Monday, June 7, 2010

In preparation

When I asked Evan what he wanted for his birthday, he said, “I want to make lobster for us. I am happiest when we are all together having French food.”

“That's when I’m happiest, too,” I said.

And so it was settled. For Evan's birthday, we would make lobster.

Blake had two friends from medical school, Blanche and Rose, coming into town for the weekend. Rose’s one-eyed on again off again boyfriend, Willie, was supposed to join us as well; but there was trouble in lover’s paradise. I, for one, was quite disappointed to hear of their falling out. Lobster Thermidor, beautiful china, fine wine…and a guy who lost his eye to a pair of brass knuckles outside a bar in Texas. Hell, that post practically writes itself.

Willie’s place was taken by Evan’s friend and coworker, Woman Who Looks Just Like Reese Witherspoon Except Chinese. (Reese, for short.) Reese is a fabulous dinner party guest because she is forever raising interesting philosophical questions like, “What is the meaning of the phrase, What’s up chicken butt?” Suddenly, you find yourself wondering, what is the meaning of that phrase? And then, it’s not long before you’re thinking the hokey pokey may actually be what’s it’s all about.

Evan proposed a five course meal for the six of us: French onion soup, salad, Lobster Thermidor, chocolate cake (which has a proper name I can never seem to remember), and finally, just to ensure that none of us would be able to get up from the table in our own strength, a selection of cheeses.

Evan made the soup and the cake the day before. The cheese was crafted by a couple of French farmers with a gift for mold preparation. That left the salad and the lobster. The salad is nothing. I mean, it didn’t taste like nothing. It was delicious. But, when it comes to preparation, the salad is nothing. Evan wiggles his nose like Samantha from Bewitched and a salad appears. So, in short, that left the lobster.

Julia Child’s Lobster Thermidor is no joke. If you had something else you thought you might like to do in the five and a half hours before dinner, if you balk at the thought of brutally murdering helpless animals in your kitchen, or if you weren’t already planning to repaint the walls after the mess this makes, just close the cookbook and walk away.

I can't claim that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I told Evan I’d make lobster with him. He and I have done this once before. Granted, my memory of that experience is a little hazy, what with the five and a half hours of wine consumption that went along with the cooking. But, I do recall that the whole process took for-freakin'-ever. I had to grab the dog and go cringe in the other room while he did the killing. And four days later, I was still picking lobster out of my hair. I also remember that Evan and I had a fabulous Lucy and Ethel making French food.

This time, we would be doing it for twice as many people. Oh yeah, and I would be post call. This is to say, I would be doing all of this on about two hours of bad sleep.

I worked Friday night and ignored just enough pages to get that two hours of bad sleep. Saturday, after a short morning nap, I poured myself the first of about seventeen cups of coffee and headed out to pick up some flowers. Evan wanted tulips. Though it’s not really tulip season, I just sort of assumed, since it was his birthday, there would be tulips.

I stopped by the small flower shop near my house, walked in, and proclaimed, “I’ll take a dozen tulips.”

The woman behind the counter, a true retail professional, immediately apologized for something that couldn’t possibly be her fault. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but tulip season is over. ”

“I know, but it’s for a dinner party and it’s his birthday,” I said, as if that would make the requested flowers shoot out of her ass.

She smiled and, as if trying to distract a toddler on the verge of a tantrum, suggested, “Perhaps we could find something else?”

I sighed pathetically. “I guess I’ll take the orchids." She offered to pick them out, mostly because she imagined me destroying two dozen stems to get to the five I wanted. As she pulled out the bucket of flowers, Evan called me in a panic. He had been to three grocery stores and there were no lobsters. He was driving an hour away in a last ditch effort to find some. Dinner would be late. If they didn’t have lobsters the last place he knew to look, our lives would be over.

I hung up with him and started calling a few of the places I thought might carry them. Suddenly, I was distracted from my conversation with a local market by the crappy flower selection happening on the counter in front of me. Covering the phone, I reminded the florist, "These are for a dinner party."

"Yes," she said with a patronizing smile.

I clarified, “A dinner party with gay men.”

“Oh,” she sighed, as she laid down the tragic stems she had selected. “I guess I’ll start over.”

I smiled an equally patronizing smile and then resumed my conversation with the fish monger. I found an alternative to suicide just in case Evan's road trip didn't pan out and, a few minutes later, left the flower shop with orchids fit for a queer eye.

Evan’s pilgrimage was a success. In the end, cooking only got started about an hour behind schedule. I won’t bore you with all the details of lobster preparation…mostly because scant sleep beforehand and a bit of wine during left me with little memory of much of the day. I will however, offer the highlights: the murder, and the table setting.

First, the murder: Killing lobsters brings out something in sensitive, sweet, tender-hearted Evan. All the hostility, antagonism, bitterness, resentment, and general acrimony that the rest of us slowly leak out onto florists, meter maids, and loved ones, Evan quietly stores up and unleashes on sea life. The fact that those lobsters didn’t happily swan dive from the grocery bag into the pot of boiling water really pissed him off. As he abandoned the tongs and, with his bare hands, reached into the bag to wrestle them into a watery grave, he yelled, “Do NOT fuck with me. I have had a hard year.”

He has had a hard year. It’s not easy to be in love with a resident. Unfortunately, the call schedule doesn't taste right boiled, so the crustaceans had to bear the brunt of a year's worth of frustration.

Second, the table setting: A dinner party is not only an excuse to unleash wrath onto undeserving shellfish, but also to dress Evan and Blake’s beautiful new table with style. I admit I had to Google images of a proper place setting and watch the How to Fold a Napkin YouTube video seven times for six napkins. But, the lovely result was well worth this uncultured nitwit's exhaustive research.

“Oh T, it’s so beautiful,” Evan said.

“It is,” I agreed. I stood at edge of the table and smiled at him. It has been a hard year. There were parts of it you couldn’t pay me to do again. But, as I looked at that lovely table and my dear friend, snippets of every meal he and I have poured ourselves (and bottles of wine) into wafted over to me. I swallowed hard to keep from leaking a few tears.

After the table was set, Evan and I went to work on dressing ourselves in style (or, at least, in less shellfish). I, for one, spent not a few minutes picking lobster out of my underwear and spackling concealer over the dark circles under my sleep deprived eyes. While we were getting ready, Blake came home with Blanche and Rose. The three of them had been to the mall and to Sex and the City 2. When I stepped out of the bathroom, the Golden Girls introduced themselves. Then, they grabbed a leash and Blanche's dog and headed for the door.

“Um...I walked both dogs an hour ago,” I said.

“There’s a hot guy in the parking lot,” Blanche explained, as she adjusted her bra and made haste.

I would have joined them, but everyone who lives in Blake and Evan’s building has already seen me in all my sexiness. Rainbow pajama pants, a hugely oversized hoodie, pair of men's flip flops, and a baseball cap? Yep, that was me, dog-sitting and seducing the neighbors.

While the girls headed out to hunt the locals, I chatted with Blake about their day. He bitched a bit about how long they were at the mall and about how Rose embarrassed him by bartering for a deal on a bedazzled phone cover. I said something agreeable like, "Oh yeah, that would be embarrassing," all the while thinking, "Who are you kidding?" If those two are Blanche and Rose, Blake is their Dorothy. Dorothy was never so happy as when she was annoyed with those girls.

I just got through chatting with Rose on Facebook. I told her they must come back more often. I say this for purely selfish reasons. Hanging out with them, Blake looks like I feel when I’m with Graci. It is nothing but fun to see.

I’ll say more about the rest of the evening later. Right now, I have to go admit a patient.

In the meantime, to summarize dinner: Completely worth it. Worth the time. Worth the toasty seat in hell we reserved for ourselves with the brutal murder of helpless animals. Worth the lobster in my underwear.


Eric said...

Awesome, T, and really, really funny.

Happy Birthday to Evan.

.j.william. said...

I'm pretty sure Julia Child said that lobster in the underwear is the only way to get it right. I think it's in the footnotes of the recipe somewhere.

Susanlee said...

Sounds like the best birthday party ever!

John Gray said...

caught your blog througheric's

excellent post, funny and well written, Ilook forward in reading a few more when I have the time

Maria said...

I have killed lobsters once. It has traumatized me forever.

MmeBenaut said...

I've eaten a few lobster thermidors in restaurants and I can thoroughly recommend it as a superb dish but as for boiling the lobster myself .... oh no, the thought of lobster in my underwear is simply too much to take.

Welcome back little one; your quirky sense of humour as you live alongside your neighbours has been sorely missed.

And, I bet that table looked gorgeous.

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