NEW YEARS, CHICKEN LEGS AND WATER

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I used to do that. But life would inevitably throw me curves throughout the year, plans would change, resolutions would be altered, or discarded altogether, and I’d start feeling like a failure; so no more New Year’s resolutions, thank you very much.

There are things I would like to do this year. I would like to finish the three books I am writing. I would like to get myself into top shape physically, a task I’ve begun. I would like to climb more of the Catskill Mountains and begin the task of taking on the Adirondack Mountains. Noble aspirations for sure. If they work out, great. If they don’t, also great.

There are other things too I’d like to do. I am well on my way to making a life-long dream come true: my own library. Completing the library in the room I’ve chosen requires the acquisition of more shelves more than it does the acquisition of more books, although their numbers are sure to grow. Were everything in place now, the library would have on or about 1,000 books. I forget in which of Dickens’ books it was, but there was a character who called his library “The Growlery”. I kind of like that.

I think too that I would like to cook more. Now the notion of my cooking more might send some who know me running for cover. I can’t say as I blame them. And, as you’ll see, after I offer two examples or, if you prefer, servings, of my culinary exploits, I don’t think you’d blame them either.

An ex-girlfriend of mine was the picture of graciousness when, on her first visit to my home, I dazzled her with a dinner comprised of a chicken leg and a glass of water. She stayed! Now that, my friends, is both true love and true tolerance. True, the chicken leg was cooked in an exquisite sauce. But a chicken leg and glass of water? Really, Peter. In my defense I will say that this woman was very beautiful and I was head over heels falling in love with her and any ability I had to concentrate on preparing a meal was barely able to keep its head above water.

Lest you think that was my biggest culinary faux pas, let me reassure you it was not.

I lived in Seagate in Brooklyn during the 1970s. I had occasion to be thoroughly smitten by a woman dazzling in both looks and personality. I lived on the beach. We decided to have dinner at my place and then go for a walk on the beach. Very romantic. At that time in my life I pretty much lived on a diet of pasta and cheese along with the other culinary delights indulged in by those of us who were, more often than not, short on money. But remember what I said; this woman was dazzling. And so, I was determined to make the dinner equally dazzling.

I took the bus to the fish market and bought 50 shrimp. I figured it was a good round number and I didn’t want to look cheap. I knew shrimp were classy. I went home and turned my culinary talents loose on the shrimp.

When she arrived for dinner I had a lovely platter piled high with crispy sautéed shrimp that had been dipped in egg and rolled in Italian bread crumbs. Looking at them and smelling them made your mouth water.

She was impressed. She either didn’t notice or didn’t say anything about the fact all I had cooked was the shrimp which I served with what any chef worth his or her salt would serve – soda.

We sat down for our feast. I shoved some shrimp onto her plate (ladies first) and then shoved some onto my plate.

She said, “They look wonderful,” and she meant it!

I said, “So do you.”

We dug in. They were crispy. Very crispy.

She said, “These are very crispy.”

I said, “I know.”

She said, “Did you shell them?”

I said, “Pardon?”

She said, “Shell them? Did you shell them?”

Not content with simply being an ass, I went for being a complete ass. I said, “Shrimp don’t have shells. Lobsters have shells. Clams have shells. Horseshoe crabs have shells.”

She said, “Shrimp have shells too…”

Five minutes later we had two plates before us. One was piled high with beautifully sautéed breaded shrimp shells. The other was piled high with a bunch of naked white shrimp.

There is one thing I do cook well. I cook some of the best omelets known to humankind. In fact, a former roommate of mine, an honest to God French Chef, actually replaced his method of cooking omelets with mine. While I cling to that ribbon of culinary success, I need to get going. My library beckons.

Happy New Year.

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