Spend enough of your life with someone, and the catalog of memorable experiences you share accumulates to the point that they're almost like a song library or playlist in your phone. By seeing only a word or two in the titles of these countless moments, you’re able to recall them, in detail.
Like, if I were scrolling through the memory playlist shared by my wife and I and came across "Two Martinis," we'd both have a good laugh – her more than me, likely – because we would know it was from the night many years ago when I realized that I'm not much of a martini person. And, not only that, I'm very much not a two-martini person.
Our memory playlist has a new entry, from this past Saturday, and I'll just say this: If, two or three decades from now we're preparing a meal in our kitchen and I start to become a bit too domineering when it comes to what I think is the best way to prepare the meal, my wife will send a stone-cold glance in my direction, utter only two words, and I will know that I need to stand down.
She wanted shrimp, rice and vegetables. We walked to the store, grabbed a basket and bought all the ingredients we'd need. And what would bring it all together? My wife decided on curry.
An hour or so later, the scene playing out in our home was like some kind of commercial featuring annoying people you’d like to shove off a cliff. Music was playing on the stereo in the living room, incense was burning, a couple candles were lit, and my wife and I were enjoying a bit of wine as we prepared the feast. The rice was simmering as my wife prepped the shrimp, and I grabbed a knife and started cutting up onions, peppers, broccoli and zucchini to be sauteed.
At some point, my wife may have felt that since this meal was her idea, she'd be the lead chef. But I butted in. I tossed the veggies in a skillet with some olive oil and turned on the burner. Everything was proceeding swimmingly and it was time to introduce the curry element.
I opened the jar she’d bought and the thickness of its contents surprised me. I looked at the label and took note to clarify, out loud, that it was "paste" and not "sauce."
At this point, the fact that it was paste and not sauce should have amounted to a flashing red alert that I needed to study this jar further. This wasn't marinara you simply pour into a pan, heat up and dump over pasta. I was dealing with curry paste, a concentrated ingredient. Curry is not an ingredient you get sloppy with. You mess with curry, curry's going to mess with you.
But for some reason that as of this writing still eludes me, I spent the next couple of minutes using a rubber spatula to get every last molecule of curry paste out of that jar and into the skillet with all of the veggies. I immediately knew something was off.
First off, it's paste, so it's super thick. You know, like paste. I worked it around the skillet and into the mass of vegetables. It slowly started to thin out, but I was worried.
It was time to eat.
My wife dished up a bowl and disappeared into the candle-lit living room, as I continued to try and salvage what I feared was going to be a culinary catastrophe.
A few short seconds passed, when from the living room came the inquiry, "Were there directions for the curry?"
I said I didn't know. Again, from the living room, she asked where the jar was. In the trash, I replied.
She came into the kitchen with particular purpose, opened the pantry closet and grabbed the empty jar out of the garbage. There was no mystery here: She had taken a bite of what I'd prepared, and there was enough curry paste in it to feed a town of 10,000 people for a month.
"There are directions," she said with a notable amount of enthusiasm as she handed me the jar, with even greater enthusiasm.
The recipe called for sugar, and you needed to dilute the paste with a healthy dose of water. Most important, you needed to use only three tablespoons of paste.
In desperation mode, I dumped the rice and shrimp into the skillet with the paste and the veggies. I poured an ample amount of water all over it, and sugar, too, and started stirring like a madman.
We each managed to eat a small portion, but you just don’t undo curry when you’ve overdone curry.
The next day, we awoke with renewed hope. We added some tomato juice and we sliced up leftover bratwursts we’d grilled a couple days earlier and tried to conjure some kind of jambalaya or gumbo.
Again, we each managed to eat a small bowl. But it was a giant no-go.
“What a waste,” my wife said as she shoveled the rest into the garbage.
She’s right. But another memory made...