Tuesday, August 4 2020

dinner arguments, philly cheese poutine, and the knex tower

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Tuesday. How is your morning routine going? This morning, along with all the usual suspects of cleaning up the kitchen and brewing coffee, I caught up on emails and put in my first grocery order at the East side Woodman's. Their website really impressed me, if not alone for the fact that it didn't log me out every four minutes like Hy-vee's. Over some coffee, I put together a small pilot grocery list. Tonight is Marissa's night to make dinner, and following instructions, I nabbed pesto, sun dried tomatoes, chicken thighs, tortellini, vanilla ice cream, and three pounds of rhubarb.

Does three pounds of rhubarb sound like a lot? To me, it sounds like just a little too much rhubarb. I think that's about three steaks worth of rhubarb. That's about twelve russet potatoes of rhubarb, or just shy of a whole bag of flour, only its rhubarb.

At any rate, I'm happy to sit back and let Marissa cook dinner. Giving her Tuesday nights has given me an important realization about myself: I'm kind of a monstrous person to cook for. Last week while she cooked us omelettes and bacon, I unconsciously and silently stalked the kitchen.

"It was really intimidating," said Marissa. "I had a hard time relaxing."

"That's fair," I sheepishly admitted. "I was just trying to hang out with you, but I guess I'm a little protective of our knives and pans."

We had a small spousal dust up over dinner. Marissa invited me to tease her for forgetting to drain the oil off the bacon. "I don't get any joy from cooking meat, and I didn't know you were supposed to do that with bacon."

I jumped in on the roasting, but I took it to far. "This dinner is vies," I said. That's the Dutch word for gross, and the uncomfortable, uneasy silence that followed felt like someone had just thrown a heavy blanket over us while we sat at the table.

Rodney picked at his omelette, his little eyes darting between us as we exchanged spars.

"What? You don't want me to be honest?" I said.

"No, I want you to be honest, but there's a line. You can't be hurtful," said Marissa.

"Look, I thought you opened it up for teasing," I said still trying to back-peddle out of the dog house. "The bacon is still swimming in grease. It's funny, right?"

We circled back to it just before I put Rodney to bed. After we sat at the table, I promptly opened things up with "I owe you an apology." No shit, Sherlock.

"I crossed the line, and I did a bad job protecting your feelings," I began to explain. "I can get a little mean about how food is prepared," I began to explain. "I even lay into my own cooking when it doesn't work out."

"You are way too hard on yourself," added Marissa.

"Or when we order out," I added. "I can really get carried away tearing into restaurants."

"Yes, you do," said Marissa. "I like teasing some of the bad places we tried, but I get the sense you feel real hatred."

I laughed. "But that's not the point. The point is that I've grown used to not needing to protect people's feelings when they cook for me, and that's a bad habit. I should know where the line is," I said. "So I'd like to get better at that, if you'd still like to cook regularly."

"I'd like that," said Marissa. "I don't like how unfamiliar it has gotten for me, and I'd like to sharpen up again."

So Tuesday night is Marissa's night to cook, and after my behavior last week, I'm on probation. No walking around in the kitchen while she cooks, no unsolicited pointers, and no acting like a complete ass at the tasting table.

Sip. Speaking of the kitchen, we haven't gotten groceries in a while, so when dinner time rolled around, I went into a panic. To work with, we had a single sirloin steak, a few potatoes, two onions, and an ample cheese drawer.

Paradoxically, when we are low on food, I make a much bigger mess in the kitchen - our scant pantry is a catalyst for wild, improvised, hot mess dinners. Moving swiftly, I left the frozen steak under running water in the basement and got to work. I turned our last three russet potatoes into french fries, fried in a stock pot with the rest of our vegetable oil cut with some grape-seed oil. But the final mound of golden brown French fries didn't look like enough, so I let the oil cool down, then made some sweet potato fries as well.

I cooked the steak in a frying pan, using the frond to fry two whole sliced yellow onions. I added the onions and sliced up steak to a bowl with the last of a cream cheese container, the rest of a half used baggie of mozzarella pearls, the last two slices of sandwich provolone, and a scoop of ricotta. Then just for fun, I added a splash of juice from an ancient jar of sport peppers in our fridge.

I piled the orange and brown french fries into a casserole dish and dumped the cheese steak filling on top, then topped it with raw red onion. By the time I was melting it together in the oven, our kitchen smelled like a McDonald's, and just about every piece of cook ware we own was piled in the sink.

"I call this...," I stopped for a moment to stare at the hot mess in the casserole dish - "how about 'philly cheese poutine'".

After dinner, while getting Rodney ready for bed, I started fiddling with his bin of k'nex. The two of us ended up staying up to build a tower. I built the frame while Rodney was free to attach his own spires, telescopes, and other silly modifications. As the final capstone, I lifted him to the top by his arms so he could affix his "snowflake" on the very top.

"Alright, dude, that's enough," I said, trying to wind down our extemporaneous bedtime-prolonging fun. Rodney reluctantly put his pajamas on, his eyes still fixed on the tower.

"Go brush your teeth," I said, staring at my phone. Instead of heading to the bathroom, Rodney knelt by the bin of k'nex and slyly fished out another piece, studying the tower.

"Heyyyyyy," I growled. "Put it away, all done. We'll play with it more tomorrow."

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful day today.