Last night, close to 10:00, I heard from a friend who was finishing a long tiring day. While I was sympathetic to stories of computer malfunctions and long meetings, I became fully engaged only when he mentioned that He. Was. Hungry.. In an uncharacteristic burst of spontanaeity (It was, after all, a school night) I told him to come on over and hang out with Mr. Annie while I made him some dinner and poured him a glass or two of wine.
I blame Anthony Bourdain for this, actually. I had been watching a DVD of “No Reservations” earlier in the evening, and Bourdain had been disporting himself passionately all over Sicily, talking up the virtues of putting pleasure first and enjoying all that life has to offer. He was jumping off cliffs into the ocean, harvesting capers, eating spaghetti with sauce made by crushing sun-hot fresh tomatoes with bare hands. How could I, possessing a full refrigerator and mad skills in the kitchen, turn away a hungry (and amusing) person just because it was a school night?
I sauteed mushrooms in (quite a lot of) butter, and finished them with a little cream and white wine. I made a beautiful, golden half moon of a cheese omelette, spooned the mushrooms over the top, added two slices of buttered toast cut into triangles, and a glass of Pinot Grigio. It was 10:00 at night, my house smelled like mushrooms and butter and toast, and I was Living. If Bourdain had dropped by, hoop earring glinting with reflected porch light, I would have fed him, too.
This morning, I was up at 7:00 preparing a second short-order meal, of sorts: a crockpot full of “New England Baked Beans” and two pitchers of authentic chocolate “frappes” for Sam to take to school as part of a presentation. I had approximately 20 minutes’ notice that I would be supplying Mr. Voigt’s fifth grade class with examples New England’s finest comestibles, but at least Sam was assigned the states of Massachusetts, where I lived for many years, and New York, where I live in my fantasies.
That is, until it was the morning after my Night of Living on the Edge. (I am aware, by the way, that there are people engaged in far riskier activities including firefighting, lion taming and preschool instruction, but I ask you to consider this situation from my point of view as a charter member of the Risk Aversion Society of North America).
I had intended to doctor the cans of Campbell’s Pork & Beans so that they would more closely resemble the baked beans served at Durgin Park, or by my grandmother in Rhode Island, but I didn’t even crack a bottle of Grade B maple syrup. I looked at the beans, decided that half of the kids wouldn’t eat them no matter what I did, put the lid on the pot and called it “good.” I made the relatively thin milkshakes served as “frappes” at Brigham’s (in my memories, anyway) knowing that there would be at least seven children, accustomed only to the styrofoam-like shakes served at McDonald’s, who would complain and make faces when the frappes hit their Dixie cups.
Tonight I will perform one final short order miracle. I used up the mushrooms, the cream and the wine I needed to cook tonight’s dinner during my burst of La Dolce Vita, and I will have to figure out what to do with my chicken breasts and rice. Perhaps, since this is entirely his fault (except for the beans and frappes) Mr. Bourdain will be kind enough to give me some idea about how to pull off one last culinary coup before I do my grocery shopping. I’ll be waiting.