Monday, March 1, 2010
It's a crystalline moment: Joanne, I, and Waitress Becky with Braids are standing next to our table at Outback and all three of us have our hands on the plate holding the remains of the Awesome Blossom. Our hair is catching the light in halos. You can almost hear the angel choir.
"So, do you want this wrapped?" The spell is broken. "Why of course!" Joanne says. She's the one who paid - she had a gift card with a history and asked me to dispel the bad juju by sharing the meal with her. I chime in, "Well, yes! Are there people who don't want their Awesome Blossom wrapped?" Becky with Braids nods. "Some people don't." Joanne and I with knowing looks judge these people as being younger and not ever having been broke. "We'll take it home." And Becky with Braids disappears to the back and returns with our receipt and a styrofoam clam full of goodness. All the way home in the dark, while Joanne drives and talks about how she gave the gift card as a gift and someone regifted it to her and how odd she felt about that, I am wondering whether Becky with Braids put some sauce in the container. And whether Joanne really wants that onion.
We arrive at Joanne's house and she invites me in, and I dutifully carry that the brown bag into the house. I put it on her kitchen counter and go into the living room where we do what women our age do - we chat about our families and gifts and regifting and how the world feels a little strange now that we are older and more alone than in the past. Like that onion, we peel the layers off our lives and examine them, showing them to each other, validating each other. Yes, certainly, that was a hard time. No, no one really knows until you live through it. We could not become anything else than what we are, having gone through what we did. It's nice to acknowledge that in each other. We both get tired at the same moment, yawning, and I call it a night and head to my car.
I'm about to get in when Joanne comes out of the house waving the bag. "You forgot the onion!" She read my mind! I hug her, thank her and drive home.
The next morning, I open the bag. It's a huge portion of breaded, deep fried onion. I wanted it, now what am I going to do with it? If I put it back in the fridge, I might ignore it til it is spoiled and smelly. It needs crisping to be palatable - some fat has congealed on the breading in little white lumps. I wonder at how they cut them so perfectly, so that the petals fall apart enough to be coated. I wonder at how my mind can take in this minutia in the morning yet miss rather obvious other stuff. I decide to stop wondering and plug in the George Foreman grill.
I got this grill because my oven is still broken, a metaphor for my indecision over what to do with my kitchen and my life. Instead of getting a new oven, I keep defaulting to contingencies: stove top broken, heat water in microwave for tea, stew in crockpot, roast in roaster, and now with the grill I bought for four dollars at the Goodwill, grill in George Foreman. So far I have made chicken wings, chicken thighs, and something I am calling a paffle, which is half waffle (because the grill has grooves) and half pancake (because the grooves only go one direction),some delicious stuffed french toast. I smashed and grilled some leftover sandwiches, too, which were outstanding. When I think about it, this is like that onion. Too complicated, too layered and just a little bit over blown. Maybe crazy. I am beginning to worry that I will always be a person that finds contingencies and ways around and alternate plans, preferring leftovers and hand me downs to new, thus wandering through life like a beagle through a cornfield. I am so used to things not working out the way I planned, I begin planning with Plan B, and realize there will be a C,D,E, and probably an F. I know there are people who do not accept anything but the original conception of an idea. I lived with one. Well, more than one. They rail against any deviation, refusing to change course one degree. It looks frustrating and hard to me, and I know that it works for them a lot because I adjust. Someone has to.
I must initiate then, as an antidote to the contingency response. I am starting with the windfall onion. I cut a hunk off, slap it on the grill, close the lid, try not to look at the huge amount of orange grease pouring out onto the counter because a four dollar grill does not come with a drip pan, and start to imagine what would go well, flavor wise. Egg for mellow mildness to compliment the strong, salty, crispy, peppery flavor of the onion. A little cheese for smoothness and to glue the whole thing together. Toast, to provide a foundation. And yes, Becky with Braids did include sauce, bless her heart. The whole mess is done in minutes. It's really good. Worthy of a name. Contingency Breakfast Sandwich.