When I worked in the city, I took the train everyday. Over the years, I became friendly with a group of women who took the same train. We would chat and occasionally go for coffee or a drink after work. In this group, there was a woman named Jeannie. She swore she never cooked. Ever.
I asked her how she managed to raise three children to adulthood, but she said she only bought stuff frozen, boxed, or ready-made.
Once she told me that she had made a BLT, so I jumped on her with, “So, you must have made bacon.” No. She used Bacos. Bacos! Those awful-tasting bits of simulated nastiness that are supposed to pass for bacon in salads or on baked potatoes. She may as well have used Beggin’ Strips.
It came to pass that Jeannie’s son became engaged to a young lady from Thailand. It being traditional that the groom’s family host the rehearsal dinner, we just assumed that it would be held in a restaurant.
Jeannie told us that in an effort to please the fiance and her parents, who were here from Thailand for the wedding, she was going to have Thai food. Now, our little town has two excellent Thai restaurants, so we thought, what a nice idea. The bride’s family would surely appreciate the gesture, and enjoy the food and ambiance.
We were not prepared for Jeannie’s announcement that she herself was going to do the cooking. What? We all thought she was kidding, and laughed uproariously. Jeannie’s idea of going all out was toasting an Eggo, not just thawing it.
She wasn’t kidding.
In the words of Mary, another member of the Train Gang, “What the (bleep) are you thinking, Jeannie?”
Her rejoinder was, “Well, Janet says if you can read, you can cook.” All (accusing) eyes turned to me.
Well, yes. I had said that once or twice. I knew that somehow, this debacle in the making was going to be my fault. Scene closes.
Note: I’m no Julia Child, but I am a competent home cook, enjoy doing it, and have been for 40+ years. Even so, I would never dream of preparing a meal for a large crowd, knowing nothing about the techniques or ingredients of another culture.
Scene opens. Jeannie’s back yard. The Train Gang had been invited to this event, much to our chagrin. Jeannie said she wanted us to come for “moral support.”
The yard did look lovely. There were candles floating in the pool with flowers around the bases and torches for lighting. There was a nice bar with some fruit, cheese, and assorted crackers (from Stop & Shop.) Cocktail hour went really well, and everyone was enjoying themselves until the buffet table was laid and all were called to dig in.
Now, I could make this story a lot longer, but won’t. I’ll just come out and say it. It was the Hindenburg of meals. Jeannie presided at the head of the table, serving people. She had made Thai sticky rice and had decided to pack it in loaf pans. The operative word here is “pack.” She unmolded them for ease of serving. Have you ever had a slice of rice? You haven’t lived.
Next stop – curry! Two kinds! The first one was red, and Jeannie said it may be “a little spicy.” I don’t know what was in it, but it must never be allowed in the hands of America’s enemies. It gave new meaning to the term, “not a dry eye in the house.” There was no full-on weeping, but tears were shed.
Oh boy, another kind of curry! This was he sweet one. Jeannie had discovered the whole sweet-salty-sour-bitter balance thing and this was to counterbalance the heat of the other curry. She had doubled up on the pineapple concentrate and condensed coconut milk.
If you weren’t already crying from the red one, you could have gone into a hyperglycemic shock from the white one. In the name of all that is holy, give me another slice of rice!!
I wish I could report that no one got hurt, but Jeannie was unaware that if you are working with peppers that are really hot, you have to be careful about touching your eye area. One half of her head was bandaged as the capsaicin had temporarily blinded her in one eye.
The wedding was the next day, and although the swelling had gone down somewhat, the blisters were still weeping and she had to keep the bandage over it. Leaking pus can be very off-putting in a receiving line.
Her solution was to borrow this very elaborate hat from Mary. It had flowers and a veil, which she tilted rather rakishly, I thought.
The doctor at the emergency clinic had prescribed some pretty powerful pain meds, so to get a mental picture, think of Bluebeard celebrating Gay Pride Day, stoned out of his mind. That’s the most accurate description I can think of.
Oh, well – the wedding went off without a hitch, and Jeannie did regain full sight in that eye. So, all’s well that ends well, but I’ll bet that dinner was the talk of Bangkok for some time.