Scene: Friday, 4:00pm. Driving the Beast’s parents’ car (which they graciously lent us) to London in order to celebrate my mom’s birthday.
Foodie: Did you pack your medicine?
Beast: Yes, it’s in my purse.
Foodie: Your Fendi? Are you really using it?
Beast: Of course I am! It’s there in the back seat.
Foodie: What CD are you putting in?
Beast: You’ll see.
After a few notes, I knew that we were listening to one of the very enchanting songs featured in the Oscar-winning movie, Gladiator. And instinctually, the Beast and I both put out our arms and pretended to run our hands through imaginary wheat fields, just like Russell Crowe, the Oscar-winning actor, did in the film.
Foodie: How the f–k do you have the Gladiator soundtrack?
Beast: It was just in the car–it’s my dad’s. And it’s not even the soundtrack: it’s some sort of collection of heroic songs.
Beast: Will you please put some on me?
Beast: My medication makes me photo-sensitive!
(The Beast had to go to Emergency last week because, well, because his balls were so sore. Don’t worry, his balls are going to be fine. Turns out he got himself a little case of epididymitis, which results in sore and swollen balls, but it clears right up with some anti-biotics. And yes, I’m allowed to talk about it because the Beast said he no longer has any shame after having so many people touch his balls and because I already told everybody I know already.)
Foodie: This isn’t going on very well. You’re so hairy!
Beast: Will you grab my purse and get out the CDs I brought for the car ride?
Foodie: Will you stop calling it your “purse”?
Beast: Why don’t you take a look in my purse for something else.
Foodie: A present?
Beast: Look in my purse!
Foodie: I love them! They’re so much fun!
Beast: Turn them over.
Foodie: Bottega Veneta? Get out of town! They’re gorgeous!
Beast: They’re stamped sterling silver and they’re probably gold-coated. I checked a few vintage costume jewelry books and I bet these would sell for well over $400. I picked them up for $5 at work though.
Foodie: You sound like someone who would carry a purse.
As soon as we walked in the door, I told my mom about the Beast’s balls and how sore they’ve been. She immediately made jokes about how she was going to help soothe the Beast’s pain. It was funny, albeit slightly traumatizing. We ordered chinese food that night and watched four back-to-back episodes of True Blood. It was exhausting. The next day my Aunt Sandy came for a visit bearing bounty from her garden, along with some just-picked sweet corn from a local farm. My mom and I zipped out to Angelo’s, an Italian deli and grocery store just around the corner from her place, to pick up some sandwich makings. I got to set the table, which was a heck of a lot of fun for me because my mom collects plates.
She doesn’t really use them. But I insist on bringing them out when I go home.
Aunt Sandy must have been in the door for all of three minutes before my mom grabbed her by the shoulder, pointed at the Beast who stood only a few feet away, and whispered, “He’s got sore balls.” The Beast affirmed the news with a solemn nod of his head.
Mom: And tell Sandy what he did in the doctor’s office!
Foodie: Yes! Tell Aunt Sandy!
Beast (sighing): Well, I had on one of those robes and the doctor told me to lie down. I just assumed he needed to examine my behind because most instances of sore balls have something to do with your prostate so I laid down on my tummy with my bare bum in the air and the doctor looked at me like I was crazy and said, “What are you doing? Lie on your back please.”
Lunch was perfect. The tomatoes from Sandy’s garden were divine.
And the corn was the best I’ve had all season.
We each customized our own little sammies. As simple as it sounds, it really is one of my favourite sort of meals, especially when I get to enjoy it with such entertaining people who exchange in such delightful conversions, like this:
Mom (watching the Beast eat): I just don’t know where you put it all. And you’re so damn skinny!
Aunt Sandy: Maybe it goes right to his balls.
Mom: Did you know that Snoop Dog’s favourite TV show is Coronation Street?
Beast: Fo’ Shizzle?
Mom: No, SNOOP DOG.
After lunch, the Beast took us girls antiquing. There was no shortage of testicular joking. And after Aunt Sandy left for home, my mom decided on the destination of her birthday dinner: Swiss Chalet. Now you’re probably wondering what I ordered, considering Swiss Chalet is all about chicken and I don’t like chicken. Well, I also don’t like people who go to Swiss Chalet and order hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, “lite” chicken wraps, chicken caesar salads, or ribs. If you go to Swiss Chalet, you’re supposed to order a quarter chicken dinner (white meat for me), and french fries. That’s how you do it. And because I grew up eating Swiss Chalet about once a week, I can tuck my little bird-eating phobia into my back pocket for 45 minutes or so, and come out feeling great and satisfied.
The other great thing about Swiss Chalet, besides the chicken, is that every Swiss Chalet across our Nation is pretty much the same, including the clientele: I’ve never seen so many canes and walkers in a single dining room in all my life, including our own party: My mom’s partner Russ gets around with either two canes, a walker or a scooter. He has Addison’s disease; a neurological condition that really messes up your balance. And my mom has Lupus so she’s in pain, oh, most of the time. But you’ll never meet a more jovial and happy pair who rarely complain about their ailments. In fact, sometimes I forget that they’re not entirely able-bodied–until I see them, say, getting in and out of a car and walking to a table at Swiss Chalet. As I held open the door for my sweet waddling mother, for shaky-legged Russ, and for the Beast with his big ole’ swollen balls, I knew that we’d fit in perfectly.
The girls ordered quarter chicken dinners with fries and the boys ordered one of those half-chicken and half-rib combos (with fries) that I’m so suspicious of. Soon after ordering, our server dropped off our dipping sauce, which I immediately began to photograph.
Mom (to server, and talking in a really loud voice): She’s got a food B-L-O-G so that’s why she’s taking photos because they’ll go up on her B-L-O-G.
Server: I thought she just really liked the sauce.
Mom: Maybe she’ll write about you in her B-L-O-G. It’s called–
Foodie: Okey-doke there mamma! It’s nothing really…
Server: I’ll be in your blog but only if you say I was the best server you ever had.
Foodie (after the server had walked away): MOM!
Our dinners arrived with typical Swiss Chalet promptness, and with typically perfect french fries.
The combo thing looked okay, which is hard to tell from this photo of the Beast’s dinner taken soon after it was placed in front of him:
My favourite two thing about Swiss Chalet is watching how people eat their dinner: everybody has a very particular way of doing things. For instance, I take a bit of chicken, a french fry, and dunk it all in the magic sauce for each fork-full. Half-way through my meal, I make a little chicken sandwich using the bun, and dunk that in the sauce too. My mom, on the other hand, gives away most of the white meat in exchange for other people’s bones.
It’s a gruesome affair but it pleases her beyond measure. And it was her birthday after all.
Oh wait–my other favourite thing at Swiss Chalet is actually the little finger bowl filled with luke-warm water and a speck of lemon.
It’s always been the perfect way to end a classy affair.