Shelly and I invited some good friends and their young son over for dinner and a movie last Friday. Earlier that week, while pretending to be an extra-wonderful husband, I told Shelly, I would "do everything." I wanted her to relax and enjoy the evening for a change. Normally Shelly would be the project manager and main operative for this sort of event. The only condition of my offer was that Shelly would need to accept a lower-than-monkeys-can-do-it standard of quality for the evening. She unwisely accepted.I follow in a long line of incompetent males. I think we were evolutionary evolved to die under the hooves of enraged bison, but since these are extinct, we pretend to make a living in analystical sciences. You know, the kind of office work that requires counting paperclips and arranging pencils on the desktop. I understand from science that women are good at domestic chores because they were evolved tending the home hearth with a kid on one hip and a stick to stir goulash in a pot. I know this makes me a Neanderthal, and therefore technically extinct. But that is my experience.
By way of background, you should know that I have never tried to plan and execute a dinner party. I usually do the fetching, cleaning and chopping. As it turns out, despite the vastness of my fetching, cleaning, and chopping experience, I have learned nothing whatsoever about planning and preparing a meal.
I'm also not observant. If I eat a wonderful dinner, my memory is something along the lines of I think plates were involved. So I couldn't rely on any form of my experience to pull this event together. But how hard could it be? I figured I could use the Internet to teach me everything I needed.
Yeah, I own a restaurant. But that would be cheating.
I started by Googling "tri tip" because Shelly had helpfully mentioned that as an easy thing to cook on the gas grill. I didn't have time to research what parts of the steer comprise the tri tip, but obviously the tips are its horns, nose, tail, and penis. As a vegetarian, I didn't want to know which three of the five possibilities were involved in the tri tip. That was none of my business, frankly.
I Googled and Googled until I had some idea of what I wanted for the side dishes. I drove to Whole Foods and loaded up my basket with red potatoes, green beans, garlic bread, and an unidentified part of a dead mammal. I also bought a small basket of fruit for my own dinner. There was no way in Hell I was making two separate dinners just because one of us was a vegetarian.
The roasted red potatoes called for rosemary. I couldn't find any in the spice rack, but I remembered we had planted an herb garden out back. I didn't have time to Google an image of rosemary, so I grabbed the first thing that I couldn't positively categorize as "not rosemary" and hoped for the best.
In the end, I produced a tri tip that had the look and texture of Ty Cobb's baseball mitt, some undercooked potatoes flavored with an unidentified weed, over-spiced green beans, and some cupcakes from the store. The garlic bread never made it to the table.
I tried to cook the garlic bread on the grill but that turned out to be a tragic miscalculation. As soon as the bread touched the grill it went up like a Taliban weapons depot. If I ever decide to fashion a crude bomb, I plan to make it out of garlic bread.
I kept track of my hours spent for the planning, shopping, cooking, and cleaning. It took me about 12 hours to produce a very bad meal for five people. On the plus side, don't expect to see The Dilbert Cookbook anytime soon.
Despite no culinary skills I've managed to feed myself mostly tasteless meals for the last 40+ years. I marvel at any woman who can cook. I put it down to their larger corpus callosum and a greater ability to multitask. I recently made brownies and discovered that after "cooking" they ran like porridge. Only then did I notice the fine print about "adding an egg" during cooking. I'm not incompetent. I had checked the recipe and bought eggs in preparation. It is just that, when holding a spatula in one hand and trying to read the back of the box in the other, this overloaded my multitasking capabilities and I overlooked the bit about adding the egg. Oh well.