I pulsed the food processor to turn shitake mushrooms into dust when the buzzer went off. I thought for sure it was the mail carrier, except that I wasn’t expecting any packages. A little scared about who it might be, rather than using the intercom, I went downstairs to see who was at my door through the window. It was Brett, of course, making one of his unannounced visits.
I opened the door.
“Hi!” he smiled. “I brought you a Christmas present.” It was a desperate attempt to be thoughtful about a year-and-a-half too late.
I didn’t know what to say so, like an idiot, I invited him in. And he came in, of course.
“Whatcha doing?” he asked with a little too much pep. Perhaps he was trying to make up for sucking the life out of me with his perpetual mopiness.
“Making wild rice and mushroom soup,” I said, just shy of being curt.
“Is it vegetarian?” he asked excitedly.
“Nope,” I said, relieved there was chicken stock in the soup.
I was in his presence all of three minutes and he was already irritating. Of the things that drove me crazy about Brett, the vegetarianism might have been the most grating. Anytime we went anywhere he expected people to accommodate his diet restrictions. I once took him to my friend’s barbecue in Pilsen and he got upset that they didn’t provide veggie dogs. To placate him, I pointed out that the caprese salad, hummus and guacamole were all vegetarian. His response was, “I want a veggie dog.” He bitched — not just complained — the entire ride home about how it’s a host’s duty to provide veggie dogs at barbecues. That was six miles if suck. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. He never appreciated that I cooked vegetarian food for him even though that’s not how I cook for myself.
To be clear, I didn’t hate vegetarians, I hated assholes. He was an asshole.
When we got back into my apartment, I continued to saute, stir and chop, and participated in the conversation dismissively.
“OK,” he said.
I didn’t feel like engaging in conversation with him so I didn’t.
“Got any cookies or anything I can munch on,” he asked. This was the other thing that he did that I hated, he always helped himself to my food and expected me to feed him. It drove me crazy.
“Nope,” I said.
But he found my gum. “Can I have one of these?”
I really didn’t want to give him anything, but I let him have a piece of gum. He sat on the couch loudly chomping his gum while I cooked. My blood was beginning to boil right along with the soup.
“Aren’t you going to open your present?” he asked expectantly.
“I was going to wait until you were gone,” I said. I knew I would hate it and I couldn’t fake excitement for a gift from him.
“OK. That’s weird,” he said. “Well, do you want a ride?”
“Sure,” I said even though I didn’t want one. The store was a block away and I didn’t want to sit in the car with him.
“Whatcha gonna do tonight?” he asked as we pulled around the block.
“Nothing,” I said, offering no other conversation.
He pulled up directly across the street from the grocery store. It couldn’t have been a more inconvenient place for me to be dropped off. It was on Chicago Avenue which is always busy so in order to cross the street safely, I’d still have to walk a half a block to the cross walk. I didn’t want to point this out to Brett because, really, I didn’t want to spend anymore time with him than I had to and I didn’t want to have any unnecessary conversation with him. But it didn’t matter. I wasn’t in control.
“I saw the Hobbit last night,” he said. “I didn’t really like the 3D. I thought it made the movie look really fake. I’ve read that the projection was 48 frames per second, but it really didn’t do much for the film.”
I didn’t say anything, but he went on.
I still didn’t say anything out loud but inside my head I was screaming for him to shut up. It gave me a headache.
“Overall, I think the movie just looked bad. I mean, I dunno. I guess the human brain isn’t designed to adjust to the projections the way they thought it would. And it was almost three hours long.”
When we were dating, I tried to train Brett to edit his stories. If his stories had nothing to do with anything and weren’t very interesting, I would say, “That’s not very interesting.” It usually shut him up. This time, I didn’t have the energy to train him or deal with the hurt feelings, so I said, “OK. Well, have a good night. Thanks for the ride!”
I got out of the car before he could start talking about the Hobbit again. I didn’t even bother to go to the cross walk. I dodged cars to get to the grocery store that was annoyingly crowded. But being in a packed grocery store was far better than being in the car with Brett.
I picked up the last of the ingredients for the soup. I was excited about it. It was a lot of work but I was certain it was all worth it.
While the soup simmered on the stove, I opened the gift from Brett. It was a book of cat illustrations from Edward Gorey. It’s a good thing I foresaw that I would hate the gift. I’m not sure could have thanked him for it.
I thought for sure my soup would be more exciting than the gift, but I was wrong. It was so much work, so many ingredients and it was just…OK. And it occurred to me that I don’t like wild rice. It was a good idea in theory, but in practice it was just a bowl of meh. But the soup’s return on investment was much higher than dating Brett. I only wasted an hour-and-a-half on the soup rather than the year-and-a-half I wasted on Brett.
I came up with my own recipe for mushroom soup that was richer and more pleasing to me without all of the random ingredients. I’m still working on a recipe for the perfect relationship.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them until they are soft and translucent. Add the slices mini bellas and continue to saute until most of the water has been released from the mushrooms. In a food processor, pulse the dried Chilean mushrooms until you have a fine powder. Add the powder to the mushrooms and onions. Add the brandy, chicken broth and the bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme (tied together in a cheesecloth). Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme and discard. Whisk in the cream and serve.
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute them until they are soft and translucent. Add the slices mini bellas and continue to saute until most of the water has been released from the mushrooms.
In a food processor, pulse the dried Chilean mushrooms until you have a fine powder. Add the powder to the mushrooms and onions. Add the brandy, chicken broth and the bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme (tied together in a cheesecloth). Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme and discard. Whisk in the cream and serve.