‘Tis the season! The season for parties and great food and cooking and time in the kitchen. And spending time in the kitchen, is a time that I am always fearful of hearing words I have come to dread there : “Oops”, “Ooopsie”, and (God forbid) “Uh-oh”. Because “Oops”, “Oopsie” and “Uh-oh” in the kitchen inevitably means bloodshed.
Beloved Wife is a bleeder. While paring vegetables she also tends to remove body parts. I praise her as an astonishing chef, capable of cooking with one hand tied behind her back, usually because that hand has been heavily bandaged. She has relationships with hand surgeons in five states, with a long history of meal prep interrupted by impromptu trips to the emergency room though on at least one occasion she yelled, ‘Just put a tourniquet on it. I’m falling behind schedule!”
One Thanksgiving she was particularly proud of herself when the attending physician in the emergency room congratulated her for getting there, “before the rush”, Thanksgiving, he said, being only second to Super Bowl Sunday.
Curiously, her grandest moment was not cooking related at all. All she wanted was a drink of fizzy water.
I was in Maryland, she in Austin. It was a Tuesday, three days before her half-century birthday, which was to be celebrated at the finest restaurant in Austin on Friday evening when I would fly in that morning. On this Tuesday evening, as we did almost every evening when we were apart, we settled down to our phones to chat for an hour or so of Cabbages and Kings, and about our day. We had gotten through the cabbages and were not yet to Kings when on the other end of the line I heard what for all the world sounded like an explosion. Joking, I said, “Jeez, who set off the hand grenade?”
Not joking, she said, “Uh Oh. I’m bleeding. I have to go.” Click.
One hardly knows what to say when that happens.
I thought on it for about ten seconds then called back. Sure enough, blood was flowing in Austin. In the flurry of excitement and blood she had the good sense to call her neighbor buddy Ruth to drive her to the emergency room, but not before while holding off the flow of blood herself, ordering Ruth to clean up the blood on the floor (“I didn’t want to come home to a bloody house”).
I finally learned what happened. While chatting she got a hankering for some fizzy water–a bottle of Perrier she had some time before put into the freezer to chill.
A bottle of Perrier. A glass bottle.
When she pulled it out of the freezer she noticed it had already frozen, so she decided to thaw it. She put the bottle of frozen Perrier in the microwave.
A glass bottle of Perrier. Frozen. Microwave.
As the lady tells it, “The moment I hit the button I knew I shouldn’t have done it.”
Alas, a moment and a half after she hit the button the bottle exploded, blew open the microwave door, and showered Beloved with glass shards. Uh-oh, indeed.
At the emergency room the doctor patched her up, and assured her that almost everything was going to be just fine; almost everything except for her hand, and as he put it, “I can’t find the extensor tendon.” Not the words one wishes to hear in the emergency room.
The doctor couldn’t find the extensor tendon because a shard of glass had sliced that sucker and like a rubber band, it had snapped up into her arm. Oila ! And that is how Beloved managed to have hand surgery for her birthday.
I arrived in Austin in time for her surgery, which went perfectly (he found it). Afterwards, heavily bandaged about the hand and arm, and heavily fortified with what some folks refer to as really good drugs, Chef One Hand announced to me and our two besties, Deb and Rod, that she still intended to go to dinner as planned. We tried to dissuade her, but she was having none of it.
“By God, I’m going to dinner for my birthday!” pretty much sealed the deal. And off we went to Chez Louis, home of fine food, great wine, and staggering checks. Hardly had the menu arrived when we noticed at the table next to us a drama was unfolding.
At this point let me interject here that among all things in the world there is nothing My Beloved finds more interesting than overhearing other people’s conversations in restaurants. I say it’s rude, she says it’s sociology. And at the table next to us, some serious sociology was about to happen.
An attractive young woman and a clearly well-heeled older man were at the table, where said young woman had both hands flailing with verbal filleting knives. It was The Big Breakup and it was happening in no uncertain terms in technicolor with 8×10 glossy aerial photography, as it were. We were transfixed.
Well, three of us were, because one of us (and you know who) had her back to the table and couldn’t see what was going on. Chef One Hand may have been buzzed, but she knew what she was missing and she wanted in.
“Somebody change seats with me”, she whispered.
“I can’t see. What’s going on ? I can’t see ” she said, growing increasingly agitated.
Still, no response.
“DEB! Switch seats with me !”
“Shhhhhh…” shushed Deb. Things were getting good over there on yon table.
“AW, C’MON ROD. SWITCH WITH ME!”
“Tommy boy, want some more bread ?” spake the Rodfather, his eyes riveted on the public execution going on next table, where she was now cataloging his failings in splendid detail.
“TOM! Dammit, Change with me.”
“Sorry, Babe. This is WAY too good.”
Then in a moment of utter desperation, her voice ringing across the restaurant above the drama of The Big Breakup, with a stamping of feet she wailed, “BUT ITS MY BIRTHDAY!”
It has been 23 years since that evening. 23 birthdays have passed. She still has not forgiven the three of us.