My wife called me,”the walking anus of the universe.”
I’m not sure what this means, nor am I sure of why she chooses to call me “the walking anus of the universe” instead of her usual: “Self-absorbed, jerk off, butt hook.”
I sense her new description of me does not reflect well on my character.
She calls me the “walking anus of the universe” just after we eat dinner.
Yesterday, Kathy decides she will go on yet another no-carb regimen. She is looking at herself in a full-length mirror, unclothed, and she concludes she is teetering on the cusp of fat. Then, she informs me that we will participate, together, since I am noticeably fatter than she.
Kathy leaves a sheaf of papers on my computer keyboard this morning; the material details a new metabolic force-field-powerful, guaranteed weight loss and anti-dementia diet, (or something like that, since I forgot the actual title), and includes a daily list of foods and activities a devotee follows, until such time they are hospitalized due to a massive obstruction of the bowel and life-threatening dehydration.
Many paragraphs in the document are highlighted with a yellow marker; several of the individual sheets of paper are plastered with little, red stick-on arrows.
I study the documents and, seeking to avoid conflict, I prepare a dinner tonight that is in synch with the program: oven roasted halibut, steamed asparagus, steamed green peas, a simply dressed salad of baby romaine, kalamata olives, and avocado. And what I consider to be a spectacular sauce, comprising minced white onion, microplaned garlic, chopped parsley, diced Roma tomato, and a smidge of Korean pepper fun sludge.
I sweat the onion in olive oil over medium heat, until it softens. I boost the temp and toss in the tomato, the garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper. When all is mushy, sweet, and amalgamated, in goes the parsley, a quarter cup of chicken broth, and a teaspoon of gochujang. After the blend reduces, I take it off the heat, and swirl in a hefty knob of butter. I adjust the seasoning, and the sauce is remarkable.
Kathy does not agree.
Further, to honor her rural farmer’s sensibility, I’ve cooked the fish a bit longer than I desire, or than the fish deserves. She regularly complains if I cook fish to a proper state. “Ooooh, it’s jiggly in the middle. It’s raw! I can’t eat this.”
This outing, the woman has the audacity to claim: “This is overcooked, don’t you think?”
Then, to add insult to injury: “I have to use some more of the sauce, since the fish is too dry. But, the sauce has an icky taste to it. Why did you have to ruin it with that Korean crap?”
When I note she lacks sophistication, and is an unredeemable food prole, she responds with, “You are the walking anus of the universe,” and goes off to play gospel tunes at max volume on an electric keyboard — saxophone setting.
Later in the evening my daughter Ivy calls, eager to compound matters. She inquires, in brusque fashion, about my food and alcohol intake during the day. Once she joined Crossfit, drank the cult Kool-Aid, and gave up intoxicants and plentiful dietary fats, she became my culinary Torquemada. She is relentless.
I make the mistake of telling her that I enjoyed a hefty cocktail at precisely 4:30 p.m. (I needn’t have told her this, since real news would be that I didn’t down a hefty cocktail at precisely 4:30 p.m.)
“Are you still going through at least 1.75 liters of Tanqueray every five or six days?”
I admit it, since one of her best friends, Anna, works at the liquor store, and the little snitch provides Ivy with intelligence each time I visit.
I attempt to change the subject by telling her how much I love her sons, my grandsons. I mention how much I love my daughter Aurora’s daughter, my granddaughter. I flood the conversation with love and fine feelings.
She interrupts me as I babble about grandson Bodhi’s inherent rhythmic ability, and asks: “Did you have any cheese yesterday or today?”
I attempt to change the subject by commenting on the weather here in Siberia With a View, noting that this March, counter to the norm, has seen precious little snow. “March used to be the snowiest month of the year,” I say. “We’re at mid month, and if we don’t get the moisture, I’m worried about fire season. How about you?”
“Cheese, big guy. Did you eat cheese? You did, didn’t you? Admit it: you did. How much? Tell me the truth: I checked the size of the block of cheddar yesterday morning when I was at your house, and I am going to measure it again in two days. The truth is your only option.”
“Well,” I say, trying to keep the tone of my voice as calm as possible, “perhaps I had a nibble. Or two.”
“Let me see,” she says, “I’ll need to run that through the Karl translator. Gimme a sec.”
Two seconds of silence.
“OK, got the results. ‘I had a nibble’ means you didn’t stuff so much in your mouth at one time that you couldn’t make sounds. And ‘Or two’ means two inches off the end of the block. Correct?”
“I didn’t eat any crackers, or slices of baguette, smeared with plenty of butter,” I replied. “After all, I’m joining your mother on her newest I-can’t-have-anything-good-to eat-and-I-want-to-die plan. I ingested no carbs with my cheese. Not a particle.”
I go on to tell her the tale of this night’s dinner, and of her mother’s distress. I note there was not a particle of carbohydrate involved in the offerings.
“And what do you intend to make for dinner tomorrow night?,” she asks.
“I’ve done extensive research on Internet sites catering to carb-deprived simps, and I found a number of interesting dishes. I am going to try one of them tomorrow. Did you know there’s nearly a thousand things you can do with mangled cauliflower?”
“I’m going to annihilate a head’s worth of florets in the food processor, until the veg resembles Israeli couscous. I’ll squeeze the moisture out of the pellets, then dry them thoroughly on paper towels before putting them into a large bowl. I’ll mix in two beaten eggs, a pinch of baking soda, salt, pepper, some chopped green chile, and a couple other things.”
“Hold on,” she says. “’A couple other things?’ Let me run that through the translator.”
Two seconds of silence.
“OK, got the results. ‘A couple other things’ involves cheese, doesn’t it?”
“Not necessarily. It could mean unspecified herbs and spices, their identities determined at the last moment.”
“It means cheese, doesn’t it?”
“How much is ‘a bit?’”
“Not all that much. Perhaps a half tub of shredded Parmesan, and a cup, or so, of shredded cheddar.”
“Two cups. I also need some extra to plop on top of the burgers made with grass-fed, hormone-free, beef, of course. Well, my burger, anyway.”
Two seconds of silence.
A long sigh.
Two seconds of silence.
To end the conversation, Ivy details what she will do when I meet my end, which she says is not far ahead, “since you can’t give up the cheese and gin.”
“I know you want to be cremated,” she says, “but I’m going to have a tombstone made, and I’ll put it in a prominent place, next to a bench on the Riverwalk, downtown, where thousands of people will see it each year. The tombstone will be manufactured in the shape of a large wedge of cheese, and carved on it next to the image of a Tanqueray bottle, will be the words: ‘Karl Isberg, RIP. He died because he was stupid, drunk, and fat.’”
I am suitably chastened. As a result, I’ll cut the shredded cheddar back to a cup and a half tomorrow evening. I’ll fold the cheeses into the cauliflower sludge, heat a cast iron pan over medium heat, and add olive oil and a bit of butter, liberally coating the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers, I’ll plop three-tablespoon blobs of the cauliflower into the pan, and flatten them into patties. Golden brown on both sides, the patties will go to a plate in a 200 oven, as more are cooked.
When the patties are done, a bit more oil goes into the pan, and the heat will be turned up to medium high. The beef is seasoned and shaped, the burgers cooked to medium, and removed to a warm plate. Into the pan will go sliced white onion and sliced cremini. When the onion and fungus is ready I’ll flip in some microplaned garlic, let the trio cook for a minute longer, add a bit of red wine and some beef stock, reduce significantly, toss in parsley and the burgers, and consider a final addition or two. Once the sauce is off the heat, butter is a must, but this will need something else. A swirl of Dijon?
No, I’ve got it: a wad of Korean pepper fun sludge!
What can it hurt? After all, I’m the Walking Anus of the Universe, and I’ll be dead soon, because I’m stupid, drunk, and fat.