Leaving behind 60 ungraded papers on a Sunday evening to go to the movies could justify someone to tag me as an irresponsible teacher, but I did it anyway because that's what friends are for. Jenny and I went to Ward Theater last night to see Julie Julia, and I'm glad we did. The cuteness of it alone made it almost worth the $10 ticket, but watching Meryl Streep replicate Julia Child made it a cinematic souffle.
Growing up, I spent many a night with my mom watching Julia Child and her male TV counterpart, The Galloping Gourmet. These two earthy gourmands never failed to dish out an evening of caramelized comedy and lemon-zest laughs.
Anyone who knew my mom would tell you that not only was she a born comedienne, but her cooking never failed to deliver either. Garlic and onions took over the entire house when she'd spark up the stove, and everything she cooked, even the modest recipes from Ms. Child's TV show, always took on an exotic Portuguese flair. Picture here a traditional Thanksgiving stuffing topped with chopped yellow chili pepper and sizzling Portuguese sausage.
Now one would think with all this exposure I had to the culinary arts, I would perhaps through osmosis have become at least proficient in front of the stove. Sadly though, I must confess that while I love the idea of cooking...the hunting for ingredients, the prep bowls, the mortar and pestle...I am all thumbs. In fact, I almost lost one of my thumbs while chopping an onion with my favorite Cutco chef's knife. I also sliced through the nail of my middle finger with a 14-inch serrated knife oozing with raw chicken goo. That one sent me to the ER for a tetanus shot and antibiotics.
And then there was the tuna casserole. It was my first solo attempt, and I was in a hurry, hoping to impress my date with a savory home-cooked meal and must not have been paying close enough attention to what I was doing. My date (let's call him Joe), arrived to a romantically lit dining room fully bedecked with my mom's fine linen, expensive German crystal, and authentic Japanese china. I know he was impressed because he sat down and said, "Wow."
Before serving up the casserole, I drizzled hot butter and sprinkled crispy pretzels on top. The recipe called for those crispy onion things that come in a can, but upon realizing I didn't get those, I substituted the pretzels in their place. Guys love pretzels anyway, right? So we sat there at the table, sipping Canada Dry ginger ale in the crystal wine glasses and he made a toast: "To Debra!" I blushed then sipped delicately. He grabbed his fork and dug in. I watched for his reaction, for his approval, but what I got was not an "Mmm," but more of a "Hmm." I took a bite and to my horror found the texture and the flavor to be not right at all. I took another bite, drank some more ginger ale then tried it again. My taste buds detected something along the lines of rotting fish, and the gristly texture only added to the nightmare-in-progress. Joe didn't say anything while he chomped away mouthfuls of the stuff, and when I couldn't take it any longer, I told him I was sorry it didn't turn out right. But Joe, God bless him, continued eating to the last bite. I don't know how he did it.
I took our plates to the sink, and when I flipped open the lid of the trashcan, I gasped at the sight of the two empty cans of tuna I had used. They were those white with blue label generic cans, and the label shouted out at me from the depths of the garbage, "CAT TUNA!" I hid the evidence by scraping the demonic contents of my plate on top of the cans. Joe snuck up behind me and gave me a gracious hug, and I swear I heard him purr in my ear. I couldn't let the cat out of the bag, so I didn't. I never did. We went out for ice cream after he helped me with the dishes, and I had a triple scoop of something minty, just in case there would be a goodnight kiss, which there was.
Right about now I'm wondering whatever happened to Joe. If he's married, his wife is a lucky woman. I just hope she cooks better than I do.