Friday, October 16 2020

town halls, mushroom and cheese tartlets, and temporary tattoos



banners/2020 10 16

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. How lucky we are to have another Friday, and another beautiful fall weekend ahead of us. Hopefully your plans for tomorrow and the day after involve some comfort food and your favorite hoodie. Personally, I'm looking forward to redoing some computers on the server shelf, eating some good barbecue pork, watching football, hanging outside by the fire, and trying to pretend that absolutely nothing is wrong in the world.

Yesterday, in lieu of a debate, prospective presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden held their own simultaneous town halls where they fielded questions from a moderator and an audience. Marissa and I watched the highlight reel and discussed.

"I have a prediction," I said, leaning back in my chair, pausing the video on my phone. "I think this is the last election we'll even bother with debates. I think going forward, it's just going to be town halls like this one, but never with each other on the same stage."

Marissa scratched her chin. "Hmmm... I could see that," she said.

"I mean they've always been pretty bad, but doesn't this year feel like we hit a tipping point with the last one? It felt like with this last one, it wasn't even good entertainment."

Marissa nodded. "This year was a lot worse, yes. But I mean people watch it. It's viewers and money, right?"

"It's also a lot of risk," I added. "Really all they're trying to do is get a twenty second sound byte of the other candidate getting owned. Just anything to blast it out to the Internet."

Don't get me wrong - the town hall format is actually more informative simply because it allows each candidate to talk for longer than 10 seconds without needing to fend off an interruption. But you can't help but lament the symbolism. The realities proposed by the two prevailing ideologies in American politics have become so divergent, there's no point to having them in the same room anymore.

Sip. Time for a topic jump. How about something funny? Let me tell you about the lunch I had yesterday. It all started on Wednesday night when I was sleepily fumbling around YouTube while polishing off a bottle of wine. I found a recipe video for French mushroom and cheese tartlets.

"Yesssssss - I'm making this tomorrow," I droned, staring hungrily into the TV.

The next morning, having just finished a good chunk of work, I decided to make my way into the kitchen and get started.

"You're actually doing it?" asked Marissa.

"Yeah," I said dismissively. "It will be quick. I'm just going to use puff pastry, and make one big tart instead of smaller ones."

It was not a quick recipe. An hour and a half later after cooking a bechamel with an entire block of gruyere, pan frying mushrooms, and blind baking a thin layer of puff pastry, the most luxurious lunch in the world finally went into the oven - after topping it with a final layer of bread crumbs and melted butter of course. Marissa and Rodney tooled around the dining room, trying find something to take their minds off how hungry they were.

"OK, so this was not a quick one," I sighed. "Sorry I got a little carried away. It's in the oven now, we'll be eating in a minute."

The mushroom and cheese tart browned and oozed. I delicately removed it from the oven to inspect it. Some of it overflowed over the side of the crust. The center of the pie gurgled like a cheesy dairy volcano.

"I... have to let it cool," I sighed. "I'm pretty sure if I cut into it now, we'd be drinking it."

Even after it cooled for ten minutes, it was a cheesy mess. One by one, I shoveled the puff pastry cream slop onto Marissa's and Rodney's plates. An uninspiring but decadent mess of a lunch.

"I'll cut up some cantaloupe too," said Marissa.

Ugly, but still delicious. We finished the entire tart, and making my way upstairs to resume work, I felt as if there was a giant ball of cheese, milk, and butter churning around in my poor stomach.

"I'm literally pinching and punching myself in the leg to stay awake," I wrote in slack, recounting to my team what had happened.

The moral of the story is that party appetizers are tiny for a reason. You're not supposed to eat more than a few, let alone pile them all into a single pie dish for lunch.

With the help of a healthy ragout dinner, we rallied. After dinner I made my way into the kitchen to begin cleaning up. Marissa hit me on the shoulder, silently pointing to the dining room table. I leaned my head around the door to observe. Rodney had independently retrieved a clean tupperware bin from the cabinet. With the open container on the table, he was standing on his tiptoes, scraping the sauce from his plate into the bin.

"I have never been more proud in my life," I said quietly.

"Do you think this warrants a pom-pom in the prize cup?" she asked.

"Oh definitely," I said without hesitation.

Rodney proudly entered the kitchen, flipping the sealed tupperware container in my direction. Even though only a spoonful of broth made it, I pretended to stow it away in the fridge for leftovers.

We immediately held a "pom-pom in the prize cup" ceremony. This one reached the top, and Rodney fished out a prize from the coveted prize bin.

"Spider-man tattoos!" Marissa yelled, helping him unwrap his prize.

Rodney gave a spider-man tattoo to Marissa, planting it on the open side of her wrist. He had about seven left.

"What about you, dude?" I asked.

"He doesn't want to wear any," said Marissa. Knowing Rodney, that wasn't surprising.

"Well, what about me?" I said.

"How many?" asked Marissa.

"All of em," I laughed. "Why not? Just go for it. I want to look like Post Malone."

Rodney and Marissa applied some new ink to my arms, neck, and shoulders. Rodney wanted to put one on my forehead, but Marissa put a stop to that.

"You do have to work tomorrow," laughed Marissa. "People should take you somewhat seriously."

I beg to differ. Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great day, everyone.