The Beast called me yesterday at work to tell me he was bringing home a guest to dinner. This was great news for two reasons: first, I already knew what I wanted to make: spaghetti with ramps, some caesar salad, and rhubarb crisp for dessert. Ramps are sort of like little baby wild leeks. I saw a recipe for them in Gourmet a while back so when they arrived at my local green grocer–along with fresh rhurbarb–I knew what I had to do. When I told the Beast what I was making he kept saying, “I can’t wait to try ram meat.” And I would say, “no, it’s spaghetti with RAMPS. They’re like wild leeks.” And then he would say, “Yes! Rams are very wild and I bet they’re delicious.”
The second reason this was good news was because the Beast was bringing home Nick Edwards. Nick is a bit tricky to explain, but I’ll give it a shot. Imagine a very young Paul Newman, with a little Robert Redford. Now shake that glorious image up with the comedic timing of Charlie Chaplin and the goofy charm of, oh, let’s say Cary Grant in Bringing up Baby, and the bad-boy heroism of Brad Pitt as Tristan in Legends of the Fall. Every woman I know falls in love with Nick. Everybody else wants to claim him as their own: “I met him first” and “You don’t know him like I do–I know him inside and out.” I fear that if all his adorers were to gather ’round him, we’d tear him apart like crazed maenads hoping to consume his very beautiful being. Of course he belongs to nobody–he’s sort of like that dog in The Littlest Hobo. That said, he and the Beast have forged a friendship over many years that makes my heart swell, and I always feel like a moth drawn to their light when I’m in their company: They paint and sketch together; make beautiful music together; go for weekend retreats to the cottage together; make each other laugh until they cry together; talk about books together; and nap together. It’s enchanting. And it’s extremely gay.
Foodie: (To Nick) Do you mind signing a waiver before dinner? It basically allows me to use anything you say in my blog.
Nick: No way. Not a chance. Unless I get a name. If he gets a funny name, then I want one too, like Chip– that little teacup in Beauty and the Beast.
Foodie: It’s Foodie and the Beast. And no way–you have to be Nick. Do you know how many hits I’ll get just from young girls googling your name?
Nick: Wait a second. You can’t write what I say because I won’t sound smart and then girls will think I’m a dummy. (Nick makes his way to the dining room, which is also the library.)
Beast: Where are you going? I thought we were going to go upstairs and play the wooden flutes we just bought in Little India this afternoon! (See gay comment above.)
Nick: I need to read smart things. And then I can repeat them at dinner for this one over here (pointing to me.)
Once the boys stopped pretending to read Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography they left me alone in the kitchen to get down to business. Dinner prep was easy. I just had to blanch the ramps and then blend them with olive oil, lemon zest and some of the starchy pasta water. I know caesar salad seems a bit gauche, and for the record, it most definitely isn’t Italian (it was made on the fly in Tijuana back in the 20s), but last summer caesar salad had a bit of a renaissance in our home. I’ve made my own caesar salad dressing in the past, but in a pinch I go for Renee’s, and I’ve discovered these really fancy pepper & parmigiano-laced gourmet croutons that really spice things up. The pasta went over well. It tasted like Spring-time. Although if I make it again, I’d add way more than the teaspoon of lemon zest the recipe called for, and more parmigiano too.
When it comes to making rhubarb crisp, I’m very particular. I don’t mix rhubarb with strawberries. Ever. Rhubarb is one of the loveliest colours I’ve ever seen and when you add a little sugar, it’s the perfect compromise between sweet and tart. Adding strawberries seems so counter-intuitive. And when it comes to the crisp part, I use lots of butter, brown sugar and just enough flour and oats to bring it all together. No spices, like cloves or cinnamon, either. Rhubarb crisp should remind you of white porches in the summer of 1954 and ought to be served by big-breasted, small-waisted beauties wearing gingham aprons. Or Nigella Lawson. Or maybe Ricky Gervais.
I served mine, predictably, in jogging pants to the boys who’d moved to the couch. And what happened next was the reason I keep the rhubarb crisp simple: the Beast and Nick, or “Chip” began to moan and thrash on the couch in a fit of mouth pleasure bordering on ecstasy. Chip kept nodding yes, yes, yes with his head and used his spoon to point to his dessert plate. The Beast may have even howled. I just smiled at the boys, content in the fact that I’d fed them well without having had to hunt and butcher a wild ram.
Foodie: ** Beast: **