Keith and I were supposed to spend last Saturday night at Eleven Madison Park, a favorite restaurant of ours in New York, but Irene threw a wrench in our plans. Mayor Bloomberg shut down the city, and Eleven Madison Park followed suit. I can’t say I blamed them, regardless of how much I had been looking forward to dinner. The restaurant has never failed me in the past, and I know we would have had a spectacular meal. I was able to get us last-minute back up reservations at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, but they too closed because of Irene.
So, reservationless on the eve of a hurricane, we stayed at home with my parents and ate reheated-in-the-microwave rotisserie chicken from Costco. A few hours later, the power went out.
And that is how Keith and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary.
I am not the kind of girl who cares about anniversaries, or Valentine’s Day, or if my partner stays out late with The Guys. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about any of it.
Does Keith love me? Do we still enjoy each other’s company? Are we happy? Yes to all of the above. Isn’t that all that matters?
Okay, take all of that in and then scrap a third of it. I mean, sure: love, company, happiness… I want to go to there, and most of the time, I do go to there. But my relationship with Keith moved so seamlessly from platonic to passionate that until we got married, neither of us had a clue as to when it was we actually got together. It was springtime, we agree, when I was nineteen and Keith twenty-three, but that’s it. Was it March? Or May? Or in between, in April?
This is my point precisely: we have no idea. And that’s why finally having an anniversary meant something to me. Valentine’s Day can get bent. It has nothing to do with me. But a certain day in August…
It’s just plain nice to have one day marked in Keith and my lives that celebrates us, even if most of the time I don’t think about it unless someone asks or if the end of summer looms. I feel that with Keith I’m part of something special, and though we take care to appreciate each other often, it’s important to take a minute once in a great while to formally acknowledge it. Often with cocktails. So when August 27th does come around, I like stepping into a dress and a favorite pair of heels, sitting across from my husband in a thoughtfully decorated room, and drinking a French 75 while talking about absolutely nothing related to our wedding.
Which is why I was pissed off at Hurricane Irene.
Now about those chickens…
My dad is a horrible snob. He’s opinionated, and he’s particular, and sometimes — let’s face it — he can be a little racist. That said, he loves Costco rotisserie chicken.
This is alternately bizarre and hilarious to me because my dad scorns places like IHOP and Outback Steakhouse (though he does like the occasional Red Lobster). My father likes Peter Luger, drinking oghi on warm summer days and talking about life in Beirut. Most modern American things are worthless, or a disappointment. Case in point: Burger King.
In the seventies, when my parents were still dating, they went to a fancy dinner that neither of them enjoyed very much. As my father drove my mother back to her apartment, he spotted a Burger King. Still hungry, he pulled into the drive-thru. They each ate a Whopper in the car, parked in the lot. Now when my father talks about Burger King, what he has to say is all past tense, what Burger King used to be like. He pinches an inch of air with his index finger and thumb and says, “The burgers used to be thick, like this. And the lettuce was crunchy, and green. The tomatoes used to be so fresh the juice would come out of it! Now the hamburgers are so thin, like paper.”
For my father, the memory of something is always far more delicious than the reality. So I can’t help but wonder, what’s up with the chicken?
To be clear, I fully admit to sometimes cheating a recipe and using a store-bought bird rather than poaching or roasting my own. When I do that though, I feel like such a culinary con man. My mother raised me better than this, I think guiltily as I hide the chicken’s take-out container deep within the recycling bin.
Of all the social stigmas in the world, the ones we’ve associated with food have got to be the strangest. I mean, we have a whole category called junk. But is there anything junky about a rotisserie chicken? If there is, like Valentine’s Day, does it even matter? They’re flavorful and nutritious, and my Republican dad loves them. And when I think about the day that marks my sixth year married, what I’ll think about is this: eating chicken with our crybaby puppy tangling himself up in the now-tattered quilt I made for our bed over a decade ago, while my parents — once so disapproving of Keith — tease and cajole my husband to eat some more as they piled more white meat onto his still-full plate.
And, for me, that’s what’s up with the chickens.