At Home

It’s beginning to look a lot like mess

I recently decided that the piles of books accumulating around the house were too much to bear.

This might explain my rage when the Beast told me that he wanted a 13-volume complete collection of Anton Chekhov’s short stories.

I looked at him like he was crazy. Because he is. “Listen to me before you say no,” he said. “This collection usually sells for over $400. I found one on eBay for $125 and if I get it, it’s all of Chekhov! I can get rid of all the other Chekhov books in the house.”

The deal was he would have to get rid not just of the Chekhov books but at least 20 other books. Why I didn’t just tell him to borrow the damn Chekhovs  he’s missing from the library eludes me.

After all, he’s taken out hundreds of other books and DVDs from the library–including a 14-DVD set on “Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition”. When I found him watching it one night, I couldn’t imagine how he got his hands on it in the first place.

“It started with Henry James,” he told me. He searched the library database for anything on the writer and a DVD came up. He wasn’t aware it was a collection of 14 DVDs.

One night I found him watching one. He told me he only started it to make me laugh because, how do I say this, the quality is distracting.

One professor, with an eye patch, goes on at length about Renaissance writers, and particularly how he’s peeved that so few today know who Erasmus, the greatest thinker of the Renaissance, is.

But then he started to watch the entire thing in earnest, usually after I’d gone to bed.

“It’s like going to university lectures but without the homework,” he told me. “It’s fucking great!”

When the Chekhov arrived I discovered it was 15 books, not 13. “Well two of the books are addenda” the Beast explained.


“Yeah. Plural for addendum?”

“Ok genius, fine, but why haven’t you gotten rid of the old Chekhov books?”

“I did…except for the plays.”

“Excuse me?”

“This collection is his complete short stories, not the plays.”


“I thought I’d made that clear.”

One thing we will perpetually agree on is watching Remains of the Day.

The Beast brought home a copy from the library and we decided to watch it Friday night while feasting on a whole bunch of leftovers for dinner.

We had five rather large artichokes in the fridge that we bought on a whim because they were marked down to $3. While we’ve been enjoying jarred artichokes quite frequently–with good bread and prosciutto!–neither of us have prepared the fresh variety. But the Beast felt confident after he found this recipe online.

I texted him when I was getting ready to leave work. “I’ll start prepping the artichokes! Mezze party tonight motherfucker! And Remains of the Day!!! Let’s Party. Hard!!!” he replied.

On the streetcar home, he sent another message: “I’m never going to question the price of prepped artichokes again!!! Did you know those fucking things have inedible thistles inside of them?”

I did, which is why I’ve never bothered to make them. But I’m certainly glad that he did. They were in the oven by the time I got home–and on the stove top was quite a sight: it appeared as though the Beast was frying leftover spaghetti.

“Don’t you remember that Stanley Tucci recipe? [I didn’t] He said it’s one of his family’s favourites and I’ve always wanted to make it! We had leftover spaghetti with clams so tonight it is happening!”

I prepared us a couple of aperitivi: the last of our Otto’s, a vermouth we brought back from Athens, with lots of ice and lemon. (It’s one of the loviest labels around and I don’t want to part with the bottle.)

I stood by, anxiously, as I watched the Beast flip his spaghetti pancake. “The Tucch is a genius!” he said as he effortlessly slid it onto a plate and then back into the pan to crisp up the other side.

We began hauling in our mezze plates. Once they were all together, we realized that this was not a dinner of small plates: this was a dinner of four very large plates that could feed a very large family.

And this photo doesn’t even include the half-loaf of Blackbird Bakery’s sour dough bread, not to mention the bottle of white wine, a lovely (and very reasonably priced) bottle of Muscadet. (By the by, this Greek Moschofilero below is also a real winner.)

We promised ourselves to set aside half of the food for dinner the next night as we both went for the artichokes.

I don’t think the Beast removed enough of the tough outer leaves and the fuzzy choke. But the edible parts were so good that neither of us minded picking the fuzz and hard bits from our mouths.

And neither of us minded watching Remains of the Day for what I’m guessing is the fourth time. This was by far our best viewing. What an incredibly quiet and moving story with the kind of performances that make you grateful that (Dame) Emma Thompson and (Sir) Anthony Hopkins exist. It was a perfect night, one I wouldn’t mind repeating–with new comestibles and films–for all of December.

And yes, we did have enough leftovers for dinner on Saturday night. And yes, the Beast started his hunt for a box set of the complete works of Merchant Ivory films.

I don’t know where we’d put it. But all seemed right with the world.


5 replies »

  1. Jess, your writing is a bright spot in my day every time I read your column. I would love to see more! And you’ve likely heard this many times, but you bring authenticity, humour, kindness and insight to the Social.

  2. I will miss you Jess. Foodie and the Beast has been a source of pleasure for me, and I have delighted in reading each installment! Good luck on your new writing projects. All the best to you and Simon in 2019! Good thing we can all continue to enjoy your sparkling personality vis the Social! 😉

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