Because we’ve been barbecuing so much lately, the Beast and I haven’t been eating as many carbs as we usually do in the colder months. But on Sunday I got a real hankering for spaghetti and meatballs. Normally when I make meatballs I just make up the recipe as I go along but I decided to turn to my used copy of How to Cook Everything this time around; something I’ve been doing quite frequently–and not just because I’m extremely good friends with the author, Mark Bittman, but because everything I’ve made using these recipes, has been spot-on-good.
The meatballs were no exception; they required a package of ground pork, another of ground beef, a half cup of breadcrumbs (I sometimes use soda crackers in a pinch), a teaspoon of minced garlic, a handful of chopped parsley, an egg and a cup of grated parmigiano (I also added a smidge of freshly grated nutmeg). And this resulted in the finest batch of meatballs I’ve ever made.
As a conservator of dirtying dishes, the best part is that you make the tomato sauce in the same pan as the meatballs so that all those sticky bits get picked up.
But before I started on that step, I got a phone call from my best friend Sarah asking if I could babysit her little one while she and her husband took their older son to see Cars 2. Of course, I jumped at the chance.
On the phone before my babysitting job, with the Beast.
Beast: What are you doing?
Foodie: I just made some meatballs for dinner tonight!
Beast: Amazing idea!
Foodie: Thanks but I can’t talk right now. I’ve got to babysit.
Beast: Excuse me?
Foodie: I’m babysitting for Sarah. Do you think a baby will poop its pants in three hours?
Beast: How the hell should I know?
Foodie: I think the last time I changed a diaper was four years ago. But it’s like riding a bike, right?
Beast: I feel like throwing up just thinking about this.
Foodie: I’ve got to go.
30 minutes later the crew showed up at my place with a diaper bag, a portable crib, a few instructions about food, creams for rashes and swaddling and also one baby.
Before I knew it, the baby and I were alone. The baby didn’t make any sounds. He was content just being held in my arms as I walked around our house looking at things.
We played with an old rusty abacus.
And then I took him up to the Beast’s music room where we found some age-appropriate instruments.
The baby especially loved the Beast’s collection of bells.
It was such an idyllic, peaceful hour. Just me and the baby; me whispering to the baby like all that whispering in Terrence Malick’s movies; me hugging and kissing the baby; me making that baby laugh. This isn’t so hard, I thought to myself. As the late evening sun cascaded into the music room, I imagined staying at home with a baby this well-behaved and being able to cook extravagant meals and keep a tidy house and wear an apron and rock babies quietly to sleep.
Two hours later after the baby’s parents picked up the baby.
Beast: I’m home! Where are you?
Foodie: I’m upstairs on the deck!
Beast (enroute to the deck via the music room): WHOA.
Foodie: What’s wrong?
Beast: Was it your idea to put the Fisher Price thing on top of my harmonium or the baby’s?
Foodie: Oh, sorry about that.
Beast: What’s wrong with you.
Foodie: What do you mean?
Beast: You look like…you look exhausted.
Foodie: I need a cigarette and a drink.
(The Beast fills this request.)
Beast: When’s dinner?
Foodie: When’s dinner? I’ll tell you when dinner is! It’s when I finish making it! I didn’t get around to finishing dinner BECAUSE I WAS LOOKING AFTER A BABY!!!!
Beast: How was it?
Foodie: It started off so nicely. I fed him and rocked him and played with him. But then I had to change his diaper. Do you know that babies fart as loud as adults do? It’s kind of unnerving. But the thing is he’s just getting over a bad diaper rash so it hurts him terribly when he poops and there all these creams I had to put in his bum but when I went to change the diaper…oh god…when I went to change the diaper, he was mid-pooping. And I just kept wiping but the poop kept coming out like tooth paste and he was crying because it hurt. And it was like looking into the eye of hell itself.
Beast: Please stop. I can’t listen to this. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god.
Foodie: And then I had to put, like four creams in a very particular order in there. I’ve never even put cream in my bum before. And there was poop everywhere and creams everywhere. It was just terrible. Then he stopped crying–Sarah said he only cries if he’s pooped so to check his diaper if he’s really wailing. So when he started wailing again, I checked his diaper. But there was no poop! I checked that diaper about seven times, man! And nothing. That bum was spotless.
Beast: I am going to throw up now.
Foodie: And then I had to swaddle him before putting him to bed. Do you know how hard it is to swaddle a baby that won’t hold still? Will you get me more wine please? Thanks. So I swaddled him, put him in the crib and then waited outside the door. Then I’d hear him kicking his legs and breaking free of the swaddling. So I’d go and swaddle him again. I did that for about an hour, and the same thing just kept happening. I can’t swaddle for shit! Then I put him on our bed–
Beast: Oh god. Please stop.
Foodie: And I just kept putting his blankie over him like a fan and playing peek-a-boo. He loved it. It was the only thing that stopped him from crying. And I was so tired and I had to finish dinner and my arms hurt and my back hurt from carrying him around. And I had poop and spit on me. But it was over an hour past his bedtime so I tried to put him down again in the crib–without the swaddling. But he kept whimpering and it just broke my heart. (Pause) I did a terrible job. I’m a terrible babysitter.
Foodie: I’m exhausted–and it was only three hours of babysitting. Sarah did say, when they picked him up, that maybe he was teething so maybe that’s why he was crying, despite him having a spic and span bum. (Pause) I used more vaseline today than I have in my entire life.
After two drinks and a cigarette, I finally found the energy to finish dinner. The sauce was ready in a pinch.
And dinner was on the table before I got too drunk.
Foodie: I can not watch your Jazz documentary tonight. Please don’t make me do it. Can we just see what’s on TV?
Beast: Fine. Oh…I’ve got just the perfect thing for us to watch.
Foodie: Is this Ghostbusters?
Beast: You bet your ass it is!
Foodie: I haven’t seen this in years!
Beast: This is really good spaghetti and meatballs.
Foodie: It is good, isn’t it. Did you watch this show a lot when you were a kid?
Beast: Ah, yes.
Foodie: Did you love Sigourney Weaver?
Beast: Actually I used to go nuts over the secretary.
Foodie: The secretary? Um, I think she’s made to look unattractive and given an unappealing voice on purpose–to be a sort of archetypal annoying woman.
Beast: Well don’t make me feel weird about it!
Foodie: I just think it’s funny is all. I mean, why the secretary over Sigourney?
Beast: Sigourney’s hair is too big.
Foodie: Do you have a thing for women with glasses and annoying voices?
I ate my spaghetti too quickly that night. Plus, I had seconds. I basically went into a coma on the couch while the Beast did the dishes and I listened to Ghostbusters and drifted in and out of consciousness, with the sweet smell of baby still on my shit-stained sweat shirt.