Stuck in the Kitchen – Anniversary Meal and Smoked Tacos

In an effort to let everyone know that I’m working on doing, being, better, I thought I’d try writing a light-hearted post, like in days of yore. So strap in, get ready to smile, and maybe unplug your smoke detector… It’s time to go back into the kitchen!

First, something I didn’t mention before now was how my anniversary meal turned out. So you’re going to effectively get a double-feature here. I did mention, I think, that part of my coping plan was to make a “special” meal and I’d settled on grilling steak with a side of chopped potatoes, onions, and garlic. That side is something my dad used to wrap up in tinfoil and grill alongside whatever he was grilling, and I like thinking of my dad, so it seemed like a good emotional vacation from the pain I’d be suffering that day.

I went to the store earlier to pick up the stuff I needed for it, which turned out to be harder than I expected. Steak was easy. I know how to pick out steak. I went with New York Strip, because lord in heaven the prices have gone up. Potatoes were easy. I was aware that there were several types of potatoes, but I knew what the potatoes my dad cut up looked like, and they looked like the same as baked potatoes in a restaurant, so I found them pretty easy. Onions should be easy, right? Just grab a… wait… why are there literally five different onion types? What’s the difference? I was unprepared for this. After picking each onion up, smelling it, thumping it, seeing what it looked like once all the gross dead onion peeled away from it, I settled on… an onion. I don’t know what kind it was. It was the one on the right, which was the first one I picked up, which is usually how I make random decisions. (So, if you ever want me to pick something for you, and you have a preference, be sure to name off your preference as the first option.)

Garlic was a surprisingly emotional purchase. I don’t have a garlic-smoosher anymore and, even though I didn’t WANT to smoosh garlic, the fact that the garlic-smoosher was gone triggered some feelings. I was aware that garlic comes pre-smooshed, though, and set about in the produce section trying to find it. It took me ten minutes of looking, and finally asking an employee, to find the tiny little jar of smooshed garlic, underneath the onions on a shelf that I would never have noticed if someone didn’t point and say, “Literally right by your knee.” With the ingredients acquired, I made my way home to chop it all up with a big-ass knife and wrap it in tinfoil. Now, I know I have some experiences with big-ass knives that are less than ideal. So you’re all expecting me to have some crazy knife mishap at this point. I won’t disappoint you, though you may end up disappointed in me nonetheless.

I cut up the potatoes into disks, then cut the disks into quarters or sixths depending on how fat the disk was. Easy-peasy. The onion, though… the onion was slippery. On top of it’s slippery surface, it also separated into a thousand rings as I cut into the first disk. I imagine this is similar to a lizard shedding it’s tail or a sea cucumber puking up it’s entire stomach. The onion’s defense mechanism against predators is the break into a thousand rings so that the person cutting it with a big-ass knife so that they they slip and cut the ever-living fuck out of the pad of their finger. Did I not mention that I was holding the onion in my hand? I know that’s frowned upon. I work in a very safety-conscious environment, after all. I can’t tell you why I did it. I can only tell you that I held the onion in my hand while cutting it with a big-ass knife that I had, moments before, sharpened to razor perfection. So sharp that I saw the cut happen but didn’t feel it at all.

There’s always that short delay before receiving a cut like this and the blood coming out. I knew it was going to be bad. I knew I’d probably pass out. I knew I had a few seconds before shit got real bad and I passed out from the sight of my own blood. So I sprinted to where the bandages were and then back to the kitchen because I didn’t want to bleed on the carpet. The carpet is literally the shittiest carpet ever and will be replaced before I sell this house one day anyway, but that wasn’t on my mind. I wasn’t thinking about long-term effects. I was thinking about what was going to happen in just a few seconds.

As the blood started, I grabbed a paper towel and sat down on the kitchen floor. It was a lot of blood. Like… a lot. Like I’m feeling queasy just from thinking about it again. I grabbed my finger under the paper towel and laid back on the floor. Pressure. Pressure is how you stop bleeding. I just need to… and bam, I’m out. I come to however long later and it looks like a murder happened. I realized I left the bandage on the countertop, so I sit up to grab it and them bam, I’m out again. When I come to this time, the murder scene has ‘improved’ because now there’s a spatter-trail on the cabinet. I was still bleeding, pretty badly, and pulled a new tool from my therapy handbag… grounding. I just started singing along with the music, focusing on the lyrics, the rhythm, the melody, anything but this red geyser erupting from my finger. I stood up and leaned on the sink counter, turned on the water, just screaming the lyrics of Morcheeba’s “The Sea” as I rinsed to assess the damage. It’s deep. It’s bad. It’s going to need something to hold it closed.

Now, some people might say “Why didn’t you call someone?” I’ll tell you why. Imagine you’re my friend. (Odds are, if you’re reading this, you already are.) Imagine I called you, on the first wedding anniversary since my wife left me, after making it very clear that I’ve had suicidal thoughts recently, and said “I’ve cut myself, I need a ride to urgent care.” Where is your mind going to go first? No one is getting called. This is my cut, my problem, and my blood to clean up. Jesus Fucking Christ, there was so much blood. Anyway, fast-forward an hour or so, and you’ll find me sitting at the grill, cooking my steak and potatoes, with a VERY red bandage over a finger that I super-glued shut.

The steak was okay, but a little overcooked for my tastes. The potatoes, though, made me smile. They tasted like I remembered them tasting. I think I’ll try them again with some extra seasoning next time. I promise that the knife blade won’t leave the table next time.

And now, for the second meal… Smoked Tacos! You’ve never heard of smoked tacos before? Neither had I. I’ll tell you how to make, though.

So a couple of weeks ago, I figured tacos could be a meal I can probably make. It’s a comfort food for me. It seems pretty simple. And I was pretty sure I still had a pan or skillet big enough to do them in. So I grabbed four packets of taco dust off the shelf, picked up a can of refried beans because that doesn’t seem hard, and a couple pounds of hamburger and brought them home.

My first attempt went poorly, because apparently I’d picked up two packets of some Creamy Cheese Taco dust, and didn’t realize it until I’d already cut open the first packet. I have to add milk to this? Really? Okay, I guess that’s like a hamburger helper thing… I can manage that. They were not good. They were not creamy. They were fake-cheesy.

Tonight, though, I made sure to pick up a Hot and Spicy packet of taco dust before I cut it open. I followed the instructions on the packet, heating a ten-inch skillet to medium high heat. My dial has numbers though, and goes up to 10… which makes 5 medium, right? So medium-high should be about a seven. Sure, we’ll go with seven. The refried beans had zero instructions on them. So… I guess they’ve been at least friend once, which would make them edible out of the can, right? Whatever. Let’s throw them in a pot and just simmer it and OH MY GOD IT LOOKS LIKE DOG FOOD! I just mooshed it up good and tried not to look at it. Fast-forward about ten minutes, and I’m unplugging the smoke detector and opening the front door to aim a box fan into the yard. 7 was apparently the wrong medium high setting to choose.

Luckily, though, nothing burned too badly, and the beans started to look like a familiar food as they heated up and oozed out a bit. So I grabbed some shredded cheese and my Taco Bell Fire sauce bottle, which struck a nerve because it’s something she bought for me. Something I didn’t ask for but really appreciated, and never told her that it meant something to me that she thought of me while making groceries. Always little reminders, every fucking day.

In the end, though, they were good. I didn’t feel like like scooping the beans out in a separate pile of sloppy moosh, so I just put them on the tacos.

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