Why is it that some people are always inclined to try something new when company is coming?
19. The Hasty Meal (March 2013)
Mister was at an evening class, and Mister’s parents were due to arrive at the same time that Kate was supposed to go pick him up from school. The issue was dinner. Mom and Dad Miller had asked (and were told) that dinner would be served after they arrived—it was usual, anyway, for Kate and Mister to eat after his class ended around 7:15. But here she was, at 7:00, still deciding what to make! She had put on some rice earlier, thinking that a quick and easy stir fry might be in order. But then she remembered how her own father disliked Chinese-style food, and thought that maybe she had better try something else, just in case. She flipped through a mental rolodex of other quick and easy options. First up was chicken in a skillet with mushrooms and onions and seasoning…hmm. She got out the mushrooms and onions.
Then, without fully thinking about what she was doing, she pulled out a large casserole dish, buttered it, and spread the rice around the bottom. She quickly cut the chicken breasts into thirds and squished them into the rice. She looked at the clock—7:10. Class was getting out and the Millers would arrive any time. Thank goodness the rice is cooked! she thought. It was time to leave, so she sped up her motions and made instant decisions. Two onions, quickly chopped, were spread on top of the chicken. A package of mushrooms, chopped (not too prettily) were tossed on top of that. Salt and white pepper over the whole thing. Then a last, daring inspiration: a third cup of port, a half cup of cream, and three-quarters cup of milk, with two eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper beaten in. She whipped it up, poured it on top, shoved it in the oven, and ran out the door.
It was only in the five minutes that it took to drive to school that Kate’s mind slowed enough to consider what she had just done. Never in her life had she tried to make a casserole of that sort. Normally, she would have researched online half a dozen different recipes before trying something wholly new. Eggs—why had she thrown in eggs? To thicken it of course, but what if she should have put in more…or less…or made the liquid to egg ratio different? And she hadn’t tasted anything! She always tasted her food when she was making it, and definitely before serving it. What if it was bland? Kate hated bland food. Now she was stuck, with nothing else to serve but a new, untried conglomeration, for her in-laws to eat on the first night of their visit, after a long journey! Kate sighed. This could be such a disaster, she fretted.
Mister hopped into the car, and Kate instantly spewed her worries. “I don’t even know what I was thinking!” she exclaimed over and over again. “Why couldn’t I have just made something normal?!” Mister looked at her calmly, totally unphased by his wife’s hysterics.
“Dear, I hope you realize that you have a perfect trek record,” he said slowly. “You have never made anything bad, no matter how crazy the experiment.”
Kate paused a moment for the words to sink in. It seemed almost arrogant to accept such praise, but she had to admit that it was true. Nothing she had made in their three and a half years of marriage had ever turned out badly. Of course, some were better than others, but nothing bad.
She nodded, “Thanks.” Then she thought of the oven, and added, “I hope I don’t start tonight.”
Mister’s parents arrived just after Kate and Mister pulled up to their door. Kate tried to give them an enthusiastic greeting, but in the back of her mind, she was wondering what was going on inside the oven. Twenty minutes of anxious fretting and fidgeting and trying to make small talk, and finally, they were sitting down to dinner, asking a blessing and digging in.
“Hey,” said Kate, “this is really good!” She was flabbergasted.
Mister merely shook his head. He didn’t even need to say, “I told you so.”
“Yes, it’s excellent,” Mom Miller agreed, “Did you try a new recipe?”
Kate laughed heartily. “In a manner of speaking…”