Thursday, June 4, 2009


I took last Friday off so that I could have enough time to get everything done for the fundraiser I was catering at church. I'm a very good cook, but I'm terribly disorganized, so everything takes much longer than I expected. After Thursday's choir practice, for example, I only had four or five items on my list (chocolate mousse, salmon mousse, two hummuses, and two sorbets/ices), and I figured I'd have them done by midnight, but it was nearly 2 am before I got to bed. I always have a good time when I'm cooking things, but the total amount of enjoyment per unit of product is constant, so if I cut down on the amount of time I spend, the enjoyment per unit of time increases, which is a good thing. Also, I get to sleep more.

I had slept so little on Wednesday night that when I stopped to fill my tank Thursday night, I forgot to replace the gas cap, and b&c came storming into the bedroom at 8 Friday morning (one hour and forty-five minutes before my alarm was set to go off) to announce, very loudly, that either I had mislaid my gas cap or someone had siphoned off all my gas. I was pretty sure that it was the former, but I pulled myself out of bed and downstairs to check that the tank was still full, which it was. I grumbled to b&c that nobody siphons gas in the suburbs, and he started to tell me about news reports that he'd heard, and I reminded him that those reports came from when gas was over $4 a gallon. Then I went back to bed. What else was I going to do? I don't understand the point of waking someone up to tell him about something that he can't do anything about. Perhaps he thought that my gas cap had escaped and that if I started after it right then, I could catch it before it joined up with all my escaped socks. B&c spends an inordinate amount of time worrying about my unmatched socks, which are, indeed, legion. I have two plastic shopping bags full of socks without mates. I will sometimes return home from the office to hear b&c proclaim proudly that he managed to match up one or two pairs of my socks. I am not much of a believer in purpose-driven lives, but I suppose that matching socks is as good as any. For somebody else, I mean.

Anyway, I went back to bed.

I rose again at about ten, composed myself, and set out for a final round of shopping. I had thought that Friday morning would be a good time to make the final Costco run, but it was overrun with the real housewives of Montgomery County, who seemed to be there mostly for entertainment and free samples. I was on the verge of muttering to myself about people wasting my time, but I reminded myself that muttering to myself is not on my (notional) list of approved activities. Instead, I ran with my cart through the crowded aisles. I worried that this would disrupt the social order, but I did not draw any complaints from store management, so perhaps I, and civilization, managed to dodge a bullet. Time will tell, I reckon.

After trips to two more stores, I returned home to sharpen my knives. When I was done, my paring knife sliced through a semi-dessicated lime as if it were soft butter. Sharpening knives makes me happy. Not as happy as getting a haircut, but happier than typing "animal husbandry." I put my knives into new plastic sleeves that I had purchased expressly for this purpose from a major online retailer, and I began packing up my equipment and foodstuffs to take to church. The car was soon full. I was due at the church at 3, and I was almost there when it occurred to me that my lime curd was still at home, in the refrigerator. This is the sort of disaster that would make a lesser man crumble, (Or not, but let's pretend, ok?) but I figured I would just make it work.

We had intermittent and violent thunderstorms all that afternoon and evening, so when I arrived at church, I had to unpack the car in heavy rain. And since it took me seven trips to get everything (except my suit, which I left from later) from the car into the kitchen, I was somewhat wet when I had everything inside and I was ready to begin actual food prep. A couple of minutes later, the church administrator came to tell me that the music director, who was meant to come and help with the grunt work, was stuck in Beltway traffic. I found this upsetting. I was pretty sure that I could handle the kitchen work, but many more people disappear each year in Beltway traffic than on trans-Atlantic flights, and the music director was supposed to accompany me and a violinist on "La Vie en Rose" a mere 6.5 hours later. Who knew whether she would make it by then?

Fortunately, I had the calming powers of cuisine to fall back on, and I began preheating the oven to cook the puff pastry that was destined to be filled with the non-present lime curd. Shortly thereafter, another helper arrived an hour earlier than expected, and we set to work in earnest. Before long, I was happily plying my freshly sharpened chef's knife on some unsuspecting Gouda while shepherding trays of puff pastry into and out of the oven.

As it happened, the music director was only ninety minutes late, and by that time, everything that could be done more than a few minutes in advance was well in hand, so I had time to drive home, through weather that would have given Noah pause, to retrieve my lime curd. I had, as it happened, also forgotten the honey rum sauce that I'd made for my apple puffs, so I was able to retrieve that as well. I would have chosen to view my good fortune as a reward for virtuous living if it weren't for a) the awful weather and b) my utter lack of virtue.

It has taken me a long time to understand and accept that church fundraisers are only secondarily about raising funds. Given the hundreds of hours that go into raising a few thousand dollars, we could get a much better return on our investment by working at a local fast food restaurant and donating our earnings. But it is apparent that having many people work together for a common cause builds a sense of community. And in this case, it gives many members of the choir a chance they would not otherwise have to perform a solo or in a small group setting. I already get plenty of solo work, but I get a chance to perform songs that might not be considered appropriate in a worship service. And I get to cook a lot of food for a lot of people, which allows me to be extremely self-indulgent while appearing to be selfless.

I spent hours and hours busily preparing what turned out to be too much food. I ended up sending out only one of the hummuses, and there were several times when I almost forgot to send out trays of food that I had prepared less than half an hour earlier and then put in the refrigerator to keep cool. I made a lot of notes on what worked and what didn't so that I can do the same thing next year with less time and effort. Everyone had a great time, and both my food and my singing were very well received. The gratitude (Unitarians really know how to do gratitude) was a little overwhelming, but the work itself (both culinary and vocal) was highly rewarding. There is a highly meditative quality associated with immersing myself in things that I'm very good at, although, here again, it would probably be a lot more efficient simply to learn to meditate. Towards that end, I have ordered a meditation DVD from the same online retailer, but I have not yet opened it.

The evening ran a little long, and it was after midnight by the time we had finished cleaning up.

I slept very late the next day, then I made my way to an auto parts store to get a replacement gas cap and a new passenger-side wiper blade. I had not known that they were sold singly, rather than in pairs, but I suppose that's just as well since it eliminates the possibility of a sock-like orphan wiper blade situation, which, surely, would be more than I can bear.

Replacing wiper blades is an extremely easy process, but I spent fifteen minutes in the parking lot fumbling with the one I had before a store employee about to begin his shift took pity on me and spent ten seconds doing the installation for me. Other people would, perhaps, be embarrassed by such a turn of events, but I couldn't help laughing. It was good to re-embrace my incompetence.

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