Tag Archives: Friday

The Second- or Third-Best-Laid Plans

Our plans began, as is so often the case, with an iMessage.

I know what to make for dinner! Mulligatawny Soup.  It’s usually served over rice, but crumbled cornbread will also do.

I was driving when the message came in, so I didn’t respond right away. I like her Mulligatawny Soup, rich with chicken, peppers, and spices, and thick with rice. I started trying to remember how many of the ingredients we had on hand.  When I arrived at the station to meet her train, our conversation didn’t go straight to food, though if it had, I might have said, “Mulligatawny is a good idea, but I could really go for a pile of vegetables, a little protein, and maybe a dinner roll.”

We headed off to the very large home improvement store to purchase electrical supplies. Her parents were arriving the next morning for a visit; her dad, a skilled electrician, was going to teach us how to install new electrical outlets. By the time we’d found everything on our shopping list, neither of us was in the mood for going to the market, much less cooking afterward.

“Let’s go out,” she said. “But to a place where it’s okay to be dressed like I am.” I was in dark jeans, a sweater, and a tweed jacket. She had worn jeans and a blouse to the office, and looked good enough to get into any restaurant I’d want to go to.

At a traffic light, the plans amended again. “We could just get take-out…”

We cruised slowly down Route 1, neither of us quite sure what would be on the menu. A favorite casual Italian place presented itself, and we stopped. And the plan amended again. “While we’re waiting for our entrees, let’s have a drink and an appetizer.”

“You’re going to laugh at me,” she said, looking up from the menu. (Plans were apparently changing again.) “Instead of a full meal, why don’t we share some appetizers and a salad?” I would never laugh at a girl who doesn’t particularly like vegetables ordering a salad. We considered the merits of the salad she had in mind, and settled instead on a sampler of appetizers–a few meatballs, a few chicken wings, and some breaded mozzarella–and a platter of roasted vegetables. We placed our order, and, as we sipped our drinks and toasted the good fortune of friends who’d just had a child, the waiter appeared with a bread basket.

It was my turn to smile. We had started by thinking about mulligatawny soup and ended up with a pile of vegetables, a little protein, and maybe a dinner roll. And we were both delighted with the evening.

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.

One More Time

We’re both big fans of repurposing.  

She can turn an glass jar into a beautiful vase in no time flat. An ordinary little table here is suddenly a perfect nightstand there. She is kind of masterful at re-combining wardrobe items into new outfits. (I tell you, the girl can dress.) 

My repurposing is done mostly in the kitchen. If the recipe calls for tomato sauce and we’re out, how about V8 juice, tomato paste, and some oregano?  Almost-stale donuts? Bread pudding. Random vegetables and a little protein?  Fried rice. I filled omelets for breakfast with bits and pieces from the previous night’s post-Christmas party, and her mom approved in a pretty serious way.

But you don’t always need to repurpose.  Repetition isn’t always a bad thing. (Her favorite thing to do with Thanksgiving leftovers is have Thanksgiving dinner again.)

And thus, on Friday night, there was fried chicken, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes.  And, okay, a few steamed green beans that were so good I thought about making more. She savored the last bites of corn, and sighed. “If this is the last of the summer’s corn, I want to make sure I enjoyed it.”

It’s not; there’s another ear in the crisper. At least there was when I left this morning.

One Perfect Burger, One Slightly Past Well-done

She’ll probably say her burger is overdone.

She’ll probably be right.  She prefers a burger well-done, and I worked so hard to get it well-done (and still leave mine medium rare) that the smoke detector complained.

The corn was perfect–microwaved in their husks for 4 minutes an ear, the husk and silk slides right off, as she taught me from a cooking demo at the market. Each ear perched on a crouton of toasted whole-wheat bread, perfect for applying butter to the kernels. The green beans were steamed and then tossed into the cast iron skillet to pick up a little extra flavor from the juices left behind by the burgers.  The tomatoes came from the CSA; they just need slicing, though a little salt and pepper is not gilding the lily. The sweet potato fries were a bit of a cheat; I ran to the market to pick up the ground chuck and a sweet potato, and realized that the market’s outdoor grill was still open, so I picked up a serving of their really good sweet potato fries to share.

It’s a darn fine burger: 80-20 chuck (the store’s “naked” variety, no antibiotics), formed into a loose patty with a little chopped pepperoni pressed inside. Maybe that extra moisture will keep it from going past well-done into something else.

She slept through dinner, is what it comes down to.

I can’t blame her.  She was up at 4 AM, painting and waiting for the movers. (I had worked late last night to get things ready here, then slept in ’til almost 7.)  After everything was delivered to its proper place, she took a well-earned nap.  But the nap seems to be extending, and that does not bode well for a dinner plate that is staying warm in the oven.

Here’s a “before” picture, in case things don’t look so good when she gets around to dinner.

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