|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Mar. 27, 2005 - 6:59 a.m.
Erin Go Blah
When NewWifey(tm) and I got married just over three years ago, we decided on what seemed like a fair distribution of labor.
Here's what NewWifey(tm) is responsible for:
1. Anything to do with power tools.
2. Car repairs.
3. Shovelling snow.
5. Home repairs.
7. Lawn cutting.
8. Decorating (holiday and general).
9. Paperwork: bills, budgets, court orders.
Meanwhile, I am responsible for:
2. The dog.
Dammit, I'm getting screwed here! I mean, I have to cook at least one meal a day, every single day, and usually more. NewWifey(tm) only has to shingle the roof once every 5 years or so.
(NewWifey(tm), looking over my shoulder, just remarked "Why don't you tell them my REAL list of duties: 1)Blowjobs. 2)Power Tools. 3)Blowjobs. 4)Car Repairs. 5)Blowjobs..." I have no comment. Or denial.)
Every now and then The List overlaps. For instance on Christmas I may hang an ornament, and I've also been known to put gas in the car on occasion. Every so often NewWifey(tm) pats the dog on the head, and if I'm delayed at work she may get desperate and spray some plastic cheese on a cracker. But for the most part The List is inviolate.
Which is why I was startled when on March 15th NewWifey(tm) announced, "I'm making the St. Patty's feast this year."
No discussion, no subtle probing questions beforehand to see how I'd take the news. Just a declarative "I will be making the feast." Period.
Why was I being usurped as executive chef at Dangerhouse? Did my Hollandaise sauce break? Souffle not rise to sufficiently theatrical heights? A salmonella outbreak? I had to know.
I probably shouldn't have asked.
NewWifey(tm), it seems, is still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome following disasters that happened the past TWO St. Pat's.
Long time readers may recall that last year NewWifey(tm) got trapped in a pair of sex-play handcuffs and was arrested while driving topless to the locksmith to free herself.
The year before that - in a story not previously related - the house almost burned down when I accidentally turned a burner under the corned beef to "High" instead of "Warm" and left to go riding with NewWifey(tm) and a buddy. When we returned 3 hours later the bottom of my wok (perfect vessel to steam a 4 pound slab) had melted completely away and the meat was sitting right on the burner, devolving into carbon. DangerHouse smelled like a Kansas City BBQ pit right through the next winter.
So even though NewWifey(tm) is normally loath to lift a finger in the kitchen, this time she saw it as a matter of self preservation. I wasn't gonna argue, so long as she didn't expect me to do anything with wallboard in return.
Now, NewWifey(tm) isn't a bad cook. Quite the contrary. She just doesn't enjoy it all that much. So when we were haggling over details of The List at the beginning of our Holy Union and I suggested "you know, it's traditional for the wife to cook for her Man...." and she countered with "it's traditional for the husband to have balls, but I don't see 'oil changes' on YOUR side of the list", I didn't have the...well, you know...to press the issue.
I'd never really made a big deal about St. Patrick's Day before meeting NewWifey(tm). For one thing, I consider dyeing beer green to be a Mortal Sin. For another, I hatehatehatehateHATE boiled cabbage, with the burning hatred of a thousand incendiary farts. Plus, I like snakes. Driving them out of Ireland doesn't seem like a cause for celebration to me.
Then I married an Irish gal.
Now every March 17th I drink watery green beer, wear novelty plastic bowlers and symbolically wield my Whacking Day Stick. And to my suprise, it's really not that much of a cross to bear...probably because I get to fuck a redheaded Irish gal at the end of the day. Hey, I may have standards, but they're not set in stone.
However NewWifey(tm) insists on having cabbage with her corned beef. So we struck a compromise. I came up with a cabbage recipe that I actually like, but is still acceptable to her. And if I may pat myself on the spatula here, it is acceptable to her because it's the best damned cabbage dish she's ever had. (Basically, if you're interested, the cabbage is braised for 5 or 6 hours in a very low oven in a small ammount of apple cider, flavored with a sliced onion, some bacon, carroway seeds, savory, and sometimes apple wedges. All the bitter sulpher nastiness gets blown out, leaving a very sweet un-cabbagelike carnival behind. And, to the delight of anuses everywhere, gastronomic pyrotechnics seem to be muted considerably when cabbage is prepared this way.)
Unfortunately, NewWifey(tm) does not know how to prepare cabbage this way.
I never wrote down the recipe.
See, NewWifey(tm) and I couldn't be more dissimilar in the kitchen. I dance around, a cd of cartoon theme songs blasting in the background, slinging ingredients across the room. I have no idea where the measuring cups are kept. Dinner is never announced beforehand, because I generally don't know myself what we're having until it's on the table. What started out as "ravioli stuffed with spinach and pignoli" might morph in to "grilled spinach-wrapped Feta cheese packets", or even a "terrine vert". All depends on which way the wind is blowing, y'know? It's only very rarely that I use a recipe, which might seem somewhat odd since I own upwards of 400 cookbooks. I just collect them, I don't use 'em.
By contrast, NewWifey(tm) is a study in concentration and exactitude behind the stove. The recipe, and there is ALWAYS a recipe, has to be propped in a highly visible place on the counter, the ingredients pre-measured, and all the pans, whisks and serving plates in their proper place. The tense quiet while she toils is occasionally punctuated by swearing when she discovers that we only have 2 1/8 cups of flour in the house, and the recipe calls for 2 1/4. Her final dish is always ready to be photographed for a full color layout in "Saveur" magazine, even if she is standing next to it with balled fists and singed eyebrows.
NewWifey(tm) has announced that she will be preparing the meal for her Most Holy Drinking Day of the year, and she will brook no dissent in the matter. Aside from the disasters the past two years that she blames on me, she is also sick of the fancified versions of traditional fare I come up with. She wants to get back to her Irish roots and whip up AUTHENTIC corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and Irish Lamb Stew. And no funky micro-brews, either. Harp Lager, and Guiness. And a bottle of green food dye. Just like the ancient Celts used.
Therefore she needs the recipe for corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and Irish Lamb Stew.
So what does a woman who has 420 cookbooks cluttering up her house, and is married to a former chef who can make any of the recipes listed in them off the top of his head, do when she needs a recipe?
She goes out and buys a cookbook.
On Wednesday the 16th NewWifey(tm) came staggering up the stairs under the weight of sacks of potatoes, lamb, cabbage heads, carrots, leeks, and beer. And a very slim book on easy Irish cooking.
I knew that pointing to any of the 18 Irish cookbooks we already already had would prove nothing to her, and might be life threatening to me. I retreated to the Man Pit until the cooking storm blew over.
Eight hours later our St. Patty's dinner was ready, and I sat down to one of the most beautifully staged tables DangerHouse has ever seen. NewWifey(tm) had broken out her grandmother's delicate lace tablecloth, on top of which were arranged bone china tureens and covered serving platters. A Pilsner glass of green beer was set at each plate.
I put on the novelty green bowler she had left on my chair, and dug in.
NewWifey(tm), hair matted, dripping sweat, and plastered in innumerable technicolor stains, hovered over my shoulder as I took a forkfull of each dish in turn. She wouldn't be able to relax enough to eat herself until she got approval from The Master.
I shovelled in a mouthfull of the Irish Stew first...then some corned beef...a slice of whole wheat Irish Soda Bread...and finally...a nibble of - god help me - boiled cabbage and Colcannon.
(Colcannon, if you've so far mercifully escaped having it served to you, is a potato concoction dreamed up by an irate Irish cook to serve to the guy he just found out has been banging his wife. You take perfectly servicable potatoes, mash them with a little cream and some scallions, then mix in...seaweed. Realizing the logistical complications an American cook might have trying to find fresh North Sea seaweed, NewWifey(tm)'s new cookbook suggested the preferred alternative: boiled cabbage. Which she enthusiastically went with.)
NewWifey(tm) looked at me anxiously, still holding a wooden cooking spoon. "...well?"
I took my first slug of beer.
"It needs salt."
"SALT?! Which one?"
"All of them...including the soda bread."
I ducked, but not *quite* fast enough. She still managed to knock my green bowler off with the spoon.
"How the hell can they need salt? I followed those recipes to the letter! Your taste buds are just shot from all those dust mites you've been ingesting for the last 8 hours in the Man Pit. Gimme that fork!"
She stooped and tried a sample of each dish on my plate, then stood and stared at the far wall while she chewed.
"I don't understand. There's no actual food flavor in any of these! What did I do??"
She went and got her new cookbook and handed it to me to see if I could figure out what went wrong.
I read through the recipes and said, "It doesn't look like you did ANYTHING wrong. You followed the recipes perfectly, but look at them: every single one has you boil the ingredients for 6 hours, then throw the ingredients out and serve the dish towel. You wanted authentic Irish cooking, and that's what authentic Irish cooking is. The trouble is you've gotten used to your husband's Mediterranean cuisine, which uses - gasp - spices. I mean, seriously, this Irish "stew" is a pound of cubed lamb, a half a chopped onion, one carrot, a HALF TEASPOON of salt, and 6 cups of water. Boil for 4 hours and serve. Are you really suprised that after all that it tastes like...water?"
She sat down and stared at the expanse of beautiful boiled sponges in front of her. Then she picked up her beer and said, "Call and have a pizza delivered, will you? I'm gonna go take a shower."
An hour later we were facing down two double-cheese-with-pepperoni's from Vinny's and working our way steadily through the remaining beers .
After her third bottle NewWifey(tm) finally spoke. "I can't believe my ancestors ate that crap. Talk about bland - the fork had more flavor than the food on it. No wonder they drink so much." She looked dejected, then sighed. "Would you...would you doctor up the leftovers tomorrow and see if you can make them taste like something? I hate to waste all that money...."
I knew how much it chafed her to admit defeat, so I agreed and the next day set to work. The first and most important improvement: I threw out the cabbage and the colcannon, then made a fresh batch of braised sweet cabbage and classic mashed potatoes. The corned beef needed the least work - just a brief steam over some boiling beer and spices, to replace the flavors that were boiled away. The stew got a serious makover; the water was strained off and boiled with some browned lamb bones and aromatics to make a lamb stock, then new lamb and some spices were added, along with wine, potatoes, a miropoix, and a good thickening roux. I couldn't get NewWifey(tm)'s face out of the bowl when I served it.
So all in all, St. Patty's Day itself was kind of a bust. It may not have been as spectacularly disasterous as in previous years, but it still fell far short of NewWifey(tm)'s dreams of culinary glory.
On the other hand, I wasn't particularly disappointed.
I mean...I got to fuck a redheaded Irish gal at the end of the day. Don't get me wrong, I love food. But I still have my priorities straight. And hey - it's on her list!
Sláinte and Guid Forder, Paisan!
(Dangermix update: I mailed out a batch of cd's last week, then yesterday found a stack under my desk I'd forgotten. Sorry if you're one of those still waiting on it. These will go out on Monday. BTW, the total is over 200 now! You're all vultures, you know that?)