Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dinner Party Debt

I found this hilarious article on while looking for reading material to give my ESL students. I hope you enjoy it! If you would like to view the article at it's original location, click here.

Dinner Party Debt
by Mary Roach

Our friend Dave loves to cook. Dave will call us up and say, "Hey, come on over. I got a leg of lamb," as though it had just sort of landed in his lap like a fly ball. Dave talks very fast, which he needs to do to answer the question "What're you making?" in a reasonable amount of time. The last time we went to Dave's -- for a 50th birthday dinner for our friend Sandy -- the answer was, and I'm not even slightly kidding here, "Gonna start with oysters with lemongrass and a blood orange granité, then a fish plate with halibut and preserved lemon, a little cauliflower soup, pasta with anchovy sauce. Meat course, I'm thinking bavette steak with white beans and fennel. Ed eats beef, right? If not, I'll whip him up some Thai snapper."

We happen to have a Thai cookbook, which we use constantly (for propping up the Tex-Mex cookbook), and it has a recipe for snapper. So I happen to know this isn't something you "whip up." It is something that whips you. The shopping alone would require a month's sabbatical. The recipe called for, among 278 other ingredients, "1 tablespoon coarsely chopped kha." As I know from our Scrabble dictionary, ka is what the ancient Egyptians called the soul. Who sells this? What sort of knife does one use to chop life energy?

Generosity like Dave's is difficult to reciprocate. I once tried to cook for Dave and Kate. It was humiliating. I made angel hair pasta with toasted walnuts and some variety of cheese that had not showered in a while. When I tried to mix everything together, the angel hair pasta simply moved around the bowl in a solid lumpen knot. "You forgot the conditioner," said Ed, who has since quietly absorbed the cooking duties on the rare evenings when we're not eating at Dave's.

I have tried to convince myself it's okay that Ed and I have not properly reciprocated by preparing 22 six-course dinners for Dave and Kate. "He understands that we're not up to it," I said to Ed. "Besides, he's not keeping score."

"Everyone keeps score," said Ed. "How many times have we had Lou over without his inviting us?" Lou is one of a small group of bachelors whom we sometimes invite over for a meal at the last minute. It is never intimidating to cook for these men, as your culinary talents need only surpass those of Mr. Top and his ramen.

But Ed was right. I knew exactly how many times Lou had been over.

Last week I e-mailed Dave to tell him I'm writing a column about dinner party debt. Dave was leaving on a business trip that afternoon. "Have a good trip," I wrote. "When you get back, you'll be eating at our house for the next year and a half." I had anticipated some reassuring reply, something along the lines of: "Oh, Mary, I cook for you guys because I love to cook, and I love you. In fact, what are you doing next Saturday? I got a school of tuna."

However, Dave wrote: "Gotta run. Look forward to collecting."

It's true. Everyone keeps track. We owe Dave, we owe Steph and Jerry, we owe Bill and Adair big time. We actually sat down and made a list. It was shocking. What should we do? said Ed. Can we offer them the cash equivalency? How can we ever erase such an enormous pile of debt? Is it possible to declare dinner party bankruptcy? There should be a system in place that allows us to collect credits for feeding Lou, credits that we can then apply to Dave and Bill and Steph.

If I could, I would sell Dave my soul to repay his kindness and generosity. And I know for sure that he's got the right knife to chop it up.


tenthstreetplace said...

come to think of it, don't you owe me a dinner?

Jen said...

That is hilarious. I was laughing uncontrollably for several minutes after reading it. Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca said...

Glad you enjoyed it Jen. I, too, was laughing out loud for several minutes. I hadn't read something that made me laugh like that in quite some time so I figured it was worth posting.