We had the occasion to attend a small dinner party a couple of weeks ago that included four couples we were well acquainted with and two we’d never met before. Of the two we’d never met before, one was a couple in their late forties, the other in their early sixties or thereabouts, all seemingly very pleasant.
The husband of the older couple was originally from England, his wife from the Midwest. I watched their interaction during the evening with some interest. He managed to spend the entire evening wearing a hole in the cushion of the couch where he sat while she ran around like a crazed rooster looking for a mate catering to his every want and need. Amazingly, he entered the bathroom unattended.
This brought to mind a man I dated in the mid eighties, no not him, the 1980′s. His family migrated from Mexico before he was born. They were migrant farmers during most of his childhood, and the children worked alongside their parents in the fields as soon as they were old enough to do so. Sam, my friend’s name, told the story that after he was born, with little money to spare and living in the dilapidated housing provided for the “pickers”, his mother used the bottom dresser drawer as his basinette.
Sam was the youngest of three brothers and was working as well as putting himself through college. His parents, now in their early seventies had long since retired but held firmly to their old world attitudes and beliefs.
After we had been dating for a few months I suggested that we invite his parents to Sunday dinner. I had met them briefly on several occasions but never spent an evening with them and was interested in getting to know them better.
There were six of us at the table, Sam, his parents, myself and my two children. His father sat at the head of the table and I watched as his mother pushed the chair in for him. Then she unfolded his napkin and laid it in his lap. He requested water so into the kitchen she went returning it quickly and asking if there was anything else he needed before she herself took her seat. My son, after watching this, decided that he too would like some water. I shot him a quick look requiring no further explanation and he got himself up and got water from the kitchen.
I served fluffy mashed potatoes, fresh zucchini with mushrooms, and pork medallions with Bernaise sauce along with a tossed salad with garden vegetables. The Mrs. was seated next to me on the other end of the table. At one point he said something in Spanish and she got up and went to the bowl of mashed potatoes sitting directly to his left and placed more on his plate. I don’t think the woman ever ate or sat for more than five minutes during the entire meal. For me, this was a different world.
The only other time I’ve seen such behavior was in Arkansas. Invited to a dinner by one of the foremen my husband worked with, we accepted. I’d seen them often socially but never been to their house. The lady of the house was quiet and reminded me of one of those pioneer women who’s black and white pictures you see hanging in museums. Not quick to smile, their hard lives stamped clearly across their faces.
When we drove up the men were congregated in the front yard examining a new deer rifle one of them had purchased. I left my husband with his people at that point to add to the sizable testosterone pool and went inside.
The ladies congregated in the kitchen as dinner preparations were in full swing. I was handed a cold beer, an apron and an oven mitt. Apparently this was some form of initiation. Soon I was stirring beans and setting the long bunk house style table in the dining room. There were about sixteen of us at the house but I was only given eight placemats. I came back to ask where I could find the other eight, and was informed that the women were going to eat in the kitchen after the men were through eating. Hello?
It was explained to me that the men got first choice of the better pieces of meat, etc., and apparently the rest was thrown in a tin pie plate for the cooks to fight over. To quote Scarlett, “Fiddle-de-dee”. Had I passed through another dimension? My husband was obviously really enjoying this. I told him he’d better get a quick picture because that was the last time he was ever to going to experience it in my lifetime.
The men ate, laughed, scratched, then stood up with never a plate removed from the table or a thank you expressed, except for my husband who fully understood the significance of a pillow left on the couch. Just a series of healthy burps, and then they adjourned to the porch for a smoke and an after dinner Jack Daniels. Weird how different everyone is from one place to another. Certainly all southerners do not conduct themselves like that, but it did make for something of a unique kind of evening.
I heard a statistic the other day that something like 32% of marriages end in divorce due to lack of equal distribution of the workload, either in child rearing, errand running, or household chores. That’s an interesting statistic. As with all partnerships, be they work related or personal, when the burden falls heavily on one partners shoulders and lightly or not at all on the other, eventually resentment is liable to build. I take good care of the man in my life, and sometimes I spoil him, but it’s reciprocated so I do it because I enjoy doing it and not because I’m expected to do it. My thoughts for today.
14 oz. loin of pork, trimmed and boned
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 oz. shallots
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 pts. beef stock
1 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
3 oz. bacon, diced
1 1/2 oz. finely chopped onion
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Slice the loin of pork thinly. Flatten slightly with a rolling pin or mallet. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Dredge in flour. Melt butter in shallow skillet. Add medallions to skillet and cook until evenly browned. Remove and place on warmed platter to keep warm.
Add shallots, wine, beef stock, and chopped chives to skillet. Bring to boil and reduce by 1/4.
In another pan, saute bacon and onion until golden brown. Add this to the reduced stock mixture.
Place sliced pork on plate and spoon sauce mixture over top. Top with Bearnaise sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley.