Thursday, August 9, 2007

Smoked Ribs and Italian Folk Songs

Dinner Party # 12
Smoked beef and pork Ribs
Purple and white cabbage coleslaw with apples and jalapenos
French-style potato salad with parsley and chives
Cherry tomato salad with parsley, salt and olive oil

I take full responsibility. I was fixated on finding an old door which I could turn into a table so we could eat outdoors. I’ve never understood why my in-laws, who have a large yard with an incredible view of the Columbia River and Mount Hood, have no real lawn furniture or outdoor tables. Where are the big lounge chair and the side table for holding magazines and cocktails? Where’s the picnic table and benches with the umbrella?

Apparently, in my search for a table-like substance, I had turned off the power source in the garage that was igniting the hot plate that was heating the wood chips that produce the smoke that would cook our pork and beef ribs. As I was nursing a beer and entertaining Sydney and Sebastien by letting them play naked with the water hose, Steve woke up from his nap and noticed there was no smoke coming from the smoker. Chaos ensued. Plans to pick up steak were made. The oven was heated.

The secret to understanding my husband is to know that once a problem enters his little WASP brain, he must, no matter how little or inconsequential or big and seemingly impossible, solve it. He paced around the burned-out lawn. The boys and I watched on as he moaned and groaned and went in the house and came out of the house. Finally he had the idea to test the electricity—and sure enough it was discovered there was nothing wrong with the smoker per se, but rather that I had shut off the power source. The switch was turned on, the power sparked up and the smoking continued. The delicious odor of the smoker filled the air—it smelled like one of those WPA lodges built in the depression, with four or five giant fireplaces going at the same time.

Meanwhile I searched for a table. We found something suitable that my father-in-law uses for a desk and set the table outside. We started smoking the ribs around noon, after they had sat in a dry rub of brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder and chili powder over night. With power outages et al, they were ready to slice around 6:30.

Our guests were a couple we met at the hippy church where Steve’s dad is a pastor. Paolo is from Lucca, a tiny hill town in Tuscany. He met Jennifer, his wife, when she was teaching English in his village and, after six years in Italy and having two children Allesandro (1) and Jean Lucca (3), they decided to move out West to help Jennifer’s sister run a restaurant in Bingen called Solstice. We’ve met them two or three times and I just knew they’d be people I’d want to sit around the table with, so one day we stopped by their house and left an invite to come to our smoke out.

We greeted Paolo and Jennifer on the lawn with Prosecco, which I feel is the best thing to drink with Bar-B-Que. We set up the four boys with various cars and trucks and things that go while Steve and I made final dinner arrangements, slicing the ribs and putting everything on the table. Dinner was served!

Easy. There are some evenings that just flow. Jennifer and Paolo were gracious guests and they both ate heartily, which I especially appreciate in women. Paolo told us about his first marriage and child, about growing up in Italy. Jennifer and I analyzed cultural differences between Italians and Americans, particularly around domesticity. We compared notes on our lack of childproofing and willingness to drink wine while breastfeeding.

More wine and the conversation turned to writing. Like many mothers I know, Jennifer yearns for time to write, time for herself to be creative. She asked me how I do it. Unfortunately, I don’t have answers. I find it uncomfortable to be a writer and currently have no idea what I am doing. Steve is calling it my mid-life crisis. I’m just not sure how to handle the whole career thing, but mostly I am letting go of the whole fantasy of becoming a famous writer, where your career is handed to you on a silver…you know how the cliché goes.

Until I figure out the whole writing thing though, I’ll just keep cooking and having people over and talking and trying, in these extremely trying times, to be as decently human as I can be.

As the Northwest sky turned very black and I actually noticed stars, Paolo began singing Italian songs to the children. The boys each found a parent’s lap to sit on and the evening unfolded. I led everyone in “If I had a Hammer” and “I Had a Rooster.” The ended on a sweet note.

No comments:

Post a Comment