Talking turkey with a bachelor

FORTyFIED - Cecile Lopez Lilles () - December 15, 2010 - 12:00am

I remember watching the movie Tootsie, starring Dustin Hoffman, Bill Murray and Jessica Lange, and being struck by one particular scene. It was the moment when Teri Garr’s character drops by for a visit at the apartment shared by the characters played by Hoffman and Murray. A flustered Hoffman, playing a struggling actor who dresses up as Tootsie, was not expecting company and trips over himself in making her feel comfortable amid all the mess. He offers her a drink but immediately realizes he doesn’t have any drinking glasses. So he pours the drink into an empty mayonnaise jar and hands it to her.

Giving a lady a drink in a mayonnaise jar! What could be funnier? It seemed to me so surreal then, only to realize later on that, in the real world of bachelors living on their own, empty mayonnaise jars reincarnated as drinking glasses is probably the least of offenses.

You’ve heard of bachelors microwaving shirts and towels when the dryer conks out, right? How about the laundering of jeans in the Jacuzzi when the washer gets broken? How about using a fork to groom one’s hair in the absence of a comb? How about using masking tape to shorten trousers, not because needle and thread are unavailable but because of a lack of sewing skills? And here’s the winner: how about using briefs for a coffee filter when one runs out of paper filters? Other men would probably crow, “Wow! How ingenious!” Most women would simply double over and puke.

What’s one to do? Bachelors claim they are too busy earning a living and changing the world to bother with domestic concerns. I say they’re hardly home enough to notice what their abodes might lack in domestic touches because they’re too busy squiring women around. One girl friend says bachelors eventually realize they have to score the love of a good woman, just to have someone put their homes in order.

“But isn’t the point of being a bachelor doing everything in one’s power including selling one’s soul to the devil just to avoid getting hitched?” I asked her.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she said. “Let’s just let them be pigs then.”

“Gorgeous, loveable pigs,” I told her.

 “Of course,” she said.

I have the same beef with a bachelor friend who is not in a relationship right now. He enjoys having friends over at his place, which isn’t exactly the Four Seasons Hotel in terms of chinaware, flatware and stemware. But this isn’t a problem because his guests usually subsist on pizza and barbeque anyway. 

But of late, this bachelor friend has taken a fancy to hosting multi-course dinners. Out of the blue, he decided to host a turkey dinner. “Are you sure?” I asked, concerned for his sanity and the health of those who would eat the turkey.

“Ha! My turkey is legendary,” he claimed. So, turkey dinner it was. 

All our other friends said, “Well, all right then, let’s have your turkey.”

I asked him afterwards, “Turkey and what? You can’t have just that. You need appetizers, a salad, side dishes with the turkey, and definitely dessert. You must have dessert whenever you have female guests - at least two different desserts, in fact; the more the better. It’s a female thing.”

“No,” he balked. “Turkey, stuffing, carrots, onions, slaw: that’s it. I’ll do it all. We don’t need anything else.”

Of course I showed up with appetizers, salad, two kinds of dessert, and a cheese plate — just to spare him some embarrassment. Plus, I helped set up, which was when I discovered that his kitchen is ill equipped to handle such parties.

“I need serving spoons,” I told him.

“Eh,” he grunted, then hesitated for a split second before retreating into the kitchen to ask his cook. She handed him dinner spoons, which he then passed to me. I was aghast.

“Those won’t do,” I said. “They’re for eating.”

He gave me this look - eyebrows raised, eyes widened, nostrils flared, mouth in a weird crooked state, as those he couldn’t decide whether to grin or growl. I couldn’t tell whether he was amused or contemplating murder at the time.

He displayed a lot of self-control when he simply said, “Pwede na yan.”

So I trudged to the table to lay out the “serving” spoons. But wait! It occurred to me I couldn’t, because I needed something to rest them on. So I turned to him again and said, “I need spoon rests.”

“Huh?” he said, puzzled.

“Spoon rests,” I enunciated clearly. “You know, to put these on,” showing him the “serving” spoons I was still holding.

He wrinkled his forehead and grimaced at me. “I know I don’t have those, but I’ll check anyway...” Then he lumbered back into the kitchen. He materialized after a couple of minutes bearing dessert plates. “Here are your spoon stays,” he said.

“Rests. They’re called spoon rests. And those are dessert plates. We can’t possibly use them. There would be nothing to put dessert on if we use them as spoon rests.” Seeing his face crumple again I said, “It’s okay, I’ll just use the saucers for your cups. They’ll have to pass for spoon rests for now.”

“That thing that holds the hood of a car up when you open it is called a hood stay so it could very well be called a spoon stay, you know,” he said, sounding like a cranky professor trying to prove he was right.

I busied myself with laying out the buffet as he swung in and out of the kitchen fixing up his overstocked bar for which he had everything perfectly in order. Really, he could have opened a liquor store with everything he had going on there. You can see where a bachelor’s priorities lie.

I didn’t dare say anything but when I got to the salad set-up, I asked him for small condiment bowls.

“Okay,” he said as he disappeared once again into the kitchen. Soon after, out he came bearing big bowls. 

“Those are soup bowls. We can’t put the salad condiments in soup bowls. They’re supposed to be drinking soup from those.”

And there were the eyes again - big and glaring, like he couldn’t bear too much more fussiness - so I took the bowls and unhappily dumped the condiments in them, rehearsing in my head what the heck I was going to say our friends: “Here’s the salad and beside it are bowls of soup you can just dump it in to make the leaves swim...” Yada, yada, yada.

When I finally finished with the entire spread, I stepped back to assess the situation. It wasn’t bad, I thought. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it looked almost normal.

“You want to see the birds?” he asked.

“Birds? You roasted two?”

“Yes,” he beamed. “For good measure.”

We both headed to the kitchen to view the turkeys. He unveiled them with just a bit of flourish as he lifted the foil wrapper. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were the most perfect roast turkeys I’d ever seen in my entire life, and I’ve seen quite a few. Browned evenly to a crisp deep amber and glistening with not a single singed spot!

“Here’s the gravy,” he said.

I walked over to the gravy pot and stirred it with a spoon. I remembered my chef in culinary school telling me that one of the easiest ways to tell if a cook knows his stuff is to check out his gravy. It should be silky smooth, lump-free, deep grayish brown, with a slight oily sheen on the surface. It was all that and more because the taste was divine.

I got so excited about the gravy that I promptly asked him, “Where’s your gravy boat?”

“Boat? What boat?” he asked.

“Container for the gravy. You know, the sauce thingy?”

There was the look again - those eyes almost ready to bug out. He did a quick about-face without saying a word and opened one of the cupboards. He retrieved something which I couldn’t make out at first until he turned and dumped it my hand.

“Here,” he said. “Use a soup bowl. No boat.”

What was I to do? I mean, at the end of the evening, boat or no boat, spoon stay or no spoon stay - I mean spoon rest - the turkey was out of this world, the gravy, excellent. What more could anyone ask for?

Still... I had a beef with him for snapping every time I asked for some utensil or other and I was only trying to help. So the next time he was hosting a party, I didn’t say a word. 

He said, “I’m hosting a party for important people and I’m ordering all the food.”

I allowed myself to utter only one word: “Great.”

On the afternoon of the party, he said to me, “I think I got everything covered for the party.”

I knew the timing was perfect so I said, “There’ll be ladies, right?” I knew his standing motto was “no girls, no party.”

“Of course.”

“So you must have desserts...” I said.

“Desserts? S***, no, there’s none. What do I do? Wait, I know, I know. Fruit Salad - that’s easy.”

“Are you crazy?” I said, scandalized. “You don’t serve fruits salad to important people. Who serves fruit salad anymore? That’s so ’70s. Besides, Ambrosia is not dessert; it’s a savory dish.”

“Ambrosia? What’s that?”

“It’s fruit salad. That’s what it’s called.”

“What do I do now? There’s no time!”

“Relax. Go to Pastelleria San Antonio. It’s closest to your house. Get their Concorde cake,” I said.

“Okay, okay. I’ll do that now.”

The next morning, I received a text message from him saying, “Thanks for reminding me about dessert. The ladies loved it; they polished it off. I will be getting those spoon stays and the gravy boat ASAP. There’ll be more parties to host.”

I felt it was a small victory; I couldn’t be prouder of my pupil. After all, if things are to be done, they must be done right - for the sake of women and polite company, at least. Many would say that every home needs a woman’s touch, but bachelors need not fret. They don’t need to get married just to ensure they have dinner covered; they just have to find a good cook or a good housekeeper. Or they can simply start by buying spoon rests.

* * *

Thank you for your letters. You may reach me at cecilelilles@yahoo.com.

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