Tag Archives: Burgers

Sprouts and Spies

She worked late, with a plan to pick up dinner for herself to eat on the train. I hoped that meant she hadn’t skipped lunch, but she’s a grown-up; sometimes that happens.

I wasn’t called for either of the rehearsals I’d been expecting, so I worked a while longer on a church-music project, and then headed for the market. There wasn’t much we needed, but if she wasn’t going to be home for dinner, there would be Brussels Sprouts. Or broccoli, if the sprouts didn’t look good.

They looked fine; they came pre-shredded. I would have been happy with whole ones, which I would have halved, steamed lightly, and then sautéed with some olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. But the shredded ones would be good, too; I could skip the steaming and make a sort of hot slaw.

I heated two pans–one cast-iron, the other non-stick–fed the cats, and put away the rest of the groceries. Our market makes great burgers studded with cheddar and bacon, but they’re too big; I bought a pair and reformed them into three. Two went into the freezer; one went into the now blazing cast-iron pan. My prep also included opening two windows and cranking the exhaust fan to its “jet engine” setting. I was determined to properly cook a burger without setting off the smoke detector.

When the burger was seared, I stuck it in the oven and turned my attention to the sprouts. Their skillet had a little oil in it; as they started to brown, I added a few drops each of soy sauce and lemon juice, tossed them a bit. I drizzled on a little maple syrup, a teaspoon of water, turned off the heat and lidded the pan. The market suggested sautéing onions and bacon with the sprouts, but my burger had bacon and I didn’t feel like onion.

By the time two slices of crusty bread were toasted, tomato was sliced, and our next-door neighbor had debriefed me of her kitchen-tile purchase, everything was ready–even a lovely cocktail of grapefruit juice, seltzer, a splash of gin, and a few drops of bitters.

She would be better company than an old TV show, but when I’m alone I’ve been making my way through the Jennifer Garner series Aliaswhich I haven’t seen in years. She watched the first couple of episodes with me, but the show didn’t really catch her interest–it’s too suspense-filled for her taste. She tries sprouts now and again, but they’re not her style either. That’s okay; we don’t have to like the same things, and we certainly aren’t going to impose our tastes on each other. The idea of giving her nightmares and indigestion–well, that’s what it gives me. 

So I’ll wait ’til she works late. Sprouts and spies, a burger and a beverage. It could be worse, but I’m ready for her to come home.

  

Festive Enough

I arrived at her office to pick her up for the Big Fancy Theatre Event, and found her nowhere near ready to leave. There was One More Thing to do, and it might take a while.

This is why we didn’t make reservations at a Big Fancy Restaurant before the Event. Odds were better than even that one of us would be delayed. (Smart money said it would be me, but this time it wasn’t.)

I left my coat and bag in her office and ran to do an errand. I returned, showed my visitor’s pass and rode back to the office. Still not finished. I proposed going around the corner to a Pretty Good Burger Place to pick up dinner. She pointed to her desk, where her half-finished lunch sat. “Maybe just some fries for me?”

Passing the security desk on my way out (again), I asked the guard if he wanted a burger; I’m pretty sure he was required to decline, but he appreciated the offer.

The Pretty Good Burger place offers just the right amount of choice for me:

Burger or a hot dog?
If the former, how many patties?
Cheese?
Bacon?
Condiments?
Fries?
Beverage?

One patty is plenty. Since only American cheese is offered, it’s easy for me to decline. Bacon on a burger is not a terrible idea, but I wasn’t in the mood. Lots of condiments are offered–nearly enough to freeze me with indecision. I settled on lettuce, tomato, mustard, A1 sauce, and sautéed mushrooms, hoping I hadn’t created a burger too messy to eat. An order of fries and a small Diet Coke completed the order.  I ate a few peanuts from the bin by the drinks counter while I waited, then collected dinner and headed back.  The security guy barely looked up this time.

She finished her project, and we had dinner over her semi-cozy desk–burgers and fries before a theatrical gala, just like last fall. The mushrooms had been pushing it, but I managed not to end up looking like I was wearing the salad bar.

I cannot complain about hearing the words "Almost finished," since I say them all too often myself.

I cannot complain about hearing the words “Almost finished,” since I say them all too often myself.

I’d like to say we strolled up 8th Avenue to the theatre, but the truth is we had to walk pretty briskly to get there in time. I’d like to say, too, that the performance was spectacular from start to finish. There were wonderful moments, and some good-intentioned acts that, to our eyes, missed the mark. Everything was well-performed–from a string quartet playing (and singing) a mashup of a Brahms quartet and the Frozen song “Let It Go” to a female-ensemble version of “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame” led by Florence Henderson.  When Carol Friggin’ Brady is on stage 8 rows in front of you, you can forgive a lot.

As is often the case, the evening stretched long. We arrived home looking not quite so fresh as when the venerable and exceedingly polite usher referred to us as “handsome gentleman and beautiful lady.” Still, the cats were waiting at the door, happy to see us. Even if the evening wasn’t perfect, we got dressed up, we spent the evening in a Broadway theatre, and we supported a worthy cause.  That’s festive enough.

Fancy

We stayed at her sister and brother-in-law’s after the memorial, and woke to hugs from her nephews–a pair of 5-year-old twins and their year-older brother–adorable little dudes all. We helped organize pancakes for everybody’s breakfast, as well as some very important wardrobe choices. All the Kindergarteners were dressing up: it was Fancy Day. (Pajama Day had long since passed, and while every day is Crazy Hair Day in my world, I’m glad I didn’t have to demonstrate it more than usual when I was in school.) Ties were knotted, Church shoes were put in backpacks–it’s too snowy on upstate New York sidewalks for anything other than boots until you get to school–and photos were taken to send to grandparents.

We don’t make a big deal about Valentine’s Day. Still, between an unexpected funeral and visit from her mom, the scramble to make up missed work, and a day’s productivity lost to a computer that needed to spend the night in the repair shop, our plans needed revisiting. We didn’t make it to the library or the boxes of books in the storage unit to find volumes of romantic poetry, but we were not giving up on the evening.  “Take-out,” she suggested. “On good china. And we dress up.”

“It’ll be our Fancy Day!”

I collected my repaired machine on the way to work, and stopped to collect dinner on my way home. While I was out, she swept up the remaining dust from the installation of our new backsplash and set a gorgeous table.

On which we had burgers and fries.

But they were the really good burgers, and accompanied by the really good slaw. We sipped Vitamin Water from champagne flutes. We exchanged heartfelt cards and very small gifts. We looked terrific. (We even took a photo to send to her parents.) But mostly, we were together. And that’s fancy enough for me.

Fancy Day Table

A Sense of Occasion

She’d worked from home on Friday while I was recording music in my basement studio.  Evening approached, and with it time to change from casual clothes into something more festive for the season-opening gala concert of a theatre company we support.

The performance was in a big cabaret space that has neither bar nor kitchen. Outside food and drink are permitted–indeed, encouraged.  I had hoped to organize some semi-elegant picnic supper for us, but getting the demo recorded took longer than I expected, and time grew short. “Can we get takeout from the Awesome Burger Place?” she asked. We could indeed.

I didn’t think about the possibility of heavy traffic most of the way to the theatre; we arrived just a few minutes before the concert began. Our fries had lost some crispness and the burgers were not as warm as they once were (and, sad to say, hers wasn’t nearly as well-cooked as she’d asked for it to be).  The store-made potato chips we’d had as a snack on the way were light, not a bit greasy, and perfectly salted.

Our picnic gear wasn’t especially classy–her wonderful picnic basket is packed deep in a closet while the painter and flooring installers work–but we looked spiffy.  The Artistic Director of the company, passing through the lobby on his way backstage, took one look at us walking in and said, “I’ll see you later, sir,” before scooping her up in a mock-lascivious embrace.

Explaining the concert’s theme, the director quoted Jonathan Larson’s Rent: “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” Every performance was delightful, from an Andrews Sisters tribute “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” to a medley of Vietnam-era protest songs in the first act; highlights of the second act included the youngest soloist singing a very sophisticated song about parenthood with clear understanding of her text, and the 75-member cast massing their voices on Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday” and The Lion King’s “Circle of Life.” This was our third night in the theatre in a week, and, easily, our favorite performance of the three.

At intermission, there was a silent auction with a wide array of items for bid. After the concert, we discovered that we’d won tickets to a Broadway show we want to see, a set of piano lessons for her, and a session with a running coach for me. Including dinner, concert tickets, and our winning bids, we still hadn’t spent as much as we would have for a pair of seats at the Broadway show–and we’d supported local theatre and our friends.

Usually we meet for the theatre after work. Getting dressed up for this evening and leaving the house together made it feel like a “real” date.  Although this was community theatre, there was a sense of occasion about our evening.  It reminded me of my parents going dancing at the Elks club on Saturday nights.  I don’t recall how often Mom and Dad had dinner at home before going out, but I’m pretty sure they never walked into a theatre with burgers in a paper sack.  On the other hand, maybe I’m remembering it wrong and that was exactly their idea of a good time.  It was ours, certainly.