Isn’t it interesting how the mere mention of something can bring memories showering down on you. I’m on another quick trip to my sister’s and the night before I left for her house she sent me a text message asking if I liked shrimp dishes with pineapple. And just like that, I was back in the summer of 1977.
That summer Star Wars was exploding at the theaters, the Commodores were crooning Brick House, and I was having a very special guest over for dinner. I had been living out in the country with my sister, but that summer I found a charming summer sublet in Ann Arbor and decided it was time to dazzle Mr. Smith by inviting over for a home cooked meal. The only thing was, I didn’t know how to cook! When I was living at home with my parents and my mother was out for the very occasional evening, I would prepare hot dogs with Kraft cheese slices wrapped in a crescent roll and baked to a beautiful golden brown. I thought I was quite the chef.
I wanted to up my game a notch or two so I asked (badgered) my sister about what I should make. We decided on sweet and sour shrimp with brown rice. I shopped for my menu, cleaned my apartment and added colorful fresh flowers. The evening of the dinner finally arrived and since I was just a touch nervous, I starting sipping a little wine. I was pretty confident about throwing the veggies and shrimp into the wok to saute, but I was concerned about the rice. I knew the correct proportions, to bring it to a boil, put the lid on and cook for 45 minutes. What could go wrong?
When Mr. Smith arrived I handed him a glass of wine. He started flipping through my record albums to choose some tunes for us while I worked away in my tiny kitchen getting dinner ready. Everything was going swell until smoke started rolling out of the kitchen, prompting Mr. Smith to poke his head in and say “Do you know what you’re doing in there?” To this day I swear my sister never told me to turn the heat under the rice down after it came to a boil! Instead of lovely fluffy rice I had hard scorched ugly rice! An ugly disappointing mess. I felt my attempt to appear sophisticated and chic had failed miserably and that instead I looked like a bumbling idiot. Ultimately, we dined on shrimp and vegetables and a second bottle of lovely wine that Mr. Smith had brought. He was very gracious about my lack of culinary skills and we had a splendid evening. Perhaps he knew that night that if we married, he would need to be the main cook and lucky me, he has become a fabulous gourmet partner who never burns the rice.
Luckily my sister also did not burn the rice and our dinner was fabulous. Two shrimp dinners decades apart joined by memories.
C’est la vie.