Monday, September 19, 2011

Monsters, The Power Of An Over Easy Egg Yolk, And A Little Hope

Last night, we sheepishly ventured into a neighbor's backyard with a ridiculous abundance of cheese, salami, crackers, and 2 trays of cookies (Smitten Kitchen's  Punition Sandwiches and David Lebowitz's Chez Panisse Gingersnaps sandwiched with lemon curd).  It was probably entirely too much for the small soiree, but it seems so socially inappropriate to skimp when meeting your neighbors for the first time.  I never do this for accolades about my skills or ideas (my apologies to the boyfriend for my stress about these things), but for the sake of giving my socially inept self a conversation topic.  People are always willing to chat it up about which markets carry the "best" cheese, or where you found a great recipe and the story behind it.  Otherwise I'm afraid you get me, staring into my beer - clueless about starting a conversation with a stranger.  Nice shoes.  What do you do for a living?  Which house is your's?  Sure - those are all a start, but I'm afraid that beyond that I fall flat.

Max, our resident taster, bottomless-stomached, challenge of a lifetime, 11 year old loves to talk about his favorite foods and why he thinks I'm the "most amazing cook" (sometimes).  He has, for the most part, been a fairly typical kid in his food habits (which I should clarify with the exceptions).  He doesn't do green, or other vegetables, and often requests "real food" when he has himself convinced that the current offerings don't please his palette.  He will eat pepperoni pizza or chicken nuggets 3 times a day - until its time to switch to burgers and anything he can put a slurry of honey mustard and barbecue sauce on.  Of course dessert in any form is always welcome in abundance.  Lets face it - his beloved magic sauce turns everything into a sweet, sticky dinner-dessert.  And then we have those exceptions:  Manchego and quince paste, wild mushroom truffle ravioli and potato gnocchi from Fairway Market in New York City are the nearest and dearest foods to his heart.  One of the first times the three of us (the boyfriend, me and Max) had dinner together, it was a wine, cheese, cured meats, fruit sort of affair - like the romantic picnic you take to the park with that guy you think you might really like.  Except this happened in my living room with a 10 year old, and far too much conversation about video games and money making schemes.  Max immediately started singing the, "Its terrific!" praises of Manchego and quince paste (the national dessert of Uruguay he learned from a Montessori project) - two things the boyfriend had never even known were an option.  I got several seconds of wide blue eyes and a lean in to say, "You've created a monster" in the grocery store aisle.  Yes, sir, I believe I have.  I love that about him.

I all too often find myself going into dinner with my guns half-cocked for that, "What do you mean I have to eat that?" conversation - I'm convinced that Max won't find the evening's menu suitable.  He really does have "surprising tastebuds".   It is shocking every time he takes a bite, looks around, and mumbles through a mouthful, "That's really good."

Last Saturday evening he encountered the Croque Madame; a classic French bistro sandwich, that I will be the first to tell you, is a lead bullet of rich delicious.  

I should preface my surprise with filling you in on what a Max sandwich is like - bread, salami, pepperoni, or cheese, never more than one filling, never a tomato, a hint of lettuce or a condiment.  So when I handed him the behemoth of Gruyere, ham, bechamel, more Gruyere, and an over easy egg - the last thing I expected was to check back in on him was to hear him mumble, "The ham and the egg are the best part!" (through his mouthful, of course).  It was date night afterall - we don't eat like this every night - so he got the luxury of dinner in front of the computer at his desk.  The way the egg yolk soaks into the bread and makes all its salty, warm, comfort you like nothing else, components that much better changed my life the first time I sank into one.  We were in a Belgian bistro - in Omaha, not really Belguim (do I ever wish!) - drinking this beer that knocked it over the top (what was that again, Eric?).  I took one bite and peered across the table at him with that look - the one that he knows says "My God, this is it!  This is food!  This is why we eat!  This is the exact reason why I rolled my tank out of bed this morning!".  Its a sandwich and some booze; its those moments that he knows he scored the win.  In my mind all is right with the world, and I'm on top.  I too easily forget how powerfully comforting and delicious an over easy egg yolk can be.  I feel like we had a moment (me and the sandwich, me and the world, and then me and the kiddo).  They are fleeting, but worth it every time.

As I digress, I have this tub of mascarpone in the fridge (leftover from this) that I can't possibly let go to waste.  I do believe it will turn into this.  I might be getting a little to much ruffle in my mama feathers thinking that I can get the royal 11 year old to eat cauliflower, but without a little hope, where would we be?