“More Cowbell?”

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I can fake my way through an art museum crowd for days.

“Oh yes, I love the depth of this piece too, the way the artist used earth tones to suggest angst.”

And meeting new people is not a problem either.  I could even go pro.  Just ask John.  He is Amy’s boyfriend, and even though I met him in the art museum lobby, by midnight we were like old fraternity brothers on the patio at Hunter-Gatherer, a trendy local restaurant where middle-aged coolio’s mingle with the real thing.

And evidently, I know how to keep two women happy.  Alyson was tired after the museum benefit and wasn’t sure about extending the night further at a bar, but an hour later she was laughing and telling stories like, well, me!  Amy pitched in too, fondly remembering something I said in a sermon…four years ago.  So I was feeling pretty sure about myself last Friday night.

But that is not how tired date number four started.  It’s beginning was not unique.  Actually, it was mundane.  Here goes, my opening line to my wife: “What should I wear?”

Aly and I were a little suspect about the night’s attire.  We didn’t think Contemporary Artist of the Year would be formal.  In my mind, the contemporary artist fashion motif is a mixture of bell bottom terry cloth, itchy Mexican wool and reappointed two-ply Kleenex, of which we aint got.   But after we remembered this is Columbia, SC where the radical ordinary wins the fashion day, we went to the closet for our best tired date outfits.

Aly had an easy choice.  She just happened to pop by Stein-Mart after work and buy a great dress and sweater because all women have the upper hand in date situations.  If men had the upper hand, I would have come home from work and unloaded a new set of bicycle tools before I got ready.  “Yeah honey, I knew we were going out, and I just wanted to have something nice to use when I repack the bearings in the bottom bracket tomorrow.”

But there was really more to my fashion question than color matching.  When I asked Aly “what should I wear,” I wasn’t asking what would make me look good to the museum crowd, or feel better about myself.  Don’t really care.  Much.  What I do care about, and I think this is a safe generalization to make for most married or kept men, is how YOU think I look dear.

I was watching that show where the woman who looks like a rabbi and the guy who wears everything two sizes too small crack jokes about the innocent contestants in the dressing room.  They go on and on about fashion this and fashion that and how clothes make the person…only seen it once or seven times.  But none of that really matters to me.  One clothing choice versus another doesn’t makes that big of a difference to my appearance.  There’s only so much that can be done with rangy and receding.

So as not to confuse the issue next month, since fashion isn’t really the point, when I ask Aly “what should I wear,” what I am really saying is, “I trust you.”

So thanks for that.  And you were right.  My “More Cowbell” t-shirt would not have been good.

The Inconvenient Date…Or “What was I thinking?”

As close as we have ever been to Eiffel

Who sets a date for Tuesday night, Shrove Tuesday, when your church family gathers to eat pancakes and mounds of butter and ogle at the Mardi Gras Float that your children and their EYC peers and your husband has spent weeks building?  Who schedules a date to miss that?  On the Tuesday after the  busiest weekend of the year?  Apparently I do!

I called Fluer de Lys, our local French cooking school several weeks ago to make reservations for our second date. Chef Francoise was delighted to take our reservation, not for Tuesday, February 14, but the following week, Tuesday February 21.  I grabbed up the two spots for a cooking class preparing Provencal Lobster.  Most people who know me know that I am infatuated with Provence and all things French.  Granted, I have never been to France but I love reading about the people, food and wine.  I was so excited to learn French cooking from an actual French chef!

Lobster, Basmati, Butter, Caramelized Onion, Pastis

But, as the day drew closer and then arrived I was overwhelmed with work, track practice, play practice, laundry, grocery…we didn’t have bread for four days.  On top of that Kev and I had a particularly stressful weekend with our oldest daughter.  Decisions about her future and independence and growing up seemed to explode all over our weekend…the one preceding our “date.” Having her away at a residential high school compacts all the major life activities and decisions into short periods of time and we are often left with a general feeling of stress instead of enjoying the brief moments we have with her.  Driving her back to school on Sunday left me empty and frustrated.  This feeling pervaded the following few days and by Tuesday night all I wanted to do was put on my stretchy pants and hunker down with a blanket and remote control.  I didn’t care about French cooking.  I didn’t feel like meeting 20 strangers who cared about French cooking.  And, to be honest, I didn’t feel in the “date” mood. And I am pretty sure Kev was feeling the same way. (He texted me earlier that morning and said, “this day feels gross.”)  Whoo-Hoo date night!

We were the second couple to arrive and I would have to say that the first few moments were a bit uncomfortable.  Do we ask for wine?  Were we supposed to bring our own wine?  Can we eat the bread on the table, or is that for the meal?  As others arrived they appeared to know exactly what to do, which made us feel more uncomfortable.  As dates go this was a lot of work; but after meeting some very friendly veterans who gave us some pointers, I relaxed a bit and began to enjoy the newness of the experience.  It was clear that the other participants were food and wine lovers like me and Kev.  We were among culinary friends.

Francoise, that is really his name, mixed his cooking lesson with history and anecdotal information that added to my understanding of the dish. I pictured the restaurant where this recipe originated.   As he passed around the spices used in the paste for the lobster, I breathed in  each aroma and was swept away to a rustic, breezy hillside in the south of France.  I was miles away from my grocery list!

On goes the herb butter

I truly believe in “aromatherapy” and for me, cooking spices are the best.  I cannot describe how coriander, rosemary, lemon grass and sage combine to elevate simple sustenance to an almost (dare I say) religious experience.  Truly, only our God can create smells and tastes like that – no artificial flavoring here!

So….”What was I thinking?” In the end, this date was  “just what the doctor ordered,” pulling both of us out of our funk while energizing our creative and culinary juices.  My advice to other tired couples trying to date is this: don’t  succumb to the temptation to take the easy way out.  Do the Date!   It would have been easy to say “the timing isn’t right for this date”, or “we have too much going on,” but we committed to it and followed through.

Pre-paying for the class didn’t hurt either.