Sunday, November 25, 2018

Saturday shindig

We had elected to meet at 6 p.m. on Saturday, but everyone came early. Charles had a reason to come early: he was making bread, and he had also brought along the ingredients to make our dessert of apple crumble (no photo of that, alas). Tom and Patrick both arrived around 5 p.m., but not for any good reason. They'd heard that Charles was coming early, and Patrick added that Tom had said he'd be at my place between 5 and 5:30, so Patrick based his arrival time on Tom's dubious rhetoric (I don't see Tom saying that anywhere in my email archives; he must have spoken or texted directly with Patrick).

The dinner itself went off okay, though not spectacularly. Ideally, Charles's homemade bread (which was spectacular) would have been timed to come out right as I got done reheating my final dish, but instead, the bread came out by the time my dishes had begun cooling down. It's not tragic, and I'm certainly not blaming Charles for the timing; I'm the one who should have coordinated better. In the larger scheme of things, this wasn't a big deal, but because I've been in the habit of feeding large numbers of people over the past year and a half, I've begun to think more like a caterer, and "food choreography" is now something I worry about.

Here's the impromptu Big Hominid Rating Scale for Shindigs:

6 = excellent
5 = very good
4 = fair/minimally satisfactory
3 = not so good
2 = actively bad
1 = shite

You get a point for every "yes" to the following questions:

1. Did the guests compliment the food?
2. Did the guests eat all the food on their plates?
3. Did the guests go back for seconds?
4. Did the guests ask to take any food home with them?
5. Did the guests claim to be full?
6. Did the guests claim to be so full as to be in pain/have difficulty getting home?

By the above reckoning, I think I managed a 4: some guests failed to finish their food (Tom and Patrick couldn't finish dessert, and Charles handed me the final rib on his plate so I could finish it off for him), and no one asked to take any food home—two strikes. But the food did get complimented, everyone had more than one plateful, and people were indeed talking about how full-to-bursting they were. Patrick, in particular, looked as if he might not even make it to my building's bank of elevators. But everyone left the building and got home just fine.

Conversation veered from beer to politics (I generally abstained from this phase—which was marked by rhetoric about how awful Trump is—given that I wasn't really on the same page with anyone in the room) to aspects of family life. The subject of capsaicin also came up, and both Tom and Charles said they wanted a taste of the devil sauce, so I brought it out and allowed them to take their teensy samples of it. Each took about a drop's worth of sauce, and both proclaimed it hot as hell. This particular sauce isn't one of those that "sneaks up on" you, the way some other sauces do; no, this one punches you in the face pretty damn quick.

Anyway, here are some photos of what we ate—except for Charles's wonderful apple crumble, which really ought to have been memorialized here. We start with a repost of a photo of the baby-back ribs because I somehow managed not to take any rib pictures on Saturday:

Saturday also turned out to be our first noticeably snowy day:

Here's Charles making Irish soda bread sur place:

Mac and cheese, before it had cooled down and congealed:

Chicken satay, which started off overcrowded in a frying pan (overcrowding produces too much steam and actually impedes frying, which is why the pro chefs always tell you never to overcrowd your pan—which I did, anyway, out of impatience and unwisdom), then got moved to my much larger griddle:

Here's my homemade peanut sauce, which I daren't call "Thai" because it has too many non-Thai ingredients in it. My take on peanut sauce involves winging it, with the goal of starting sweet and moving the profile toward savory. So I begin with, in this case, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter. To that, I add soy sauce, sriracha, powdered onion, powdered garlic, powdered ginger, water, heavy cream, and coconut milk. Finally, some Korean chili flakes to add a visual accent and a tiny bit more of a kick.

Charles's soda bread, fresh out of the oven:

Each roll was roughly the size and heft of a bull testicle. It was a dense, heavy bread—quite delicious, and very butter-friendly. The flavor was neutral enough for the bread to be useful in a wide variety of contexts; Charles told us it could be served at breakfast with butter and jam.

Note: on Sunday, I ate more of the bread, which was utterly unchanged from the night before. Unlike a finicky baguette, which wilts and denatures after 24 hours, this bread was still solid and trustworthy. I wonder what it might taste like when pan-fried.

Below: chicken satay which, for all my caution about burning it, turned out just fine. After I moved the chicken onto the griddle and split the fat pieces of meat in half for faster cooking, it all turned out the way it should have. And people liked the peanut dipping sauce.

Dem beanz:

Spicy corn salad, which was good, but which could have used a little sugar:

Sausages! Only Charles ended up eating any of these, and he got shit from Tom and Patrick for being a goddamn sausage lover. Charles noted he's fine with teh GHEY, but that that's just not how he rolls. I find this to be a good libertarian position, and it's about where I stand as well. Gayness, to me, doesn't even register as a moral issue; it's merely a matter of wiring and preference, like liking or hating onions on pizza. I might cringe at onions, but I'm not about to condemn you to hell for liking them on your pizza.

A few regrets: I didn't get a shot of Charles's apple crumble, which we ate with rock-hard vanilla ice cream. Charles also mentioned that we hadn't had a chance to try his lovely wife Hyunjin's cranberry sauce (I had it the following day; it was delicious). He also later texted that he hadn't had a chance to eat my stuffing. I'll be packing most of this food to take to work this week, where my coworkers will snarf it all down. No time for regrets. Life must go on.

We sign off with this gesture made toward the French contingent. I had everyone gather for a posed selfie with signs in French saying Allez, la France! ("Go, France!") and On Vous Baise Embrasse! ("We Fuck Kiss You!"). The French will sign their emails with valedictions like On t'embrasse, literally "We kiss you," but translating more realistically as something like the English-language valediction "Kisses." Meanwhile, the verb baiser, which today means "to fuck," used to be a perfectly innocent verb meaning "to kiss" centuries ago. Strangely, it's still permissible to say donner un baiser à quelqu'un ("to give someone a kiss"), where un baiser still means "a kiss" and not "a fuck."

I looked at my squinty smile and was reminded of Captain James Kirk's death scene in "Star Trek: Generations," in which, with the help of Captain Picard, he saves billions of lives from destruction and summarizes the adventure by saying, "It was... fun," and then smiles his own squinty smile before beaming up for good:

I hope you all had a most excellent Thanksgiving and a most excellent post-Thanksgiving weekend. Best wishes for the rest of this year. If you're in the States, good luck dealing with the crass materialism of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the other tacky shopping events from now through New Year's. I'm happy not to have to deal with that nonsense here in Korea, but we've got plenty of our own, homegrown peninsular foolishness to contend with.


John Mac said...


Everything you've posted for the shindig looks awesome. I'm sure it tastes even better than it looks. Lots of hard work but it I'm sure it was worth it!

Charles said...

I think "minimally satisfactory" is a bit harsh. I am just sad that I did not get to try everything.

I was wondering if you were going to chime in during our political conversation. I think I have a better handle on where you stand, being a regular reader of the blog, than either Patrick or Tom, and I was hoping that you would offer a dissenting opinion. Then again, I know you, so I wasn't terribly surprised that you didn't. I don't know if you noticed, but I did try to temper things a bit to create entry points for you; perhaps I was not so successful.

Kevin Kim said...

It's nice and comfortable when one is part of a group of generally like-minded people; by contrast, it's no fun to be outnumbered. In my office, I'm surrounded by liberals who spout the same talking points every day. I see no point in trying to change minds in that environment, if changing minds is even the point of such discussions.

I did try with Tom once or twice. When he and I have sat down for dinner on recent occasions, Trump inevitably comes up as a topic, and I've tried expressing a different point of view, but Saturday showed that none of that has worked: Tom's point of view has changed not at all, and he'll still keep Kakao'ing me HuffPost articles about Trump's latest supposed gaffe.

So what's the use? That sentiment sounds condescending, as if I were condemning everyone around me as hopeless, but since we're usually committed to our points of view for reasons that have little to do with logic and much to do with emotion, persuasion is a well-nigh-impossible thing. And merely "getting my view out there" as a way of scoring moral points has no appeal to me. Especially at a party where the point is to have a good time.

Which, by the way, I should also make clear: I didn't agree with the general tenor of that part of the conversation, but I don't resent that it happened under my roof. People are free to say whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned, and hey, if it helps to vent about the Asshole-in-Chief, even if it solves no problems, then by all means, may the masses vent away! Upshot: I had a good time.

Charles said...

Fair enough.