After four years or so of festivities, tonight I served the last Birthday Dinner at the old place.
any culinary hoops to make sure the Birthday Celebrant is happy, if it's within my skill range. Two birthday dinners requested Potatoes Anna this year -- which I had never made before -- and I was quizzed sharply about their absence tonight. (You have to ask for Potatoes Anna, to get Potatoes Anna.)
Tonight's menu was (out of season) caprese salad (the only salad this Ex -- the lucky halftime Ex -- will eat). Then seared ahi marinated in blood orange and sesame oil (if I observed April Fools, I suppose I would've marinated it in Gatorade a la 30 Rock, but I don't observe April Fools). We had sugar snap peas in lemon butter. And roasted fingerling potatoes with fines herbs. Dessert was dropped off at the door by one of my very thoughtful girlfriends who has stepped up and assumed the oversight and operation of my social life, so I can burn the midnight deadline oil at the office.
This would be the fourth birthday dinner I've served this Ex in this place, along with half a dozen at the last place before I sold it and moved. One year it was an entire beef tenderloin; one year it was a tenderloin salad with a barefoot contessa gorgonzola sauce; one year it was a center cut pork chop, butterflied and stuffed with walnuts, apples, and feta (that was the year we found out, the hard way, he'd become allergic to nuts). A couple times it was elaborate-yet-simple Italian menus, brought home from his many trips there. A lot of times it's just a re-imagining of surf 'n turf because deep down in his little Bonfire of the Vanities heart, he's a meat 'n potatoes boy.
This year was a good menu, and we ate it surrounded by packing boxes and bags filled for the Goodwill. I was a little wistful. I don't like this place, at all, but I do love this neighborhood more than any I've ever lived in. It's not unusual to make half a dozen trips to the Disco Kroger during dinner prep, for any of the 437 ingredients I've forgotten, always one at a time. It's my Pantry -- a Pantry that charges me, admittedly, but it's a pantry that's always open.
After dinner, I ran out to the car to gather up his birthday surprises, and in the short time I was outside, he had finished cleaning the entire kitchen (though he does scrub throughout the process, as do I -- we're compatible on that one thing). The only question he had when I walked back in was, "where do we keep the baggies?" Uh, in the drawer, next to the fridge, where they have been for four years. I don't move 'em around. "Oh, I'm sorry," was his response, "you must be confusing me with your thoughtful Ex, the the one who could cook AND clean."
Nah. I can keep em straight. In the kitchen anyway. As I finished reorganizing the leftovers and dishwasher to suit me, he joked, "oh, it has to be soooooo complicated" (knowing how much I hate that word).
The bickering continued as we walked up the stairs to watch Gran Torino. "Seriously," I protested. "There is nothing complicated about me. How little does it take to make me happy?"
"About as little as it takes to piss you off," was the answer that came so fast, I suspected it wasn't the first time he'd thought of it. I just meant that I am embarrassingly Simple to please -- it all comes down to ample food and Ring-Toss. That's about it. He conceded the point. And then he opened up his briefcase and started getting out presents. "Oooooooooooh, Shiiiiiiiiiiiiny!" was my response, promptly forgetting whatever he said next.
I just remember that over the course of Gran Torino, the BlackBerry text-tone went off seven times (I had set it earlier to hear it in a construction zone and forgotten to turn it back down.) After the eighth, he said, "Fine. Check it. Then Turn. It. Off." Most of them were related to Easter Brunch coordination, and the others detailed the Food Gays' computer meltdown crisis -- which, for some reason, made him suspicious. "You just lost your book's entire hard drive," he said, "why would anybody ask you for computer help?"
"Oh, they don't want me," I reassured him. They just wanted the keys to my geek-husband, whom, I happened to know, was in the middle of moving, which is what I was trying to text back to them, while he kept continuously interrupting and distracting me.
I finally told him to knock it off (it's not the first time he's gotten The Tap), explaining how much they all already hate him for losing the Big Game for us on Saturday by skipping the Lucky Halftime Ritual. He'd better not push it.
"I know," was his answer. "I can't believe you didn't just replace me."
"How do you know I didn't?" I said.
"Because we lost," he said.