Midwest sales representative for T.A. Buck’s Featherloom skirts and petticoats, and most of her life is spent on the road--traveling by train, sleeping in hotels, meeting the most interesting people, and outsmarting the male sales reps who are her competition. She’s still stylish and attractive enough to make a man hope, but as a hardworking divorced mother dependant on her income she’s a stickler about her reputation.

Roast Beef Medium is the first of three books about the adventures of Emma McChesney. Edna Ferber, also the author of Giant and Show Boat, wrote the McChesney books long enough ago that they’re all in the public domain and ebook copies of them can be downloaded from sites like Project Gutenberg. I listened to a wonderfully narrated Libravox recording, also free, which kept me grinning even when stuck in traffic. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Oct 9, 2014 |
Emma McChesney, the heroine of Roast beef, medium is a single mother with a teenaged son who makes her living as a travelling saleswoman. Despite a professed longing for a home life, she is a business woman to her fingers and she progresses despite the difficulties of the road--bad food and conditions, illness and the competition, which is occasionally malicious and conniving. Emma has a hearty, Girl-Scoutish tone and you can almost imagine her being played by Ginger Rogers or Jean Arthur in one of those Thirties comedies. The story was fun and it's interesting to see that the life of the working mother doesn't change much. ( )
  Bjace | Sep 19, 2013 |
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FOREWORD

Roast Beef, Medium, is not only a food. It is a philosophy.

Seated at Life's Dining Table, with the Menu of Morals before you, your eye wanders a bit over the entrees, the hors d'oeuvres, and the things a la, though you know that Roast Beef, Medium, is safe, and sane, and sure. It agrees with you. As you hesitate there sounds in your ear a soft and insinuating Voice.

"You'll find the tongue in aspic very nice today," purrs the Voice. "May I recommend the chicken pie, country style? Perhaps you'd relish something light and tempting. Eggs Benedictine. Very fine. Or some flaked crab meat, perhaps. With a special Russian sauce."

Roast Beef, Medium! How unimaginative it sounds. How prosaic, and dry! You cast the thought of it aside with the contempt that it deserves, and you assume a fine air of the epicure as you order. There are set before you things encased in pastry; things in frilly paper trousers; things that prick the tongue; sauces that pique the palate. There are strange vegetable garnishings, cunningly cut. This is not only Food. These are Viands.

"Everything satisfactory?" inquires the insinuating Voice.

"Yes," you say, and take a hasty sip of water. That paprika has burned your tongue. "Yes. Check, please."

You eye the score, appalled. "Look here! Aren't you over-charging!"

"Our regular price," and you catch a sneer beneath the smugness of the Voice. "It is what every one pays, sir."

You reach deep, deep into your pocket, and you pay. And you rise and go, full but not fed. And later as you take your fifth Moral Pepsin Tablet you say Fool! and Fool! and Fool!

When next we dine we are not tempted by the Voice. We are wary of weird sauces. We shun the cunning aspics. We look about at our neighbor's table. He is eating of things French, and Russian and Hungarian. Of food garnished, and garish and greasy. And with a little sigh of Content and resignation we settle down to our Roast Beef, Medium.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0252069455, Paperback)

Edna Ferber, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Show Boat and Giant", achieved her first great success with a series of stories she published in "American Magazine" between 1911 and 1913. The stories featured Emma McChesney: smart, savvy, stylish, divorced mother, and Midwest traveling sales representative for T.A. Buck's Featherloom skirts and petticoats. With one hand on her sample case and the other fending off advances from salesmen, hotel clerks, and other predators, Emma holds on tightly to her reputation: honest, hardworking, and able to outsell the slickest salesman. Like her compact bag of traveling necessities, Emma has her life boiled down to essentials: her work and her seventeen-year-old son, Jock. Her experience has taught her that it's best to stick to roast beef, medium - avoiding both physical and moral indigestion - rather than experiment with fancy sauces and exotic dishes. Yet she never shies away from a challenge, and her sharp instincts and common sense serve her well in dealing with the likes of Ed Meyer, a smooth-talking, piano-playing salesman; Blanche LeHay, prima donna of the Sam Levin Crackerjack Belles; and, T.A. Buck Jr., the wet-behind-the-ears son of the founder of Featherloom. "Roast Beef, Medium" is the first of three volumes chronicling the travels and trials of Emma McChesney. The illustrations by James Montgomery Flagg, one of the most highly regarded book illustrators of the period, enhance both the humor and the vivid characterization in this wise and high-spirited tale.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Roast Beef, Medium follows the adventures of Emma McChesney a divorced, independent, traveling saleswoman for a skirt and petticoat company. The stories, originally published in American Magazine between 1911 and 1913, brought Ferber her first big success. She went on to publish two additional volumes of Emma's adventures and adapt them into a Broadway play.… (more)

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