When people are gone, we often regret having not spent enough time with them. That's one regret I don't have when it comes to my Grandma Alice, who died several years ago.

In my junior year in high school in Sierra Vista, one of my teachers told us that senior citizens often go months - even years - without visits from family members or friends. They also lack physical contact, except maybe from doctors.

No one hugs old people.

That was one of the worst things I'd ever heard. I was determined to make sure my grandma had regular visitors. She lived in the same town, for goodness' sake.

So I talked to my parents and suggested we have dinner with Grandma every week.

My mom already took my grandma - her mother-in-law - to doctors' appointments and shopping. Many a weekend morning she'd pick up Grandma, and they'd go to yard sales or on drives to Sonoita or to Bisbee.

So although Mom would sometimes join us for dinner - later my niece Wendy would, too - mostly it was just Dad and me at Grandma's nearly every Wednesday. She loved to prepare supper, as she called it.

As she got older and making dinner once a week was too much for her, we began taking her out every other week. Nothing fancy, of course. A Minnesota farm girl, she preferred simple fare and surroundings - PoFolks, Long John Silver's, Denny's.

But oh, when she cooked. Some of our favorites were her chicken soup, with fresh veggies swimming in clear broth, served with buttered saltine crackers; meatloaf and mashed potatoes; and baked pork chops with scalloped potatoes.

She'd have the simple table all set when we arrived. In the spring, summer and into early fall, the door to her upstairs apartment would be open, so we could see the mountains in the distance and enjoy the fresh air, and we'd chat - increasingly loudly as the years went on - about school, about work, about her neighbors. She'd tell us the latest about the roadrunner that came around her apartment complex for the little bits of hamburger the residents left out for it.

Grandma never learned to drive, but she was self-sufficient. Unless my mom took her grocery shopping, you could see her pushing her little cart up the street to the nearby Safeway.

One time when my dad wasn't able to make it to dinner, Grandma and I ate, then hopped in my car and headed to Dairy Queen for dessert. On the way back, my VW ran out of gas a block from her apartment. We coasted into a cul-de-sac and walked in the setting sun to her apartment, laughing the whole way.

Of all the great meals she prepared, one of the most memorable was this one, the recipe for which I copied in my teenage handwriting. She would start preparing this dish before noon so by the time we got to her house the steak was fork-tender and the sauce as rich as that from any restaurant - not as rich, though, as the memory of us strolling down the sidewalk, giggling, my little yellow Bug abandoned behind us.

Simply Elegant Steak and Rice

Serves: 6

• 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef round steak

• 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 2 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch slices and separated into rings

• 1 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained and liquid reserved

• 10 3/4-ounce can of cream of mushroom soup

• 1/2 cup dry sherry

• 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

• 3 cups hot cooked rice

Slice steak in thin strips. In large skillet, brown meat in oil on high heat. Add onions and saute until tender-crisp.

Blend soup, sherry, liquid from mushrooms and garlic salt. Pour over steak. Add mushrooms. Reduce heat, cover and simmer at least an hour, or until steak is tender. Serve over rice.

Contact Food Editor Tiffany Kjos at tkjos@azstarnet.com or 807-7776.