The Theme Nite

Yes, I do the Pinterest thing. For several years I’ve been looking for some sort of online bulletin board and Pinterest pretty much works for me. I use Listhings for sticky notes. I haven’t found something that combines both services that I like. I don’t have the reaction to Pinterest that some people do which is there are all these projects they’ll never get to, their houses will never be as nice or organized as the ones they pin, and who cooks this stuff anyway? Yeah, I pin some crap, but I’ve also used most of the tips I’ve come across and made several of the recipes. The first one I made was for the homemade Reese’s Eggs. Reese’s Eggs are the far superior of the holiday-themed Reese’s shapes. Just don’t bother. The Eggs are on sale like two packs of six for $3. The homemade ones are really buckeyes. There is nothing wrong with a buckeye; but let’s be clear, it ain’t a Reese’s Egg.

Pinterest is helping me get my dinky little laundry closet more organized and useful. I use it to pin color palettes for, among other things, the blog. I don’t really use it for clothes because, let’s face it, I get dressed up like twice a year. There are only so many pictures of jeans, my favorite Target v-neck t-shirt, and flip flops I could pin. And I don’t do theme nights.

Pinterest is BIG on theme nights. And bunting. It’s big on bunting, too. So what’s a theme night? It’s where you might have Mexican food, but you don’t just have some carne asada and call it a day. No, friend. On Mexican Nite you need to make bunting in the shape of Mexican flags. And you need to make them with repurposed fabric from Christmas when you made bunting, smocked dresses for four children, a tree skirt, a fabric wreath, a fabric tree for your guest bath, and then covered the fridge with fabric and Mod Podge to make it look more festive. You take THAT fabric, sew a tablecloth, napkins, and new curtains. THEN you make those charms you put on wine glasses because, damn, y’all people must lose your wine glasses a lot. There are thousands of ideas for wine glass charms on Pinterest. These charms should be in the shape of tacos and sombreros. OBVIOUSLY. Now you also need Mexican Nite themed plates. You can get these for like three bucks at Walmart. People on Pinterest are always getting stuff for like three bucks at Walmart. You will now use ceramic paint to paint authentic Mexican scenes like a little dude in a serape leaning against a wall taking a siesta.  You will then serve all your food out of terra cotta pots. Your chicken enchilada recipe, it goes without saying, will come from Pinterest. There are approximately 492,495,092 chicken enchilada recipes on Pinterest, but only three of them do not contain a cream-of-something soup. These are the super authentic ones and you probably won’t like them.

Here are some ideas I had for THEME NITE! They are yours to make and to share. I’m a giver.

Just-Off-The-Interstate Massage Parlor Nite:

You wear a t-shirt from when the Vols won the championship in 1998, cut-off mom jeans, and pink Crocs. Serve $.99 burritos, Mountain Dew Code Red, and Munchos Big Grabs from the nearest truck stop. Lay your honey out on the dining room table, light your finest Renuzit candles, and give him a sexxay massage with mango scented lotion from Big Lots while not dropping ash from your generic cigarette onto him. HAWT!

You Know What Your Problem Is? Nite:

Just hash it all out, once and for all. Throw it all on the wall and see what sticks. Serve a salad of bitter greens and the wine you’d, “be drinking every night if I’d married Larry and his MBA instead of you and your BS. And I DON’T mean the bachelor’s you don’t have!” Watch some movie known for its set design porn like Meryl Streep’s kitchen in It’s Complicated and spend most of the movie whining about the house you’ll never have. Wind down the evening with Tums and a good, shrieking cry.

It Will Never Live Up To My Expectations Nite:

Use tonight to cook something with lots of steps like Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon and a dessert like baklava. Wait until you get home from work to start. Drink all the dinner wine before you get the boeuf seared. Festoon the bedroom with red rose petals, scented candles, and some sexxay sex dice game you ordered from drugstore.com and then cry into your pinot noir when your husband falls asleep as you’re putting on your new babydoll nightie.

No, You Decide Nite:

Spend all evening trying to get your mate to decide what to do. Give up and order pizza. Watch a PBS documentary on carpenter ants and fall asleep on the couch.

Go Out At Home Nite:

Fill your house with cigarette smoke. Resurrect your black light from college. Spill beer on yourself. Hire a couple to stay in the bathroom and make out so when you try to go, you have to wait for like an hour for them to hear your knocking. Play crap hip hop music too loud and flash your husband. Have him take your picture–don’t forget to make a duck face! Wake up hungover and vow never to go out again.

But I Thought You LIKED Tulips Nite:

Show up with all her favorites: tulips, a bottle of pinot gris, Hershy’s with almonds, and a movie starring whatever piece of man meat Jennifer Anniston is currently dating. Find out she hates tulips, wanted a chardonnay, is allergic to almonds, and it was the OTHER guy she likes to drool over. Try to make it up by making pasta, but she won’t come out of the bathroom. You give up, throw some sardines in the pasta, crack a beer, and watch something with swords.

The Hypocrisy of Polenta

My friend Des is a Southerner stuck in Chicago for twenty years now. It happens. He pines for, well, pines. Specifically the Piney Woods of Mississippi where we grew up. I periodically remind him about humidity, the fact that the bugs are going to be big enough this summer to saddle and ride to work, and that I am actually acquainted with people who still believe central air is sent from Satan to tempt us into a life of wickedness and not sending thank you notes. I’m not trying to talk him out of it; I’m being realistic. After twenty years the memories of home are more of the misty water-colored variety. CRAWFISH! SPIDER LILIES! SCREEN DOORS! But I would love for him to move to Memphis or Nashville so I’d have an opportunity to make him some shrimp and grits.

There is a chicken recipe which has been printed and reprinted and shared a million times. It’s called Engagement Chicken and it first appeared in Glamour magazine about 30 years ago. Supposedly your boyfriend will propose to you after eating this chicken. I’ve not made this particular chicken, but I’ve made roast chicken with lemon. That’s what this is. Now, I don’t want to say bad things about this chicken. A perfectly roasted chicken is a thing of beauty and a joy for about ten minutes. Which is approximately how long it takes my family to stand at the counter and tear the crispy skin off. I’m okay with that because I have notoriously sharp elbows and can usually take out a rogue teenager or two to get to the little crispy bits at the end of the wings. And I generally eschew any item of food, clothing, or scent that purports to be a marriage trap. It is my foolish belief that marriage is a sacred institution into which both parties should be scared witless to commit themselves. I’m not so much for the HA! GOTCHA! theory of engagement. Having said that, I’m aware my husband and I are married because of my shrimp and grits.

Chuck and I courted each other by fixing dinner. I had put together dinner before, but not really cooked dinner. You know? Like you throw a steak on the grill, a pork roast in the oven. Blanch some green beans or something. But Chuck’s birthday was approaching and I told him I’d fix him anything he wanted. He wanted shrimp and grits. I did not have my own recipe, but I knew there was only one place to go. To Oxford, Mississippi. I used John Currence’s recipe as my base. I changed it up a little, leaving out the mushrooms (I have since become a convert to the use of mushrooms in this dish) and trading the bacon for sausage. Then, as now, my deepest held conviction about shrimp and grits is that the closest a tomato should get to it is in the salad you serve on the side. To cut to the chase, we were married four months later.

I do not tell that story so that desperate young women will sear millions of pounds of shrimp in an attempt to walk down the aisle via an unsuspecting stomach. No, I tell this story because I like to take every opportunity I can to brag about my shrimp and grits and because just this morning Des sent me a recipe for a dish which uses–siddown, this is big–instant grits. I KNOW! I clutched my pearls, too.

Listen, I’m not going to lie. I’m down with the quick-cooking grits even though, honestly, no kind of grits takes that long to make. But instant? ARE WE ANIMALS? All in all, the dish was sound. Lemon-garlic shrimp over parmesan cheese grits. Shrimp AND grits, yes. Shrimpngrits, no. I looked at the comments about this dish expecting to hear a chorus of disdain for instant grits, and there was some of that. But the singers hitting the back of the house were doing so with an old-fashioned grit bashing.

Gross! Grits are disgusting! Shrimp with grit?!  To you grits-bashers out there I say, shuddup. Do you eat polenta? Of course you do. Polenta is faincy. A fancy name for grits. THEY ARE THE SAME THING! It’s all cornmeal! Okay, yes, hominy grits, the house grits of the South, are different. They’re corn treated with an alkali so the stuff puffs up until it looks like droppings from the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. These are then dried and, as my nephew says, WALL-AH! Hominy grits. Everything else is just cornmeal in varying degrees of roughness.

So those–ugh–tubes of polenta you get in the produce section and take home to be all International Gluten-Free Paleo Chef Of Faincy Ingredients? Why? You wouldn’t buy a pre-made tube of oatmeal would you?  It’s just corn mush. Just like every working farmer has eaten for centuries in this country as well as Italy. This is humble food we’re talking about. The great thing about it is that you can dress it up with cheese, lots of cheese, or cheese and lots of garlic. And you can, I suppose, eat it with cream and sugar. I don’t know why you’d want to. I’m looking at you, Indianapolis. You can, if you are so inclined as I was a couple of years ago, to make braised short ribs and vegetables on a bed of Stilton polenta and garnished with gremolata. But it’s just pot roast with grits and garnished with lemon zest and parsley.

Maybe the problem isn’t the grits themselves, it’s food with such working class ties. Those hand-cut buttermilk scones toasted with house-made Vermont cheddar pimento spread and thinly sliced Benton’s country ham are social climbers. What self respecting Brighton charm-collecting, suburban starter castle-building woman would serve cathead biscuts with mama’s pimento cheese and ham at her ladies’ luncheon? Her membership in Junior Auxillary would be revoked before it was ever ratified. Except that it wouldn’t.

Good food is good food. You may be more comfortable eating catfish gujons with capered aoli and black eyed pea caviar, but it’s still fried catfish with tartar sauce and black eyed pea salad. Anyone who thinks the name makes the food needs to have a giant debris po boy from Mother’s shoved in her mouth. Do you really want to associate with people who are so filled with first world ennui they can’t enjoy a damn bowl of grits? Such people should be thumped soundly and percussively upon the gourd.

Besides, as Des reminded me, “Telling someone to ‘kiss my polenta’ just doesn’t have the same effect.”

Briefly

Is there anything that makes a person as mad as biting down into something and taking out a big chunk of cheek with it? I just took a big bite of apple, all the while congratulating my choice of healthy snack, and CCCCRRRRUNCH!! Now it looks like my boss made me take the gauge out of my bottom lip.

There is nothing that can make me want to punch baby seals like taking a big bite of slobbery lip. Not stubbing my toe, not poking myself in the eye with the end of my hairbrush–shut up–nothing. I submit to you there is NOTHING that makes a person feel as stupid as the cheek chomp. You’re like me, right? You’re all look! Honeycrisp apples! The filet mignon of apples! And why should I stop to hack it into manageable slices? ARE WE NOT MEN?? The great thing about apples is they’re wash and wear, right? All was well until I got greedy. I thought I could get my mouth around an apple the size of a softball.

Hubris, friends. Hubris.