Paisley never goes out of style

Chicken Pie 2007

And neither does good, stick-to-your ribs comfort food.

Once again, the first Saturday in November finds Linda and I elbow deep in food as the First Congregational Church has their annual Chicken Pie Scholarship Dinner.

I wrote about this last year, and it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of work in preparation and cleanup. We served about 160 dinners and raised about $1,200 for the church scholarship fund.

Not as many leftovers this year, which is just as well, considering we’ve both done so well about losing weight. And just like last year, I received a number of compliments on my apron. In fact, so many people commented that I began to wonder if they were being facetious.

Naw. Not after I took such pains to coordinate the apron with the rest of my outfit, right?

Anniversary afterthoughts

I knew that I would be expected to say a few words at the anniversary party. I spent some time thinking about what to say; should I be funny? Pithy? Should I look for quotes from famous people like Bacall and Bogart? Read a poem? Present a Powerpoint slide show?

While I was thinking about it, I happened to be talking to a young man who did some landscaping and handyman work around their house. We were chatting and out of the blue he mentioned “Your mom and dad must really be in love… I hope that I’m that lucky when I’m their age.” He went on to describe how one day he was working in the yard and my mother drove in from shopping. She carried a few items from the local flea market, remarking that she knew my father would appreciate them. Anyone who know my father knows that he practically lives at the flea market in Woodbury; and in fact, has been known to do his Christmas and birthday shopping from there.

I thought about this for a while and it occurred to me that perhaps the secret to a long marriage is not big houses, vacations, cars, or New York shopping sprees; rather, it’s about those little things that we do every day to show our partners how much we appreciate them. Sprinkling a little cinnamon in their coffee, picking up dinner on the way home, tossing in a load of laundry or doing the dishes, or doing any other of those dozens of little things that help to lubricate a relationship.

Anyone can buy a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day or take you out to a fancy restaurant for a birthday dinner. But once a year expressions aren’t enough to sustain; it takes a more serious commitment to get up twenty minutes before your partner six or seven days a week to make coffee or turn up the thermostat so the bathroom is warm when they head for the shower, or pick up a package of their favorite items (be it food, tools, or underwear) when you notice that something needs replacing.

Maybe the secret to any good relationship isn’t about the big things at all, but about the little, everyday things, because that’s where most of us live – not in the dozen or so holidays, but in the other 350-odd days, year in and year out.

Anniversary Aftermath

The remaining surviving members of the Accuosti anniversary reunion party attacking an unsuspecting herd of Belgian waffles at brunch the next morning. The traditional method of silently surrounding the waffles and then ritually drenching them in fruit syrup and whipped cream has taken many Belgian waffles out of the gene pool over the years.

Nature – red in tooth and claw. No, it’s not pretty, but life must go on.

‘Twas grilling and the slithy toves…

From Movable Jewel comes part of the secret to Bro. Don’s “Top Secret” ribs:

“It starts the day before with selecting the best meat I can find.”

From Ashida Kim’s “Zen Koans:

31. Everything Is Best

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

“Give me the best piece of meat you have,” said the customer.

“Everything in my shop is the best,” replied the butcher. “You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best.”

At these words Banzan became enlightened.

It’s interesting to hear a bunch of middle-aged guys talk cooking. Invariably, it involves grilling.

This is a picture of the birthday present I bought myself last year. All stainless – although you’d hardly know it after a solid year of use; right now it’s pretty black inside. Black, however, is much better than how my twelve previous grills have ended up. I’m one of those guys who grills all year – summer, winter, monsoon season, dust storms, blizzards, plagues of locusts – and predictably I’d end up replacing the inner parts by the end of the year. Last year, I decided that I needed a more professional model.

I shopped for a month before deciding on this grill from Costco. It is very well made, and when compared to grills in a similar price range, the workmanship was superior to some of the better known brands. So I grabbed the shop pickup truck and went to Costco on a Friday afternoon. I wheeled a cart down to the outdoor department, and tried to drag one of the boxes onto the cart.

It wouldn’t budge.

I figured that it was hung up on the skid, so I tried the next box.

It moved about two inches and stopped.

A guy behind me who had previously voiced some good-natured jealousy that I was buying the rather pricey piece of cookware, pitched in to help. A third guy saw us struggling, and joined the battle. We managed to drag the box onto the cart. Just as we got the box situated, I saw the shipping label. Remembering that there are 2.2 lbs. in a kilo, I did the math in my head.

“Holy c*w!” I exclaimed, “No wonder we couldn’t drag it. The grill weighs 300 pounds!”

The two guys shook their head and wished me luck. At the checkout, I asked for help getting it on the truck, and after securing it in the bed, I drove home.

That’s where the fun began. The pickup has big tires and high springs. There was no way that I was going to lift it off the bed. I managed to drop the tailgate, and used a piece of plywood as a ramp and slid it to the ground. My wife was smart enough to come out just as I finished.

“How the hell are you going to get that up to the deck?” she asked.

Good question. The deck was in the back of the house, up seven steps, then up another two.

“No problem,” I assured her, “I’ll open the carton and just bring the pieces up and assemble it on the deck.”

I cut the metal straps and pried open the crate.

The grill was already assembled.

That’s right; in an age in which one needs an engineering degree to put together bookshelves and magazine racks from Ikea, my new grill was almost completely put together. I actually had to dismantle it in order to get the weight low enough to manage it up the stairs. For a half hour I undid screws and bolts, and managed to drag the now-200 pound behemoth around the back of the house. My wife, ever resourceful, remembered that she needed to clean the kitchen. I, stuck on the bottom stair to the deck, balanced the grill with one hand and called the house phone from my cell phone.

“I’m stuck,” I told her, “I need your help.” She reminded me that moving heavy objects was not in the wedding vows – her way of hinting that I was going to owe her a vacation, or at least a weekend painting the closets. She came out to the deck and while I held the back end of the crate, she lifted the front up one stair at a time. At the top of the first deck, she declared her part of the process finished, and retreated to the safety of the kitchen. Somehow I managed to get the crate up two more stairs and across the deck.

By that time it was 6:30 pm, and she poked her head out to ask if I could fire it up to cook some burgers for dinner. I reminded her that one third of the grill was still in the garage; we sent out for pizza and ate outside. That is, she and our daughter ate while watching the floor show called “Daddy trying to reassemble the grill before it’s too dark to see.”

By 9:00 pm, the grill was finally reassembled, the gas hooked up (I have not one, not two, but three tanks of propane – as I wrote, I do a lot of grilling), and the bugs were biting. I fired up the grill and admired the ceramic searing burner and the smooth, shiny stainless grill. I rummaged through the freezer and found a few frozen hot dogs; moments later they were sizzling… well, mainly that was the sound of the ice melting.

That’s when I discovered that “stainless” does not mean “immune to discoloration.”

And if anyone knows how to clean a stainless steel grill, I’d appreciate any advice – as I mentioned earlier, it’s beginning to look like it came out of an old diner. But that’s okay – after well over a year of near-continuous use, nothing has burned out, worn out or broken off.

I wish I could say as much about the griller as I can about the grill.

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