Anne is helping a friend move today, so she went down to The OC last night, in order to avoid the hellish traffic that exists on the Southern California freeways between 6am and 10pm just about every day of the week.
This meant that Nolan and I were alone last night, free to watch the original Rollerball while dining on Bachelor Chow (Last night's particular version of Bachelor Chow took the form of a quesadilla, dressed up with diced Ortega chiles, fresh pico de gallo, and of course jalapeños … now that I think of it, this is more like advanced Bachelor Chow.)
But the tale I wish to spin for you today is not about how much we loved the art direction in Rollerball, or how I burned the everlivingfuck out of my hand on the pan while cooking what ended up being a fantastic dinner. No, the tale I wish to spin for you today is about something that happened earlier this week, when Anne was home and we made an absolutely sensational butternut squash soup using a recipe in the Whole Foods Cookbook.
"It's going to be cold and windy tonight," Anne said that afternoon as we stood in the kitchen and contemplated dinner.
"It's cold and windy right now," I said.
"Yes. That's how I know it's going to be cold and windy tonight. It feels like fall, so I want to make something hearty for dinner."
"Something Autumnal?" I said.
"Something that screams HARVEST!" I said, punctuating the word with jazz hands.
"Sure. Whatever. Let's make some soup with that squash you bought yesterday."
I picked the squash up off the counter and cradled it in my arms like it was a baby. "Do you want to be soup? Do you want to be soup?! I bet you'd be a delicious soup! Yes you would! Yes you would! Yummy, yummy soup!"
Anne and I have been together for 14 years, married for just a few weeks shy of 10 of those years, and it wasn't until that moment that I learned just how much she doesn't like it when people use baby talk with squash. (So just keep in mind, kids: even when you're old like we are, and you've been together for something in the neighborhood of 5000 days, there are still exciting new things to discover about each other.)
A withering glance was delivered, an apology was issued, and a squash was gingerly placed back on the counter without any cooing. Then, a list of needed ingredients was made, taken to the store and filled, and 40 minutes later we were peeling and chopping vegetables for our soup.
Our dog, Riley, came into the kitchen while we worked. "HEY GUISE I WANT TO GO OUTSIDE!"
"No you don't," I said, scooping seeds out of the squash, "it's cold and windy out there."
"WANT TO GO OUTSIDE! OPEN DOOR NOW PLEASE OKAY!"
"You'd better let her out," Anne said.
"She's just going to turn around and come right back in," I said, but I let her out anyway.
A gust of cold wind blew some leaves into our kitchen, and I closed the door quickly behind her. "Holy crap, it's cold out there," I said.
I took four steps back toward the counter when I heard Riley scratching at the door. I gave Anne the "told you so" look (I learned it by watching her, I swear!) and let Riley back into the house.
"OH MY GOD YOU GUISE IT'S SO COLD AND WINDY OUT THERE!" She said. "DO NOT WANT!"
"I know," I said, and went back to preparing dinner. i didn't bother with the "told you so" look, because dogs just aren't that perceptive.
Now, before I continue my little tale, I should point out that my dog didn't actually speak. Truly, a talking dog would be a wondrous thing, worthy of a special report on the news and millions of dollars in television contracts and merchandising for her owner. No, my dog doesn't exactly speak, but over the years, I have developed an ability to pick up on and translate certain canine behaviors. Okay, back to business:
The vegetables were chopped, the spices were ground, the broth was poured and they were all combined in a large stockpot. Within minutes, our entire house was filled with the delicious and comforting aroma of our impending HARVEST-style meal.
Did I mention that I made Guinness bread? I don't think I did. I guess I should mention that, because it's important: I made Guinness bread, and that was also in the oven while the soup cooked. Seriously, the only thing our house was missing was Hobbits.
While the soup cooked and the bread baked, we cleaned up after ourselves. You know, like grown-ups do. "I think we should puree the soup when it's done," Anne said, as I washed a cutting board.
"That's going to be a problem," I said, "because we only have the blender and it's not nearly big enough for all this soup."
She looked at me, incredulous. "I'm pretty sure we don't have to do it all at once."
I set the cutting board into the drying rack.
"Okay," I said, "we'll puree the soup in the blender."
I thought, but did not say, "WILL IT BLEND?!"
"What are you giggling about?" She asked.
We had enough time to play a quick gin rummy before the timer went off. We've played a lot of this game, recently, which Nolan, apparently unfamiliar with bridge, has declared is "the official game of old people."
"You take the bread out of the oven," I said after Anne extended her undefeated gin rummy streak well into the double digits, "and I'll start ladling the soup into the blender."
It was a foolproof plan, and the first two cups of soup to be pureed came out beautifully. It smelled so good, my stomach said, "HEY WIL PUT FOOD IN ME RIGHT NOW."
"I'm working on it," I thought (please note that I can talk to my stomach with my thoughts) as I began putting the second batch of soup into the blender.
"You're putting way too much soup in there," Anne said.
"I'm fine," I said, eager to get the pureeing over with so we could get down to the eating part of our dinner. "I'll just hold the lid down when I turn it on."
I pressed the lid down tightly and held it down with my left hand. With my right, I pressed the button marked "puree."
I probably would have taken a moment to stare at the resulting butternut squash soup geyser, if the explosion of hot liquid hadn't burned the hell out of my hand, face, chest, and arm. I probably would have admired the CSI-like splatters of orange puree on the wall, the coffee maker, the microwave, and the refrigerator, if I hadn't been frantically stabbing at the buttons in an effort to silence the whirring blades which created it. But it wasn't until the moment had passed – really just a few seconds of chaos – that I was able to pause and appreciate what had just happened. I mean, it's not every day that a geyser erupts in my kitchen. Thank Steve the Fruitbat.
I turned around and looked at my wife, who appeared to have chosen a seat outside of the splash zone. "Um. I didn't think that would happen."
I grabbed a hand towel and wiped myself off. "Yeah. I, um. I thought it would blend."
"Oh it blended. It blended everywhere."
I wiped soup off the wall, the coffee maker, the microwave, and the refrigerator. Our dog came in and helped me clean up some spots I hadn't noticed on the floor.
"I'm sorry about the mess," I said, trying not to sound too much like Han Solo, knowing that I was dangerously close to (deservedly) getting The Wrath.
"Just clean it up so we can finish this and eat, please."
I did, and then I made sure that the remaining soup was pureed no more than 16 ounces at a time. I also held a towel down over the lid, just in case. When we finally ate our bowls of soup – with thick slices of Guinness bread, I might add – it was truly wonderful, and exactly the kind of HARVEST (with jazz hands) meal we wanted … even if I was still cleaning up bits of dried soup off the freezer and dishwasher this morning.