Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mother's Day "Dinner"

The other day, my husband and I extended a Mother’s Day dinner invitation to our mothers.

“Sure!” my mother immediately answered. “If there’s food, you know I’ll be there!”

True. My mother, who’s never worn anything larger than a size 10, spends every day eating as if she were preparing for a famine.

My mother-in-law, however, hesitated before accepting our invitation. “Are you going to be trying another new restaurant this year?” she seemed almost afraid to ask.

I knew exactly what she was trying to say. In the past, my husband and I, instead of taking our mothers to their favorite restaurants on Mother’s Day, had opted to be adventurous and try new places. The results, for the most part, were pretty disastrous.

There was one restaurant north of Concord, for example, we’d seen highly praised in a dining guide, so we thought it would be the perfect place for a Mother’s Day drive and dinner.

The food turned out to be so terrible, I’m surprised my dogs didn’t report me to the SPCA when I brought home the leftovers in a doggy bag for them.

I’d ordered barbecued lamb that, without exaggeration, looked exactly like a pile of black raisins on my plate. My mother-in-law’s barbecued chicken-tenders were soggy pieces of chicken drenched in cold barbecue sauce poured straight from the bottle. And my mother’s turkey dinner was a mouth-watering piece of stale bread with some sliced cold-cuts stacked on top of it, all buried beneath a layer of bright yellow canned gravy.

The next Mother’s Day, we tried a different restaurant, one that several of our friends had recommended.

“I think I’ll have a nice sirloin steak,” my husband said as we pulled into the parking lot. No big surprise from a man who eats so much beef, if someone wearing a red cape happened to walk by him, he’d lower his head and charge at him.

At the restaurant, we were seated in a spacious booth and handed a single sheet of paper with five meals listed on it: Chicken Cordon Bleu, seafood pie, filet mignon, prime rib, and baked stuffed haddock. The prices were high enough to make even the Rockefellers develop palpitations.

“What is this?” I asked the waiter as I flipped over the paper, hoping to see more selections on the other side.

“It’s our special Mother’s Day menu,” he said, smiling brightly.

“Where’s the turkey? The baked ham? The sirloin steak?” I asked, tempted to add, “Where’s the cheap stuff?”

“Oh, those aren’t Mother’s Day items,” he said.

Even though the price was what I’d expect to pay for a whole cow, I settled for the filet mignon. My husband also ordered it.

We placed our orders at 2:15. At 3:45 we had yet to see anything edible other than a basket of breadsticks. By then, we were ready to gnaw on the basket.

“I’m getting weak from hunger,” my mother-in-law said. “If I had known this, I would have eaten lunch.”

“My stomach’s holding a full conversation with me,” my mother, who normally would have been on her fourth meal of the day by then, added.

“Well, at least we’re spending quality time together,” I said, smiling weakly.

Finally, after we had been staring so long at the food on the tables around us, the other diners were getting ready to toss their table scraps at us, our meals arrived.

Even Barbie and Ken would have starved on the portions on our plates.

My husband stabbed his piece of filet mignon, which was about the size of a meatball, held it up and said, “Is this all of it?” Before I could answer, he added, “Gross! Look at all the white fat around it!”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “Filet mignon doesn’t have white fat on it!” I happened to look down at my piece and noticed that it also had some kind of jelly-like white stuff around it. When I touched it with my fork, it fell off onto my plate.

“It’s a thick slab of bacon!” my husband said, as if he’d made some exciting discovery. “Raw bacon!”

I was hungry, but not nearly hungry enough to eat raw bacon.

The meals that had taken nearly two hours to receive, took us all of ten minutes to eat. I still was so hungry, I was tempted to lick everyone’s plates.

“I wonder what they have for dessert?” my husband said. “I’m ready for a big slab of chocolate cake!”

“Odds are that it’s not part of their Mother’s Day menu,” I said. “But I’ll bet you can get a nice tablespoonful of rice pudding for about $25.”

So this year, we’re going to an old familiar restaurant that both of our mothers have enjoyed many times in the past. And if we’re lucky, we may even get to meet Ronald McDonald while we’re there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Attack of the Killer Bee

I saw something the other day that made me gasp in terror; something I hadn’t seen in well over six months and wouldn’t mind not seeing again for another 600 months.

It was a hornet.

I’m pretty sure that I am the reason why the word “beeline” was invented, because whenever I spot a wasp, bee or yellow jacket, I make a beeline for shelter.

Our friend in Texas isn’t much help. For some reason, he enjoys telling me horror stories about the killer bees in his state. And with every story, the bees get bigger and meaner. I wouldn’t be surprised if in his next e-mail, he tells me that a swarm of bees flew off with a school bus.

I guess I’m lucky to live in a state that’s so cold, even if the killer bees were given complimentary first-class tickets to come here, they’d refuse. Still, a few incidents in the past have led me to suspect that some of the killer bees’ distant cousins may be hiding out here in the state and secretly forming an army.

One weekend, for example, my husband and I were riding down Route 28 when he suddenly pulled the car over to the side of the road, slammed the gearshift into park and jumped out of the car. In the middle of the road, he proceeded to do a terrific imitation of Michael Flatley in Riverdance.

“Honey, I really appreciate the entertainment,” I called out to him.
“But I think you’re about to get run over by a truck!”

“Something’s down the back of my shirt biting me!” he shouted as the truck swerved around him.

I got out of the car, yanked him to the side of the road, and untucked his shirt. When I shook it, out flew a yellow jacket. Unfortunately, it left its calling card behind - two big red welts on my husband’s back.

And if that incident weren’t bad enough, just a few days later, we were sitting in the living room when a huge shadow suddenly moved across the wall. It was a hornet…the biggest and meanest-looking hornet I had ever seen…the Hulk Hogan of hornets.

My husband and I both froze. “Go get the fly swatter,” he whispered to me, not even moving his lips.

“You’re closer to the kitchen than I am,” I whispered back. “Why don’t YOU go get it?”

“Because I got stung the last time. It’s your turn.”

We both sat there, our eyes following the hornet until it came to rest on a ceiling beam too high for either of us to reach with anything shorter than a broom.

“He’s landed,” my husband said. “Now’s your chance. Go get the fly swatter.”

“But I’ll have to stand on a chair to reach it with a fly swatter,” I protested.

“Then get a chair, too, while you’re out in the kitchen,” he said.

Slowly, one measured step at a time, my eyes fixed on the hornet, I inched my way out to the kitchen and grabbed the fly swatter.

“Don’t we have any wasp spray?” my husband called out to me.

“Yeah, but it’s only for outdoor use,” I answered.

“So? The hornet won’t know the difference!”

“No, but WE will when the fumes turn our lungs into raisins!”

I crept back into the living room and handed the swatter to my husband.

“What do you want me to do with this?” he asked.

By then, I could have given him a few creative suggestions, but I held my tongue. “Kill the hornet!” I said. “You’re taller than I am.”

Sighing, my husband stood and began waving the fly swatter in the general direction of the beam on which the hornet still was perched. Within seconds, the winged assassin swooped down toward us. My husband ducked and started to run as I stood screaming, “Don’t run! Kill it!”

Suddenly my husband stopped, turned around and, grasping the fly swatter as if it were a baseball bat, took his best Joe DiMaggio swing at the hornet. I heard a “whap” and then a “ping.”

“I got him!” my husband cheered. “A home run!”

“I won’t relax until you show me the body,” I said.

We searched the room for the next 20 minutes and found nothing.

“Maybe you just stunned him,” I said. “And when he wakes up, he’s going to be one mighty ticked-off hornet. Why did you hit him in mid-air anyway? Why didn’t you wait till he landed on something?”

“Believe me, he’s dead,” my husband said. “I hit him so hard, it was like a bug hitting a windshield.”

“Then we should have heard a ‘splat’!” I said.

Unconcerned, my husband decided to go to bed. I, on the other hand, could not even begin to think about sleeping while there still was the remote possibility that a revenge-crazed hornet was on the loose somewhere in the house.

Which brings me to the hornet I saw the other day. It looked familiar. And I’m pretty sure it was missing a leg.

Just to be safe, I’m buying a case of Raid.