I’m An Idiot And Now The Neighbor Knows.

Day 211, Items Purchased:0, Temptation Radar: 0

Sunday, July 31

Technical difficulties breed a variety of frustration unlike any other nerve-provoking circumstance. I know this because I’ve dealt with more than my fair share over the years. In fact, it seems I’m particularly prone to these disturbances in places like the kitchen.  I mean, stick me in a shopping mall, no problem — I could personal shop while solving a world peace crisis, and balance the budget. It’s my zone. The kitchen? Not so much. The symbolic center of home & hospitality usually has more of an “eviction pending” effect on me, causing me to feel quite unwelcome and inept. In the rare event that a surge of confidence for mastering the art of cooking strikes, the mess house quickly reminds me that I’m, in fact, the true mess.

Notorious for hosting dinners of which the main course is usually something I’ve never cooked, it is no surprise that notable anxiety accompanies pre-dining festivities. Today, to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday, I decided to serve seafood cuisine: low country shrimp and grits.  Easy enough, right?  I felt assured. With all of the ingredients on hand, food preparation complete and plenty of time, it seemed impossible that anything could go wrong. My table, influenced by Tommy Bahama, was adorned with crisp white stoneware–modern in design, paired with crystal glasses–because I prefer a bit of unexpected fancy with my beach vibe. Palm linen napkins & place mats along with seashell centerpieces completed the look. The cooking began…

First, I prepared the bacon. Removing it from the grease, I added scallions, garlic, parsley and spices just as the recipe instructed. As it simmered, I prepared the shrimp for addition and geared up to add clam juice to my pan. I was unprepared for the devious little trick the clam juice played on me.  The bottle  I purchased startled me with a pop-top lid! I expected a simple twist cap, similar to the ones on brands I’d tried in the past. Scouring every drawer and cabinet, I searched endlessly, with growing frustration for a simple bottle opener. You know,  the one that looks like this:

About 10 minutes passed, and I determined it a useless cause. I don’t have a bottle opener. My next attempt consisted of leveraging the side of manual can opener against the bottle top. Colossal fail. I, steaming at a much faster rate than my shrimp, realized I’m in trouble. The struggle continued on for about 15 minutes as I became increasingly panicked that my spice reduction was burning, along with my time,  and the dinner would be ruined over the fact that I didn’t have the simple tool that every college kid carries around on a key chain! I headed for the phone, distraught and in hives.  What shall I do? Home alone  and on the verge of catastrophe, I decided to make a call. Steve, my technological help desk, would surely have a solution. He answered and calmly listened as I explained the crisis. Somewhere in the middle of his step-by-step instructions on how to operate the manual can opener as a bottle opener , a bad cell phone connection and my failure to accomplish a seemingly elementary task, I decided to take the call outside to the front porch. “STEVE!!!! It’s not working! My dinner is going to be ruined! EVERY DRUNK IN AMERICA HAS A  10 CENT BOTTLE OPENER !!!  WHY DON’T I???? Wait. That ‘s not what I meant. I’m not a drunk. You know what I mean! Ugh… Nevermind. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO????” My rant continued in the front doorway of my house, when suddenly the neighbor from across the street casually walked up with a bottle opener. Reaching out  timidly, he offered, “You need this?”  Still on the phone with Steve , clam juice and can opener in tow,my eyes locked upon the coveted bottle opener. His, a little fancier with a fish emblem and engraving. “YES!!!!”, I cried. Cringing in humiliation, I apologetically tried to explain the etiology of the situation, and that my shouting outside was a result of bad cell phone connection. He just nodded, “anytime. anything I can do to help.” Clearly, my neighbor was confused by what he witnessed as an instantaneous transformation from complete rage to placid calm. He was, perhaps, equally bewildered by the soothing music echoing out of the home, a sweet old hymn “I’d rather have Jesus” , and lovely jasmine scented house candles burning in the foyer. Very awkward. Certainly, one of my not-so-Christian-like moments. Still mortified, I thanked him again and ran hurriedly into the house.

I winced at the thought  of my “every drunk in America” comment. Did he hear that? Yikes.  In the end, the dinner was hugely successful and a lot of fun. Life lesson learned? Buy bottle opener and a land line.

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