So, we’re sitting at Genghis Grill, and I really need a drink.
But I’ll have to wait just a bit, because our server was rather chatty, completely invested in making a big production out of personally greeting all members of our party, and I’m at the end of the row, shoved up against a short wall that had no logical reason for being where it was.
(While briefly trying to determine the structural function for this wall, I peeked around it and was met with the visage of an apparently-starved woman who was shoveling food in her mouth with manic frenzy, grunting and such. She gave me a look that made it very clear that she was going to stab me in the forehead with her fork if I didn’t stop staring. My bad. I guess she won’t be sending me a Christmas card.)
Back on the other side of the wall, our server had taken exactly one drink order, meaning there were still six more to go. Great. I quickly determined that the holdup had something to do with this establishment not offering diet DR. PEPPER. Oh my. Roni usually drinks diet DR. PEPPER, and you must give Roni what she wants or you will pay for it the rest of your life, in painful and tedious ways. She doesn’t ask for much, but when she does, you better put out with a smile on your face.
I reached for my keys to hop in the car and head to the nearest grocery store, intending to save Mom from a life of misery. Amazingly, Roni changed course and decided that some other beverage would prove at least minimally satisfactory. Terrific. Now we just had five more drink orders. I probably had plenty of time to take a short nap and get some laundry done.
Next up? One of the nieces and the nephew announced that they wanted a special drink composed of a sugary something combined with Red Bull. Seriously? I don’t think so. You have enough NATURAL energy coursing through your bodies. There’s no reason to jack you up any higher. (And why the hell is something like that even ON the menu for already-vibrating powerballs to find and covet?) I opened my mouth to swat down the idea.
And was instantly intercepted by Mom, beaming at the little angels and saying that would be just fine, drink all you want. Hook them up to a sugar-and-caffeine drip, if you can arrange it. I sighed, and began studying all available exits out of the building. If any relatives starting turning cartwheels and speaking in tongues, I was out of here and not looking back. And then changing all locks at the house.
The pace of things began to pick up and a bit, and suddenly Little Miss Chat-and-Linger was standing beside me, pen poised to duly note my drink selection. I ordered a concoction dubbed “Sake Sunrise”, a mix of something, something, sake and champagne. The combo intrigued me. It was either going to be very good or very bad, and I couldn’t live without knowing the answer to that question.
Miss Chatter flitted off to ask someone what she was supposed to do after she wrote things on her little note pad, and I turned my attention to the rest of our gathering. It was time to get in line and start poking at raw chunks of meat. “Ready?”
No, they were not. They had questions that must be processed, integral questions that would determine whether or not they would ever get up from the booth. The most common query was this: “What are we supposed to put in this damn silver bowl?”
I was fairly certain this had been covered during the 100-mile trip across the universe to get here, but perhaps we suffered some short-term memory loss when the two youngest nieces were bellowing “Polk Salad Annie” every time we pulled up to a stoplight. I tried again. “You just put what you want in the bowl. Pick out things you like.”
“Like things you like.” (Hello?) “There’s beef and chicken and seafood and veggies. And stuff. You’ll see.”
“What if there’s something I don’t like?”
My teeth were gritting. “Then DON’T pick that. Pick. What. You. Like.” (Did they just start eating solid foods YESTERDAY?)
“Do they have popcorn?”
That one completely stunned me and I lost my focus. Out of desperation, I mentioned that there were interesting recipes both in the menus and on little cards that you could carry through the line. This proved to be an incredibly stupid and inefficient move on my part.
All heads swiveled and began perusing the mini-recipes. Within two seconds, we had more recalcitrant commentary.
“Well, on this one, I like that, and that, but not THAT.”
“Why do I have to put pepper on it? I don’t like pepper.”
“What is Super Dragon spice? Are we eating dragons?”
“Vegetables are STUPID.”
I gently and lovingly took the menu from the most vocal contestant, smoothed down her cute but tousled hair with warmth and affection, then threw the menu across the room. “We don’t HAVE to follow the recipes. You can get whatever you want.”
This did nothing to help with the crowd control. In fact, the yapping and confusion increased a bit, especially when someone spied the word “watercress”, sending them all into a fresh tizzy. One of the nieces even whipped out a cell phone and hit speed-dial for her lawyer.
Dawn cleared her throat. “We don’t have to follow the recipes. You can get whatever you want.”
The entire table looked at her as if Moses had just parted the red sea with stone tablets and we were now at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, with perfect understanding shining down on all. Their faces sparkled with love and devotion for this saintly relative who had changed their lives completely.
By saying exactly what I had said. Same words. God.
Just then, Miss Chatter strolled up with some of our drinks. She paused at my chair and said “Here’s your Sake Sun-”
I snatched the glass off her tray and gulped down half the contents, not caring that a bit of it dripped off my chin. Then I discreetly belched and turned to the circus. “Let’s go get in line, shall we?”
Thirty minutes later, we all managed to join the end of that line. It wasn’t very long, which was a fine and good thing, but it was just the exact length to place our party directly in front of the area where you can pick up those damn cards with the little recipes, in case you need a reference tool as you work your way through the wondrous options and choices just ahead of us. Instantly, curious hands shot out to snatch up some of the cards, and the craziness kicked back in high gear.
“Do I HAVE to get octopus?”
“”What’s a pinch?”
“I an NOT puttin’ that in MY mouth.”
“Why is this card orange and that one green?”
Me, inner voice: “Jesus, Mary and Joachin, will you let it GO with the freakin’ recipes! Nobody in this line is making ANYTHING that is written down. We are going to WING IT, and we are going to love the hell out of doing so!” Me, outer voice: “Just watch what I do, okay?”
Suffice it to say that I aged a number of years getting through that line. I was in need of plastic surgery by the time I reached the end of it. I practically threw my bowl of rawness at the little attendant, ripped my number card out of her hand, and fled back to our table, where I downed the rest of my drink while simultaneously ordering two more of them. Our server took one look at my expression and wisely upped the total to three.
Eventually, the rest of the tribe made it’s way back to the table, excitedly waving about their number cards and chattering about how fun it was to cook your own food. (Even though they didn’t actually do that part, but I kept my mouth shut.) Everybody put their numbers on this metal tree thing that helps servers reunite you with your silver bowl, post-grilling. Terry snapped a shot of our tree once it was fully prepped, which is shown below. And we’ll end our story here, since the picture, to me, captures the sheer insanity of the day. Bon appetit!
(And yes, that’s a pair of chopsticks perched in front of my sister Dawn. She used them that day, of course. Effortlessly. Yet another feather in her sainthood. I just can’t win with her…)