A Barberian’s birthday

The Beast didn’t get home until 10:00 p.m last night because he worked late. So I came home to an empty house. At first, I thought I could wait to eat dinner with him. But by 8:00 p.m., I gave up.

It was our Friday night pizza party. While I prepared my toppings and waited for the oven to heat up, I decided to watch some TV on my computer in the kitchen. For no explicable reason, I settled on the last episode of the last season of Six Feet Under, a series I’ve already seen but have never revisited.

I moved my computer into the living room when the pizza was done and continued to watch. The show, which concluded in 2005, mostly stands up. But there were moments, 10 years later, that felt awkward.

Just as I picked up my last slice, the episode was ending. If you’ve seen the show, you might remember it draws to a close while Sia’s Breathe Me plays. The characters are aged with makeup and wigs and we see how their lives play out until they end.

I started to cry. Tear rolled down my cheeks. But I was still holding the slice of pizza, occasionally looking at it and wanting to eat it, but it just felt absurd. I committed to putting it down on the coffee table and finished the episode in tears as I watched all those fictional lives pass through the years and, unremarkably, come to a close.

The Beast recently passed into his 32nd year earlier this week. We marked the occasion over two dinners. The first, on his birthday eve, started at The Chase where we shared a dozen oysters and a couple of cocktails in their beautiful and very modern roof-top dining room.

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Then we walked up Yonge Street to Barberian’s, a much-loved steak house that’s been around for some 55 years but to which we’ve never been.

We were seated at a table in the original dining room, whose walls are adorned with old paintings–think Group of Seven–and Canadiana relics perch atop the wainscotting. Replacing the adult contemporary Muzak that we heard at The Chase, was jazz. It couldn’t have been a more perfect for the Beast.

We started with escargots and Caesar salad–and more cocktails.

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Then moved on to steak–a 10 oz New York sirloin for me and a 24 oz rib eye for him–plus baked potatoes and a side of sautéed mushrooms.

I almost forgot about the wine. Barberian’s houses upwards of 20,000 bottles in their subterranean cellar. The prices range from about $65 to $8,000 for magnums. We settled on a Burgundy that was a relative bargain. The sommelier even invited us down to the cellar to retrieve it.

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I can’t remember what we talked about, but there jokes–mostly about me being overly eager about the baked potato–and more than one comment about how the steaks were practically the best we’d ever had. How do they get them so crispy on the outside but so red on the inside?

The food, the atmosphere, not to mention the service–the likes of which you don’t really find too often nowadays–made it a night to remember.

So was the following the evening at home. While I grilled a piece of Steelhead trout and some asparagus on the deck’s barbecue, in the kitchen the Beast prepared little potatoes and fiddle heads in the cast-iron pan. We also made a Béarnaise sauce, which took 30 minutes to thicken but the pain in our forearms on account of all that whisking was worth it.

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Today, we are preparing for another birthday. My friend Stephen turns 50. My mom, who adores Stephen, told me that he needs socks. The one time she met him, coincidentally at my surprise 40th birthday party, she noticed his big toe poking out of his sock. Because I am very busy this long weekend, the Beast offered to purchase some fancy socks for him.

Beast: Where do you want me to go to buy them?

Foodie: I don’t know. Club Monaco? Wait: maybe Brooks Brothers. I don’t think Stephen would ever splurge on fancy socks. Does Brooks Brothers have fancy socks?

Beast: Does Brooks Brothers have fancy socks? Wow. I can’t believe you. They practically single-handedly popularized Argyle socks in America.

Foodie: Did they invent Argyle socks?

Beast: [Silence]

Foodie: No?

Beast: You’ve said enough ignorant shit about Brooks Brothers for one day.

Foodie: Thank you so much for doing this for me.

Beast: May I have your debit card?

Foodie: [handing him my debit card] Are you seriously wearing that?

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Beast: Jess, you don’t walk into Brooks Brothers without dressing the part. [Taking off neckerchief] Don’t you think it’s unfair that only Golden Labs and Steve MacQueen look cool wearing neckerchiefs?

Foodie: It’s one of life’s great injustices.

The Beast just left. I have a lot to do today, and Sunday and Monday. Then I leave for Disneyland on Tuesday for work. (Who am I?)

My eyes are still puffy from all that Six Feet Under crying I did last night. Time is a funny thing, mostly because it runs out so goddamn fast. Blink, and you might forget that you still have one slice of pizza left to eat.

3 responses to “A Barberian’s birthday

  1. can’t wait to see you in Disneyland!

  2. Connie Keeler

    Thanks again for your comments Jess. It must be what you’re eating as you are looking absolutely fantastic. Hope you enjoy Disney, as I really can’t see what the viewers will get out of it. Will be watching though…

  3. Only a beautiful lady like your mother could remain gracious while my scabrous foot tusk menaced her from the shredded remains of what I thought were my best, most party-ready socks. Clearly I need my eyes checked. I could have sworn I had the sock situation under control down there! What else is going on that I don’t know about–or that my increasing myopia spares me from? A thicket of back hair? Knee wattles? Bum baggage? So many hard to see places on the middle-aged body. Probably for the best that I live in near-sighted ignorance. My ego is fragile of late.

    But, thanks to you, now my sock game is tight! Now that I’ve dremeled off the cow-catcher I’d grown on my big toe I can wear them with confidence. Bring on those kinds of parties where the host makes you take your shoes off! I am ready!

    in my experience, the only way to pull off a neckerchief is to do what golden Labs do (not everyone is Steve McQueen.) Keep it simple and go shirtless. A bright bandanna can really draw focus away from an overly hairy back.

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