This romance starts, as many good ones do, with one too many glasses of wine.
My golden harvest soup came out perfectly. Not so much the other stuff. Oh you would like it all, but you dear reader, aren’t a certain Australian television chef with whom I’ve been embroiled in a two year feud.
Holding back tears, I’m trying the various dishes. The golden harvest soup is a fucking poem–a perfect combination of pears stewed with white wine and sweet potatoes cooked with cider and cinnamon sticks. Blended together with white pepper and a dash of cream to finish and it tastes like some kind of squash that exists only in heaven.
But the rest was, I realize, is not spectacular. Okay, maybe spectacular, but not spectacular enough. The clock is ticking, he’ll be here any minute. I’ve already gulped down one-too-many glasses of wine. I need to go change. The duck is good. I have my own secret methods for making a superior duck. Boil duck to open pores in the skin. Then use a hair drier (you heard me) to dry pores open. Immediately, you see the fat start to render. The melting fat bastes the duck while it cooks so it’s juicy and succulent, crispy on the outside skin. The grease splatters everywhere of course, and just wrecks my oven, but it’s worth it. Lingon berry compote goes with the duck. Very simple, perfectly prepared. Yet not…suddenly, it’s just not mind blowing enough.
I turn my mind to the mache salad with golden beets and walnuts. Meh. The panko and crushed almond yam cakes with mushroom ragout is…sigh…a hair too salty. Arg! Holding back tears of defeat, I zip up my hides-all-flaws stretchy purple dress, apply killer burgundy lipstick, and await death. Okay, not death, just the firing squad.
See, there’s this certain Australian unbelievably good looking chef who has resented insinuations I’d made on my foodie blog. Just a little innocent comment about some chefs being all form over content. His ranting in the comments section was good for the blog, and we got some excellent newspaper coverage, but then during a TV show, he really went for the jugular. He said he really wanted was to choke the life out of me, but he’d settle for having me eating every one of my words. So the throw down challenge was Thanksgiving day at his house. It was a good meal, I’ll give him that, despite about forty ingredients going into every component of every dish. Then he insisted that while I could write about food, while I could appreciate food, I could never ever in a million years make anything half as good as he could. Ha! I issued my challenge for the next Thanksgiving, and we spent the year happily carping and trading insults getting magnificent press coverage the entire time. Now I had a meal that anyone reasonable would love–anyone but a three star michelin chef with an ego the size of Tasmania. The doorbell is ringing — must go.
What a crazy night.
The first thing that happened is that I opened the door to someone who was not the Australian chef. Not as tall, not as freakishly good looking, but with similar crazy-gorgeous brown bedroom eyes. You know what I mean, the droopy lids suggesting he’s seen it all, but he understands.
“You are not XXXX!” I said, (sorry, but Mr. Australia’s lawyer now says he’ll sue me if I use Mr. Chef’s real name).
“No, I’m his brother Tony. XXX is in the hospital having his gall bladder removed.”
“That’s awful!” I said, relieved to the bottom of my heart.
“Yeah, well, he thought it could wait. Apparently not. So he sent me with his regrets and this bottle of champagne so–”
“Come in–” I interrupted.
“Smells good in here,” he said, taking off his coat.
“Would you like to stay for dinner?” And maybe for breakfast? I thought, though that was probably the wine talking. Or not. This guy Tony was infinitely more to my taste than his ken-doll brother, the spray tanned wonder of television.
“No, but thanks. I’ve got friends who are expecting me.” Tall enough so you’d need a couple running steps to jump his body, he was scrumptious. Not that I feel I can be picky, since I have been told I look like a plump Italian peasant girl. My last boyfriend said I should be barefoot in a vat of grapes, stomping away. In other words, shiny black eyes, shiny black hair, a lotta curves, a lotta passion. We’re a dime a dozen in NYC.
“Come into the kitchen big boy, and tell me all about it,” I said my voice going a little Mae West-ish on me. Yes, the wine was in control. Tony was polite enough, telling me about big brother keeling over on 5th after a chinese meal and being rushed to the hospital. I tskked for a second then changed the subject.
“So what do you do Tony? In the food biz ?” I asked, standing close to him to hold my spoon next to him as he tasted the soup. I made sure to keep my eyes on his chin. I needed to retain my coordination.
“I’m not. Look, you made all this food, why don’t I call my friends and cancel?” he suggested. Those bedroom eyes only flicked to mine once then went back to the soup. Once was enough. I smiled involuntarily at him and stumbled into him only once on my way to pop the cork on the champagne bottle.
Great relief combined with concern for XXX (I mean I’m not totally heartless) combined with the wine in a rush. Words left me for the next ten minutes. Tony talked to his friends on his ‘mobile’ as I wandered the kitchen, talking to those bedroom eyes with my own.
I am not with men a lot these days. I like men, but I can’t stand modern dating conventions. Call me crazy, but I’ve never appreciated someone wanting to sleep with me, yet being downright touchy about waiting to get to know me a little first. It’s much worse in the city, of course, but I maintain my standards. I expect a guy to have my name firmly stuck in my brain before I’m willing to go down on him. There’s nothing worse than hearing “Oh, that feels good….Cindy?” I just won’t go there. This, my close friends say, is why I’m still single at 34.
Dinner was really going along fabulously at first. Tony showed every sign of wanting to get to know me. I mean, I’ve seen interrogators use similar tactics. I did not mind at all. It was refreshing. I wanted to get to know him deeply too. Underneath our in-depth conversation about careers, family, NYC vs. Sydney, etc, was the speculation, the flirty play. Tony is an anesthesiologist, divorced with a particular love for rugby and my way of hair-drying a duck. Yum.
Then around the time we finished the duck we started joking about my feud with his brother. Tony liked to yank his brother’s chain, it turned out. He was delighted with my blog. How we took a turn from all this delightfulness into our own spittingly furious disagreement is hard to analyze, especially with my hangover this morning.
Okay, somewhere around the yam patties and mushroom ragout I probably made a joke about XXX’s extravagant love life. Yes, and Tony responded that if you stacked all XXX’s one night stands from end to end, they go from port of Los Angeles to Hobart and back.
Then I made some quip like I wondered with those eyes of his how far Tony’s one night stands would stretch? Then I maybe said something harsh and judgemental about one-night stands. Tony took offense.
Spitting at each other furiously, we debated the matter. Tony asked if I seriously thought two people using each other for pleasure was really so wrong?
I said no, not necessarily. Unless what was called “two people using each other for pleasure” was really almost always “person A using person B for pleasure, while person B silently fumed because she wasn’t getting off and she was going to be expected to lie about it.” That situation was in fact very wrong.
Tony claimed that never happened where he was concerned.
I said these are total strangers–so how do you really know? At that point I was so drunk. I challenged him, mainly by taking the cherries out of the pie on the table and throwing them at him. He responded by…well, we wound up on the dining room table, and there was a food fight going on, but somehow my dress also came off.
Since I was definitely getting off, I had to give him that one. However, I still stuck to my guns. When I could stop panting I said that while I’d never had a better Thanksgiving in my life, (true enough) it was a struggle not feeling sad, because now he probably wasn’t even going to call me. He gave me this look that I couldn’t really make out because there were two of him so I closed one eye, but that didn’t help. An hour later when he was getting me into my bed I thought I heard him say something like, after all that arguing, you think I don’t get it? I know you’re a woman that you don’t have a one night stand with.
So now I’m really happy, which is making me grin, which is really hurting my head.
I keep thinking about our food fight on the dining room table and its consequences. Yes, the consequences.
a) I’m crushing out on him so bad I can’t stand it
b)I’ve got some flowers that were delivered oh so early this morning. (Being woken to the sound of the buzzer was horrendous) The card says I agree. Best Thanksgiving ever.
c) I’ve also got an email, a text, and yes, even a Western Union telegram from him–all underscoring the idea that he’s ready to move forward whenever I am. Clearly the guy likes to yank my chain.