Thursday, March 31, 2005

An Entertaining Evening

I always joke that my cooking adventures always turn out one of two ways. Either it turns out great or I set the kitchen on fire. Well I’m not always joking when I say that but it seems I’ve found a third option.

The planned menu was: grilled steaks, green salad with toasted walnuts, feta cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, mediterranean rice, green beans with roasted red peppers, honey wheat bread, and a rustic pear and apple tart for dessert.

Last night was our first experience in entertaining here in Georgia. My Dad said I had “moxie” to attempt to entertain David’s boss with the kitchen in its current state. That state being the fact there really just isn’t one. I love this house but what is supposed to be the kitchen was laid out during the last remodel by someone who obviously did not cook. In the modern era of house sized kitchens this closet-sized space is unusual. There is no stove or oven. We have a mini fridge and the five feet of counter space is mostly taken up by the microwave, coffee maker, dish rack, toaster oven and 2 burner hotplate. The cabinets are tiny, dark and inaccessible. We may get to adding all of the conveniences eventually but for now we make due and usually do just fine.

Back to the fire. Oh yes there was one and I don’t mean in the barbeque grill for the steaks. David and I were sitting on the back porch watching the train idling on the nearby railroad tracks when I smelled something burning. The rustic tart crust was literally on fire, flames licking out of the little toaster oven as I charged out the door with it and tossed it into the yard. It made for a rather impressive blaze, burning for several minutes and melting the plastic knobs on the front as we watched in semi-hysterical amazement. Well who wanted dessert anyway?

We still had several minutes to regroup so we opened the back door wide, turned on the ceiling fan and lit a few candles to cover the stench of burned toaster oven. I turned back to my cooking and at that point realized that the pre-cooked rice I had planned to use I’d made with bullion containing onion, a problem for our onion-allergic guest. I started another pot of rice and finished up setting the table. David went over to take a look at the train and returned to tell me it was unmanned. Odd, we’d never seen that before.

About then Joe arrived. He was as enchanted with this grand old house as we are and he and David spent several minutes walking through the house and yard. They talked outside while David grilled the steaks and I dressed the salad. The steaks were done about 25 minutes before the rice was finished cooking. No rice so on to Plan B, toss some small red potatoes in the microwave and before we were through the salad they were done. A dash of good olive oil, a quick step out to the herb tub and we had parsley potatoes. David had grilled the steaks to perfection and the rest of the food was simple and good.

We adjourned to the front porch in time to watch the train run down the spur line to pick up the last cars and then head off down the tracks. The engineers rarely blow the horn but I guess this one was being friendly and blew four deafening blasts just as he passed the house. David and I just looked at each other, shook our heads and savored our French pressed coffee, the last of the velvety Guatemala Huehuetanango from Seth. We sat on the porch awhile swapping stories and jokes with our guest by star and candlelight. David is a fantastic story teller. He has the old-south way of taking a tale three times around the dance floor with lots of dips and spins. It is one of the things I love most about him. Joe was clearly enjoying himself and I think he saw a side of David he'd never known. Our evening wound down and as we sent him off into the beautiful clear night Joe thanked us again and again for such a wonderful time.

As I went to round up the dishes I found a stunning palm-sized green moth swimming in my coffee cup. I fished him out, laid him on a dishtowel and put him out the back door which had been open since the airing out after the fire. He’s gone this morning so I hope he survived. When I walked back into the kitchen I heard a crash in the pantry. We investigated to find a rather large rat eyeing us from one of the top shelves. I guess he’d considered the open door an invitation. As we debated what to do about him he disappeared into the wall behind the water heater. What a night!

Later as we snuggled up under soft sheets we deemed the evening’s events a success. The most important goal was accomplished, our guest had a great time and so did David and I. We didn’t freak out when things didn’t go as planned. We rolled with it and came out mostly alright. So I guess I’ll have to add a third option to the list…. Sometimes I set the kitchen on fire and it still comes out pretty darn good. Our evening was perfect in its quirks and imperfections, like this wonderful old house, and in a whole lot of ways just like us.


Blogger rainvalley said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Chench said...

Wonderful writing. I was almost there for a few minutes. I'll be back.

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Like I said, you had to haqve "Moxie"!! Dad

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Karen M. said...

A great story! Cook's Illustrated has a new 'sister' publication, Cook's Country. They recently invited readers to send in stories about kitchen disasters. I'm not sure yours really qualifies... ;~) since everything turned out so well, but you might want to check them out.

[Btw, America's Test Kitchen, the TV counterpart to Cook's Illustrated, rated Success Rice pretty highly, after a taste test... only 10 minutes to prepare. I keep it on hand (the brown variety), just because of that timing issue. It's not bad.]

8:53 AM  

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