Is it even food if it doesn’t make you grunt a little when you eat it?
The other day, the church bells in the center of town suddenly started playing a Christmas classic, and I thought to myself, how nice, how surreal, what a disconnect to hear “O Come All Ye Faithful” in the middle of the day, on some random sunny February afternoon.
At the nearby park, where I was walking our pet wolf, no one else seemed to notice. So I sang it a little, “…joyful and triumphant…” since that’s the way I usually feel. My default. My first gear.
O sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation…
And still, folks went about their business of being at the park.
“Hey, you hear that?” I asked White Fang.
“Merry Christmas,” she said.
Leave it to me, a guy with the chattiest kids, to have a dog who talks. My dog acts like people, and my kids act like animals. Makes for a fascinating life.
“Merry Christmas,” I told White Fang. “Let your heart be light.”
With that, she got a bounce in her step, and her showgirl tail, a hooky curve of marshmallow fluff — her Siberian flag — started to wag even faster. White Fang really likes the holidays and was thrilled to know they are still going strong.
Meanwhile, the cradle is ready, and my first grandchild is a mere 10 weeks away. She (most predict a she) has hurried along. Like her mom, she doesn’t ever dawdle.
In Santa Monica, my older daughter and Finn have finished decorating their nursery. I decided that we may also need a satellite nursery here at our house, a little corner with a bassinette and a changing table. That might prompt my daughter to bring the baby around more — a shameless grandpa ploy. So?
I don’t much care for the 40-minute schlepp to their place in Santa Monica. As it turns out; someone built an enormous city right between us, in the heart of LA, so now you can’t really get anywhere anymore.
Her younger sister, Rapunzel managed to drop by the other day. She usually visits for one of two reasons, to see her high school chums, who are still almost a cult, or to use our washer and dryer.
I try to remind her that we’re still on septics up here in the remote reaches of eastern LA (aka, the Panhandle). Till very recently, our town was a wagon train stop. The winds blow harsh and hard. Gusts rip the trees. Often, the sycamores look like they’re guffawing over a naughty joke.
As with most wagon train stops, unsavory characters often roll into our town – a rough hewn little suburb that is almost impossible to police. In this case, the unsavory character was Rapunzel.
Cue the harsh, hard winds.
Rapunzel is a bit of a hoodlum, quick to tears, really a big old softie, once you get past the steely exterior. Her smile is her six-gun, and she’s killed several men with it, though they generally had it coming. No charges were ever filed.
My younger daughter reported that she’d just rearranged her West Side apartment while a little drunk, and in the morning didn’t have the strength to put it back the way it was before, so she decided to visit us instead.
Of course, there were elements of the new set-up she liked, such as the espresso nook. Turns out, drunk decorating could almost be the next LA thing.
As you know, I worship the Millennials, and probably make too many excuses for their minor, nearly incremental malfunctions. In my new book, “Millennials Are People Too,” I will try to explain their quirks: their terminology, their near-psychotic misunderstanding of life in general.
Living with a wolf helps me understand them, but I have to give Smartacus a lot of the credit too. Technically, he’s not a Millennial, yet he’s grown up surrounded by them. It’s like being raised by French missionaries. You can’t help but learn a little about wine and misbehavior.
“Know what ‘bet” means?” Smartacus asked the other day.
“As in, I’ll bet your room is a disaster?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “See, there’s your problem.”
Well, at least one of them.
Turns out “bet,” when spoken by the young, means “certainly” or “for sure”; and “on god,” another new term, means “I’m not kidding.”
This will all be in the book, by the way.
Note that translation is always tricky business. It’s difficult, at least for me, not to impose my own judgments. According to my son, “dead ass” is another term the young-’uns now use, and it has nothing to do with donkeys, or even death. It means….well, I’m not sure what it means. But soon as Christmas is over, I’m going to find out what dead ass means.
O come and behold Him, born the King of Angels…
Lately, Smartacus and I are almost brothers. We had a long discussion the other evening about when it’s appropriate to grunt over a good meal.
Apparently, when I take a first bite of something, I inadvertently moan in a way that he finds annoying.
“It’s almost romantic,” he says.
Anyway, after he pointed it out, I realized that, yes, I do grunt rather loudly at the first bite of a good cheeseburger, or the crusty first kiss of a grilled ribeye. Or, say a shrimp, dripping butter and garlic, wrapped in linguini…I grunt over that as well.
“Ooooooof,” I say.
It’s a German term meaning, “I like you so much I will swallow you.”
Then I grunt down a little wine.
I told Smartacus that there should be an entire cuisine devoted to the types of dishes that make guys grunt. I also noted that maybe it was a sign that my cooking has improved. At times, it even elicits involuntary Ooooooofs of approval.
He found that dubious. “Yeah, maybe,” he said.
Then the other morning, I made him an omelet. Rapunzel has taught me the trick to omelets, how you wait for the edges to harden, then you scoop the lip, and let the sunny liquid run beneath.
Genius, this kid. She might be an omelet prodigy, like the redhead in “Queen’s Gambit,” who looks a little like her. All that hair. All that mystery.
So anyway, on Saturday, I made Smartacus this omelet, containing crispy bits of sausage, onion, tomato and a sprinkling of grated cheddar, which I threw in as if rolling dice, Vegas style.
Bam! “Take that, you crazy omelet. I own you!”
And as I’m cleaning up, I hear Smartacus take a first bite of this omelet.
“Ooooooof,” he grunts.
“Excuse me? I teased. “What did you just say?”
Look, if you don’t emit some joyful little sound, is it even food?
Little church bells of taste, is what they are … joyful and triumphant.
Let’s lock in our Gin & Tonic Society convention for 5 pm, Saturday, March 13, in the Pasadena area. The first 40 to respond will receive RSVPs for the location. Bring your own gin, your own girl, your own boy, your mom, your dad, your dog, your wolf and an unbridled passion for liquid refreshments. Gin encouraged but not required. Email letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. This is a free event, though preference will be given to those who have purchased t-shirts or other swag at Chris.ErskineLA.com. A second event will be added if necessary. Thank you for supporting this madness.