April 18, 2012

Sea Beavers, Bean, Bean, & Ham Soup, & Other Ancedotes

Why I didn't immediately say "Thanks for playing, here's a copy of the home game as a consolation prize." when my now ex-husband said I could call his house and ask for "Stumpy", I'll never know.  True to form, we met online.  I've been meeting people through the tubes since I was a teenager in the 90s.  You know, before the internet when the BBS scene was the geek chic.  He was not so much a geek, he was trying online dating because it's hard to meet women when you're a mechanic.  There aren't a whole lot of women in the car biz.  Oddly enough, that's what we had in common.  I turned wrenches on computers and had worked selling cars when the original .com bubble burst in the early 2000s.  So, we could talk cars.

However, my penchant for giving people the benefit of the doubt and understanding that we're all out own version of nuts, I didn't think anything of his saying I should call him Stumpy.  Though, I did ask if he was missing parts.  Truth be told, I probably was not all that graceful about it either.  But, his reasoning was that he had short, stubby little sausage fingers.  That, and his dad's nickname was Papa Stump.  So, of course, he had to be Stumpy.  (It sounds as stupid telling you this as I'm sure it does reading it.  Just, go with it.  It hurts less than asking questions.)

Sure, it ended in a very amicable divorce where we're actually on better terms as friends than we were as husband and wife.  But, along the way, we ended up with some fantastic stories.  Most of them are at his expense, but we tell them enough that I think it's time they wound up on the internet.

Stumpy is not a bad guy.  But, we didn't sit up late at night debating string versus M theory.  I think my favorite example of this was on our honeymoon.  He'd asked me, in all seriousness, if we could spend a week following the New York Yankees.  When I enthusiastically vetoed that idea, he asked about somewhere warm.  I reminded him that I'd sunburn in the first 30 minutes of our trip and then be a raging, whiny bitch the rest of the stay.  For his own mental health and my comfort, I advised him against pressing that idea.  Eventually, we were able to agree on an Alaskan cruise.

Somehow, we ended up on the AARP cruise.  The only reason we weren't the youngest on the boat is that there was a family that brought their tweens with them.  Otherwise, it was a mature crowd.  And by mature, I mean you paid a compliment by telling someone you could barely hear their oxygen tank, or you were jealous of their nearly-invisible hearing aid. 

I wanted to do the whale watching shore excursion.  Stumpy reluctantly agree to join me.  After we'd shoved off from shore and come to the spot where we were supposed to get the best view, the pilot killed the engine.  To pass the time before the first whale showed up, the guide pointed out the stellar sea lions and other wildlife in the area.  We saw some bald eagles in flight, and a pod of furry little cuties floating in the water.  As I'm doing my girl thing and oohing and ahhing over them, Stumpy leans over the side, beckons me over, points to a group of them, and says, "What are those?  Sea beavers?".

. . .   Yes.  That's exactly what they are.  Here, in the wilds of Alaska, a new species has been discovered by a group of whale watching tourists.  Sea beavers!  We'll be famous!  The cover of Nature awaits us!  No you dolt!  Otters.  They're sea otters! 

A goofy grin spread over his face as he laughed.  We threw it back and forth that there is no such thing as a sea beaver, and it became a sort of running joke between us.  Mostly I'd use it as a rebuttal when he'd say something overtly stupid.  It was "duh!" in long form.

Prior to our getting married, Stumpy told me once that my cooking was rather bland.  That resulted in a willful moratorium on my doing any of the meal preparations for the majority of our relationship from then on out.  One winter, he decided he wanted to make ham and bean soup.  For some reason, he decided that we needed to have ham one night, and didn't want to waste the chance to use the bone for soup.  Ok, I'm game.  It's not my favorite, but I'll eat some.

First thing he did was go buy some dry beans from the grocery store and put them in water to soak.  We had hockey tickets for the night, so we figured that would be the perfect time to let them rehydrate.  They could do their thing without being in the way.

Now, let me remind or inform you that beans absorb an awful lot of water when you're soaking them.  Just because you can cover them with a couple inches of water, doesn't mean they're going to all fit in that container when all is said and done.  We learned this the hard way.  After the game, we rolled back into the apartment around midnight.  As soon as we turned on the light, it was like that final, triumphant scene in Real Genius where the popcorn destroys the antagonist's house played out in slow motion in my kitchen.  Beans!  Everywhere!  They bloomed out of the bowl, rolled across the counter top, and fell in great, flatulent puddles all over the floor.  If Mel Brooks had envisioned his villain from Spaceballs to be made of beans, he would have been sitting on my counter.

Not that I was drunk at the time, but I stopped short and just laaaaaaughed.  I mean, open mouth, hand on my thighs, hootin' and hollerin' laughed.  We were going to have ham and bean and bean soup gol durnit!  Stumpy swallowed his pride and stuck with it.  He made that damn soup, and he ate it too.  But, it was a bit like porridge since the beans were so abundant.  I gotta give the man credit.  I mean, how else do you learn but to fuck something up and figure out where you went wrong?  And really, I wasn't exactly starving during our marriage.  It's just when something went wrong, it was spectacular.

Kinda like one of the first times we made apple crisp.  Every year, we'd pick an orchard and go get as many apples as we could manage.  Our purpose for this was to make apple crisps.  It was a fun day in the kitchen for both of us, and our families really liked the baked goods we'd bring them.  Previously, we'd had everything we'd need pre-made.  This year, we had to make our own cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Everything else was just standard, off the shelf stuff.  I mean, we weren't going to make our own butter or anything.  At the time, I was still working retail, which meant I worked weekends, and odd hours.  Stumpy wanted to spend part of the day Sunday baking so we could take a crisp to his folks house for dinner that night.  Sure, fine by me.  I mean, I can't get in the way if I'm not even in the apartment, right?  So, I went to work, expecting to come home to an apartment filled with the sweet smell of baked apples, brown sugar, butter, and oats.  Well, that was mostly how it happened.  After the store closed for the day, I rolled back through the door, and the house was warm and humid, like the oven had been on all evening.  But, it didn't smell quite right.  It was...  Pungent.  My nose wrinkled as I rounded the corner into the breakfast nook.  Just as I see the crisp on the counter cooling, Stumpy comes down the hall to tell me that it's done, but I probably don't want to have a piece.  When I ask why, he tells me that he misjudged how much cinnamon to add to the mix, and rather than hop on the internet, he just guessed.  Well, his guess was a half and half mix.

Now, for the bakers among my readers, you immediately know why this is wrong.  For the rest of you, let me explain.  An average mix of sugar to cinnamon is 1/4 cup granulated white sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.  Oooh, no bueno.  He'd apparently already taken a bite, and if you could get past the chalky, peppery taste of all the cinnamon, it was very chewy and tough.  Try as we might to find one, there was not a square inch of that crisp that was at all sweet.  The entire thing was inedible.  There was no taking it to dinner, and we ended up throwing it out.  In the end, I think we ended up hitting up a Village Inn for whatever pie they had available. 

Believe me, I'm not without my entertaining stories here.  Let's not forget the melted dog crate incident.  Hell, just today I discovered that what looked like icing from the cake I had with lunch was really just the crusty bit from the pump on my hand lotion.  They might look the same, but they absolutely do not taste alike.  That aside, these are stories that will always make me chuckle, and help me feel better that sometimes, it's microwave popcorn for dinner.

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