"There's a Christmas party in my building," said Ned. "It might just be a bunch of old ladies in Christmas sweaters, but I'd like to go," he said, because apparently Ned is into the elderly. I would love to say "present company excepted," but has anyone seen my Pond's Cold Cream? Perhaps it's next to my Gold Bond Medicated Powder.
I hope to never have to find out what Gold Bond Medicated Powder does for you.
Anyway, I popped a Doan's Pill and said I'd be there. "We, um, have to bring an appetizer," he warned.
See. Neither Ned nor I are what you'd call spectacular in the kitchen. Just this year he's started cooking for himself, in an attempt to be healthy, and he is often calling me with this right hand burned to a stump or from the ptomaine poisoning ward or whatever. There is TOTALLY a ptomaine poisoning ward. What do you mean?
For his birthday, I gave Ned the book How to Cook Everything, which I own and have used twice. He has actually used his, because it shows you how to, you know, cook everything. Because ask me how to soft-boil an egg. Ask me to blanch something. Although, really, does anyone know what that means? Does blanching mean to be old and slutty with something, like the Golden Girl?
Which brings us back to Ned's all-old-girls-all-the-time Xmas party he was so enamored with.
"We could make bruschetta," he said ambitiously, perusing the book. I mean, I was ready to have a fever for the flavor of a Pringle. What'd be wrong with a nice plate of Pringles? You know you'd eat them.
So at 4 p.m. yesterday, Ned and I met up at the grocery store. Between the two of us we had one tomato and half a thing of garlic that may or may not have been from the Pleistocene era. Sleestax love garlic.
What is sad about me is I have melded, you know, actual history with Land of the Lost.
Which brings me back to Ned and me at the grocery store.
"Where do they KEEP tomatoes?" I wondered, seeing as my trips to the grocery involve stampeding to the coffee and dog food aisles. Finally we found this whole section--did you guys know about this?--where there are bananas and green leafy things and even carrots not in a teeny bag. I just learned those teeny carrots I buy in the bag once a year when I decide to be a responsible eater--and apparently "responsible eater" involves letting teensy bags of carrots rot behind the pudding cups in your fridge--did not GROW that way. They are regular carrots some yahoo shaves down and sells.
Did you guys know about this?
So there they were, the tomatoes. "These are those antique tomatoes I told you about," said Ned, fingering these large sort of imperfect red fruits. The sign right next to him read, "Vintage tomatoes," but who was I to quibble? They also sell them on eBay, the antique tomatoes. "These belonged to my grandmother. She kept them with her through all of WWII."
My POINT is, and I hope you're sitting down, Ned could not just, you know, PICK a tomato. Dudes, he HANDLED every.single.one. of those antique tomatoes. "Do you, you know, realize you have a cold?" I said, having picked out a tomato IN MY MIND 70 feel-ups ago. Those tomatoes are gonna need to marry Ned to make honest fruit out of themselves.
"Do you know what you need to do when you bring home produce?" Ned asked a trifle testily. "You need to WASH it." He sniffed as he inspected that antique tomato like he was going to have it bronzed for posterity. Finally,
we got the perfect ultimate tomato, and I grabbed a garlic ("That's IT? You're just TAKING ONE without looking?" Ned was incredulous.) and we wandered over to the peppers. The instructions or whatever had said you could add a hot pepper "to taste." Do you have ANY idea how many DING DANG kinds of hot pepper there are? Where were we, Jalisco? What Southern person do you know who has ANY tolerance for the spicy food? I mean, they're less wimpy than Midwesterners, but not by much.
Forty-six centuries later, and boy were those knights cute, Ned selected what was the superior pepper.
Dear People of Greensboro. I am sorry you ALL HAVE COLDS NOW thanks to Handsy Ned. Love, June.
For some reason, we also had to get orange juice, I guess due to Ned's cough and cold, and I am surprised he didn't open and sample each container, but he did not. When we got up to check out, I said, "Is that juice leaking?" and call me Sherlock, but the part where the WHOLE CHECKOUT COUNTER WAS NOW! AU JUS! was kind of tipping me off.
My best friend in college was a French major, and the cafeteria lady in our dorm would ask her, "You want that with au jus?" and it was fun to watch her hives. She was au hives.
Anyway. I ran back to get different juice, then I went back to the checkout counter and just decided to buy it myself, because Ned was done and had paid for everything and I was just trying to save time.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?" screeched Ned. Apparently he'd already paid for the bad one, and now we'd paid twice and dude, I still don't understand it all, I just know we had to go to the goddamn customer service counter and do all sorts of crap and then we walked away, forgetting the juice.
So, he suggests we make the bruschetta at my house. "Really? Cause, have you MET my kitchen?"
"You HAVE to have more stuff than I do," he said, I guess thinking that as a girl I'd have gathered, I don't know, forks and tongs and stuff.
We get there, and the first thing Ned wants is something called "a serrated knife."
Have you guys heard about this?
Then we actually find a cutting board, which, who knew? Someone must have bought one for me in the hopes I'd become a real girl, or maybe Marvin left it here, or it was the immaculate cutting board or something.
"Now we need a cookie sheet." Somewhere between the store and my house, Ned had become bilingual. "A what, now?"
I looked in the dark, cobwebby, never-visited cupboard under my counter, and lo and behold, there was this long flat sheet--have you guys heard about these?--and I pull it out and A HUGE DEAD COCKROACH CAME WITH IT!
"ACCCCKKKKKCCKKKKK!" I screeched, throwing the sheet to the floor.
It was at this point the dogs left the room.
Thank God manly Ned was there to clean up the bug carcass. I pranced around the kitchen flapping my hands and shuddering for awhile, then wondered, "Why out of all the kitchens in the world would a cockroach try this one? He must have been terribly disappointed. Did he have a sad expression when you threw him out?"
I refused to put the bread on that cookie sheet, even though Ned said washing it would remove all, you know, bug molecules from it. "We'll just use tin foil," I said, which I own because--yeah. I have no idea why I own tin foil.
"You have olive oil, right?" Ned sounded worried. "Pfft. Of COURSE I do. Tallulah gets a drizzle every day on her food."
Ned stopped with the sad small steak knife he was using to cut the bread. "You what?"
"It's good for their coat. I drizzle a little olive oil on their kibble."
Ned seemed to look at me for a long time. "We need to brush olive oil on the bread, front and back."
"...brush?" I have an absolutely beautiful Mason-Pearson brush I bought for $100 back when I had money. I wasn't sharing that with any bread. "God, even I have a brush," said Ned, growing increasingly fussy.
Finally we put the bread in the broiler to--yeah, I have no idea why we were putting bread in the broiler. All I know is I had to call my mother, because they said to "dice" the antique tomatoes, and we didn't know what the difference was between "dice" and "chop."
Then I'm afraid Ned and I might have started the kissing, because what's sexier than me in my element, there, in the kitchen, when--
"OH MY GOD!" I screeched, stampeding for the oven.
Say, you know what I'm sure broiling the bread was NOT supposed to do? It was not supposed to turn the bread black. All of it. Black.
I lifted the tin foil out of the broiler, and it was hot, so I said, "OHMYGOD!" again and flung all the bread all over the floor.
The dogs returned to the kitchen.
So that's about the time Ned and I returned to the store, but we were gonna have to go anyway because we'd somehow missed the part about the recipe calling for--have you guys heard about this?--red wine vinegar and/or lime juice.
We headed from the store to Ned's, because he was finally getting a visual on what "I don't cook" means when I say it, and things were going pretty well with the "serrated knife" and the "brushing" and so on, when we realized we'd left the pepper at my house. See, he assumed I wouldn't have stuff like SALT AND PEPPER, which I do, and I even have the band Salt-n-Pepa at my house from time to time, pushing it real good, but due to his supreme cautiousness and misguided ability to gauge what I would and would not have, Ned left his ONLY thing of pepper with me.
"How do you grind peppercorns?" I asked my mother, who was on the other line with AT&T to see about changing her number.
Finally, we had to GO DOWN TO THE PARTY, ask the old ladies with Christmas sweaters if we could borrow any of their pepper, and stampede back to Ned's to finish the fucking fucking fucking bruschetta.
We returned the pepper.