Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Zen 5

I promise, I PROMISE, this email is going to be about tea. But to get there, we have to start with spiders...no, we'll start with tuna casserole....no, correction: we have to start off with The Godfather.

Sunday night was a very special evening for me. My very first viewing of The Godfather took place that night with a big bowl of spaghetti, and several glasses of red wine. Unfortunately, there was no cannoli. I now have three new loves:
1 The phrase "Go to the mattresses."
2 Short musical themes played over and over again on the mandolin.
3 Al Pacino.

Aside from these three new loves, there was one other lasting effect that Sunday night's event left on our household:
one VERY LARGE bowl of spaghetti noodles and very little red sauce.

I'm happy that my roommates are so optimistic about leftovers. Lexi made some fantastic alfredo sauce to use in conjunction with the superfluous noodleage...the meat sauce was gone by the end of the day after what we will heretofore refer to as "The Event." Today, we still had a LOT of noodles (I've had spaghetti noodles for the past three meals in a row, excluding breakfast) and tonight Lexi and I found ourselves facing a two-day old bowl of noodles (not to be wasted) and empty stomachs ready for dinner. I was scrounging around the pantry trying to convince myself there was a better option ...looking for some alternative to spaghetti and trying to get that stupid thirteen note theme out of myhead... and Lexi was getting ready to dish up another bowl of spaghetti with alfredo sauce.

Suddenly, my eyes glazed over in a fit of hunger and a brilliant idea struck me. I turned to Lexi and urged her to stop dishing up the gelatinous blob of solidified noodles into a bowl.

"Lexi!" I said. (I didn't pronounce the exclamation mark) "I have an idea: We have tuna, and cream of mushroom soup and noodles and a variety of assorted items in our refrigerator that we might otherwise consider useless! What if we made tuna casserole!"

I love Lexi for what she did next: She played along with me. The next ten minutes may have been the best ten minutes of my day. We raided the refrigerator for possible casserole ingredients. And the conversation went something like this:

"Hey Lexi, what do you think should go in next?"
"Capers?"
"Check."
"Dill relish."
"Check. How about turkey bacon?"
"Um, that might be a bit much."
"Yeah..."
"Nutmeg?"
"Check."
"Parmesean?"
"Got it, and how about Ritz Crackers for the top?"
"Ooooo!"

It was like a science experiment. We popped it in the oven for half an hour and let me tell you: the nutmeg MAKES the dish. Good suggestion Lex! I think that, combined, Lexi and I are a genius. Culinary FIREWORKS, my friends. The problem is, that it could have very easily gone wrong. If we'd added the dill, or the bananas, the whole thing could have been a mess. I would, obviously, have blamed Lexi...but there's the slim chance I could wake up the next morning with Fatty's severed head under my covers....and that would be messy.

The point is, that even now as I enjoy what is arguably the best dish of Tuna Casserole I've ever had, I'm struck that the delicious product of our creativity could have gone so sour so fast...I think in an email a few days ago, I mentioned the story about the male spiders who dance to attract a mate. In short: they are NEVER creative. They never deviate from the dance that all male spiders have danced since spiders started dancing. What if there was only ONE recipe for tuna casserole? What if Lexi and I stuck to a recipe and never knew that dill relish, capers and nutmeg were so tasty all together? But what if we'd gone a little overboard (ie, a spider wearing tapshoes) and added the bananas? But what if the bananas had made the casserole even better? what if we'd accidentally dropped a peeled, sliced banana in the casserole, decided to bake it anyway and found out that Tun-ana casserole is the casserole of the future?!

I had this book when I was in Middle School called "What If...?" and it had about 50 short stories about how different inventions from velcro to rubber to sandwiches were invented. Inevitably, near the end of the story, the famous inventor (Thomas Edison, the earl of Sandwich, etc...) asks "What if...?" and some genius invention that has changed society forever is born. I blame this book entirely for my tendency to consider trying stupid things much longer than the reasonable adult needs to consider silly ideas (and here I reference the bathtub scenarios from email #2).

There was one story in the book about how silk was invented. The story goes like this (and I'll try to relate it as succinct as possible): Some chinese emperor was in his garden one day as his servants were doing laundry. They were boiling water to wash the clothes and a rough wind blew some hibernating silkworms into the cauldrons. As the servants tried retrieving the silkworms fromthe hot water,they realized that the pods had unravelled and become strings of silk...I have no idea if this is even the way silk is created...but its kind of a cool story. And it makes me wonder if the same thing doesn't go for how tea was invented.

Holy Tun-ana casserole, check out the wikipedia article : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea. Read it! Under "History," awesome! Looks like it wasn't that far off.

But these aren't really "on topic" discoveries. The kind of discoveries I'm interested in are the stupid ideas that turned out great. I think I would prefer it if I created an alternative discovery of tea. It would be a little bit more like the process Lexi and I went through tonight...and it would go something like this:

Chinese emperor: I'm kind of bored today, Lowly Servant, what kinds of things do we have laying around the manor?
Lowly Servant: Gosh C.E., Last time I checked, all we had were some coffee filters in the cupboard. Oh man! It's fall! Can you believe all of the dry leaves all over the place? I sure do wish we could eat them or consume them in some way. I'm just keeping myself busy boiling this water, hoping a rough wind comes by and knocks some of these silkworms into my cauldron.
Chinese Emporer: Lowly Servant! I just had a harebrained idea! "What if...?" we put some of those leaves in the coffee filters and put them in the water. I bet that would be tasty. Also, do we have any bananas?
Lowly Servant: Oh! I like where you're going with this, C.E., but let's leave out the bananas.

And it was in this way that tea was invented, after the Chinese emperor regained the ability to taste since he burned his tongue on the boiling water. Good thing he had those coffee filters laying around...and that coffee had already been invented... It's called a willing suspension of disbelief, people. Bear with me.

1 comment:

Nikster said...

Good advice: always leave out the bananas.

Unless you're making banana nut bread. Then leave out the dill.