April 19, 2006
So I burned off a lot of my beard and mustache on Easter Sunday.
There I was trying to cook, in three hours, the entire Easter meal by myself. I hadn't planned to do it single-handed but my wife, the beautiful Judy Licht, was off playing tennis. My son J.T., age 17, who just got his driver's license, was lost somewhere in Montauk and my designing daughter, Jessie, age 20, who usually helps me, decided she would rather color Easter eggs than help me cook.
As she and a friend were deciding which color Easter egg was their favorite, I was wondering about all the wonderful things I could do with Jessie's college tuition money, which I planned to take back and spend on myself.
There I was running around the kitchen alone feeling like a butch Cinderella.
At one point I was chopping three different kinds of cheese. Putting a marinade for the lamb in a blender. Running to the stove to stir the mushrooms, making the salad dressing, mashing potatoes, slicing mozzarella and breaking eggs for my Grandmother's delicious "Panzatotto" recipe.
I looked like the episode of "Lucy In The Chocolate Factory" from the old "I Love Lucy" series. I was slitting little holes and stuffing garlic slivers into the boned leg of lamb. I was cleaning, slicing, and sautéing mushrooms. I was cooking Brussels sprouts. I was making a mixed green salad and preparing a special elbow macaroni and cheese dish from a great recipe I found in Gael Greene's sexy new book. Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess.
I must admit I bought Insatiable thinking it was going to be a book about sex. I was checking out the new digs at Book Hampton and saw the key word "insatiable" on the cover. If you're a "perv" like me, the word "insatiable" tells you the book is going to be about sex. What the hell else is there to be insatiable about?
So while I was in the bookstore, I opened to this page in the book and there is Gael Greene telling the story of how, as a young reporter, she (how can I put it delicately, er . . . er . . .) SHE SCREWED ELVIS PRESLEY. It seems that when the deed was done, Presley, who didn't even know her name, asked her if she would call down to room service and order him a fried egg sandwich. Needless to say, I bought the book.
When I got home and started to read the book I was delighted to find it wasn't just about sex it was about food and sex. Whistling the tune Julie Andrews sang in The Sound Of Music,†"These are a few of my favorite things," I devoured the book in one sitting.
The stories of Ms. Greene's incredibly rich sex life were wonderful, but her recipe for macaroni and cheese was priceless.
I decided to add the dish to my Easter menu.
One of the ingredients in the dish was bacon. So I cubed a thick cut of bacon, jumping up to run around and tend to all the other dishes at the same time.
I realized at one point that my Grandmother cooked for her entire family without any help, but then I realized she didn't give herself a three-hour deadline. In fact, if I remember correctly, my Grandmother started cooking her Easter meal the day after Christmas.
Now my stove has this grill with three burners underneath. I tossed the bacon on the grill, turned up all three burners, looked under, and there was no flame. My pilot light was out. Come to think of it, Judy has often said my pilot light is out but that's another story.
So I rushed around looking for a match. Just then the pot of water with the elbow macaroni boiled over. I went to put that burner out, when I hit the plate of mozzarella I had balanced on the side and some of the pieces hit the floor. From out of nowhere, both dogs ran to eat the mozzarella. Screaming at them, I realized that I didn't have a match, so I ran to another room and reached for a fireplace lighter that never seems to work. Now I was cursing and using language one should never use on Easter Sunday. I rushed to light the three jets that had been wide open for five minutes and didn't hear the flames start, so I bent down to look to see if they were lit. Just as my face got close to the opening, I heard this WOOSHHHH and an explosion of flame came rushing out. I felt it hit my face. It was gone in a second. A few minutes later, my daughter Jessie came in holding a fuchsia colored egg and she asked if she could help. Then she looked at me and said, "Dad, what happened to your beard and mustache?"
I had been walking around wondering what was burning. When I looked at the mirror, I realized what was burning was me.
Oh by the way — the meal was delicious.
Beards and mustaches come and go.
The memory of a great meal lasts forever. †
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