Thursday, April 8, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #8: Secret's in the Sauce....

It started with the banana pudding in the kitchen.

It ended with three stereotypical looking mobsters sitting around a table.

And in the interim there were those two garbage bags full of buttered popcorn.

One might wonder: three mobsters sitting around a table? That’s out of the ordinary. But really, all I was thinking at the time was: does anyone know if we have any extra plastic forks left to scoop out the pudding?

Around here it’s normal to walk into the kitchen and find not just homemade pudding sitting out, but three rather large alligator shoe, fedora clad, brown suit wearing Italians hanging out by the coffee machine. Scenarios such as this present themselves more often than not in a production office; I’ve learned to expect the unexpected around here.

What wasn’t normal were those two garbage bags full of popcorn. And when I say garbage bags, I don’t mean those flimsy bathroom garbage bags that fall apart in minutes, I’m talking hefty duty white compactor style garbage bags. Filled to the brim with delicious buttery popcorn. Good morning!

I saddled up right next to the popcorn and buried a bowl in the bag. I continued this about seven times that day, six times the next, and five two days later. The popcorn still remained.

‘Hey, YO!’ I say to a crowded kitchen of coworkers, ‘Where the heck did this stuff come from anyway?’

The entire room shrugs. Though it never occurred to me to ask before, it appears it didn’t occur to anyone else either. I pop another few pieces in my mouth when a coworker walks up behind me and asks how I am enjoying the popcorn.

‘Oh, it’s stale now, but I can’t stop eating it.’

‘Nice, I’m glad a brought that in then.’

‘YOU brought it in? Man! That was so nice; where’s it from?’

‘I found it on my way to work.’

I pause, popcorn kernel in my right hand held mid air on its path toward my mouth.

‘Wait, wait, wait you…you found it? What do you mean you found it?’

‘I mean, I found it. In front of a Salvation Army. It was on the street and I didn’t want it to go to waste.’ His face registers stone cold honesty.

‘You found this (dramatic pause) on a Chicago street (even more of a dramatic pause) in front of a SALVATION ARMY?’


‘Ohmygod,’ I put the three words into one phrase. ‘Ohmygod, I’ve been eating this for the past two days! This was, like, someone’s garbage!’

I am horrified. Shocked. Appalled. Mostly because this isn’t the first time I’ve actually eaten something from the garbage.

When I was a child, my parents built a beautiful greenhouse on the back of our home. My mom filled it with incredible plants, pottery and art. Some of my favorite memories from my youth involve crawling around on the Spanish tile, looking for remnants of a civilization that seemed so far away: a footprint, a tile layer’s instrument. In one orange square, I swore I could see the outline of a rat. I imagined the doomed creature had wandered over the tile when it was drying and gotten stuck in the mix. This provided me with hours of entertainment.

The only downside to the greenhouse was that it often provided an easier way for tiny bugs to sneak in and under the house doors. Which is exactly what happened one hot summer in 1986 when my parent’s experienced something of an epic ant invasion.

These tiny Napoleons were set to conquer all, beginning with our cupboards and moving on to the large cabinets that held the cereal, crackers and jams. I remember my mom standing next to the cabinet and tossing box after box of foodstuffs into the garbage. With each load, she would haul one bag out to the garage cans and walk into the house for more. She must have told me to scoot out of the house and find a friend to play with, because this is exactly what I did. I recruited my neighbor, ‘J, and together we found the perfect place to play…the very dark garage. My mom recalls walking into the garage, flipping the light switch, and finding her four year old daughter and best friend standing over the metal garbage cans. We were caught. Completely. When the light hit our eyes, we froze like deer in a moment of fearful paralysis.

My mom’s first problem was that she threw away the Lucky Charms. Second, she didn’t throw the box deep enough in the garbage that nimble fingers couldn’t reach into the opening. So there we stood, J and I, the portrait of trouble. One hand deep into the cardboard box, the other quickly shoving the tiny marshmallows into our mouths; crumbled parts of cereal dribbling down our respective faces. When she put me in those bows and cute dresses, I don’t think she ever assumed her child would turn out to be a hobo.

More than twenty-three years later, with my hands stuffed in a garbage bag filled with…garbage popcorn, I recall this image. Have I learned nothing?

And then I ponder: I am the woman that my husband married in hopes that I would surprise him by selecting healthy food and creating nutritious meals for a future family? Based on my past behavior, it’s more likely that I’d stand outside a KFC and wait until someone tossed his or her half eaten bucket of seasoned chicken to bring home dinner.

I’ve only had a few occasions to cook for my husband anyway, and on the plus side, I didn’t burn down the house down, (though I did get dangerously close to setting off the fire alarm). I once managed to make some very delicious steaks, but I’m pretty sure they were so good because I marinated them for seven hours in my secret marinade: a bottle of expensive red wine and three cloves of garlic. Success! I had solidified that he wasn’t a vampire, and he couldn’t leave the house to go on more crazy errands that night since he could have easily been arrested for public intoxication.

I also created a new recipe for… green beans! Sounds simple, right? But it isn’t so easy to make healthy green beans as utterly delicious as say, Key Lime pie.

‘Woah, these are great!’ he exclaimed.

‘Secret’s in the sauce, honey,’ I laughingly offered with my best Southern drawl.

I tell him that I just added a little key lime seasoning. What my very health conscious husband didn’t know was that once I boiled them, I left them to cool off in an entire tub of whipped butter.

“See! I can make healthy taste divine!” I sing song.

It is entirely possible he may prefer the garbage route. Garbage or coronary, garbage or coronary. These are probably not the typical decisions a newlywed husband encounters when deciding upon dinner. When he said he married me because I was unique and eccentric in a charming and endearing way, I’m fairly certain he didn’t understand the full spectrum of the phrase eccentrically endearing. Now, perhaps he does. His wife has both the tendencies of Paula Dean and a desperate hobo. Yes, charming indeed.

As I stand there slowly lowering the popcorn kernel away from my mouth, I think about how I need to get a little more serious about both determining the source and type of food I’m consuming. While I may be happy to take my luck for a spin on the garbage wheel of fate, (I’ll take whatever’s behind door number two! Don’t tell me! Nooo, don’t tell me!), my husband is probably not. Besides, like moving in together, picking out hand towels and kitchen appliances, I’m pretty sure getting married to someone means that you should also stop eating out of, or simply, garbage.

So that is why roughly two days later when I walk into the kitchen for a morning snack and am sidetracked by a rather rude mobster looking man who offers me a crude wink, a ‘How you doin’, sweet cheeks?” and a slow look up and down, I smile. I put on my sweetest vocal affectation and say, “Well, I’m doing just wonderful this morning, thank you for asking.”

And then I pause, “Have you tried the popcorn? It’s delicious.”

After all, it would just be such a shame if it went to waste.


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