They say that communication is the key to any healthy relationship. I have been married to my beautiful wife for almost 18 years and I would tend to agree with that statement. Miscommunication in a relationship can be tragic. I have been married to my beautiful wife for almost 18 years and I would tend to agree with that statement too. Of course when it comes to my family, miscommunication in the kitchen usually results in something comic. This past Mother’s Day, we had a convergence of the good, the bad & the comic and somehow, I lived to tell about it.
On Mother’s Day, I always give my wife the choice of where she wants to go and what she wants to eat. If she wants to get into some fancy clothes, drive some place far away and eat small food with funny names like quiche, which is really egg pie (Thank you Kingsford Charcoal), then we do it. If she wants us to find her the last lobster in Morris County, then we do it. It’s her day and no matter what she says, it’s right. This year when I asked a few days ahead of time what she wanted to do for Mother’s Day, she said she would think about it and let me know. When I asked again a day later I was told that she would think about it and let me know. When I asked the day before Mother’s Day with the added aside, “So I don’t have to go searching for lobsters at the last minute”, I was told that she would think about it and let me know. When I asked on Mother’s Day itself, now knowing that a restaurant was clearly out of the question, I was told that she wanted a clambake and that we would all go to the store together to get the ingredients. I’m not a big fan of clambakes myself but if that was what my wife wanted for Mother’s Day, then that is what I was going to do. If she wanted to come to the store & pick out the clams, I was fine with it. She was certainly going to make my life easier. Of course, paying a little closer attention to what my beautiful wife of almost 18 years was saying and not to what I was hearing, might have made my life a little easier too.
Once we got to the store, we all started to collect ingredients. My beautiful wife of almost 18 years grabbed some ears of corn. I knew we had a bag of potatoes at home so I didn’t mention these. My beautiful wife of almost 18 years made a comment about using the tube of either tomato paste or sun dried tomato paste in the broth but I was distracted by a new type of hot sauce I hadn’t seen before and Clue #1 went in one ear and out the other. She also said that we had plenty of onions at home so we wouldn’t need those. Onions in a clambake ? Didn’t sound right to me but then again, I had never done a clambake before and if my beautiful wife of almost 18 years wanted onions, then I was going to put onions in it. She also said she wanted a nice angel hair pasta primavera to go with the clams & the broth as she grabbed a bunch of baby asparagus. Clue #2 rattled around in my brain and should have set off an alarm but it didn’t. I just figured it was some crazy Italian way she did her clambakes and that I would leave out the potatoes if she was going to use pasta. Then we moved over to the seafood counter where she ordered not only the clams but also shrimp (my son isn’t clam eater either so I figured the shrimp was for us), some halibut and some mahi mahi. Now I was clearly stumped but rather than question her, I loaded all of the seafood in the basket and paid at the checkout. I knew I was going to be in for a cooking adventure.
During the rest of the day, we all worked in the garden and generally fooled around until it was time to begin cooking. My beautiful wife of almost 18 years had previously washed all the clams for me since clams are her specialty. I grabbed my brand new super sharp golden chef’s knife, it has fancy designs on the handle & blade & its own special wooden holder, and began chopping up the veggies for the pasta primavera. I also got the steamer pot out as I figured this would be the easiest way to lift the clams out of the pot of boiling water that my beautiful wife of almost 18 years was now referring to as “broth”. Yes, I know, Clue #3. As I set aside the sautéed veggies for the pasta primavera, my beautiful wife of almost 18 years came into the kitchen and asked me why I was using the steamer pot for the clams. I told her why and she said that could work but she didn’t think there would be enough “broth” (I heard water) to cook the seafood if I did it that way. She told me I just really needed to sauté some onions & garlic in a big pot, add some white cooking wine and vegetable or fish stock with the seasonings and then put all the seafood into the broth. Now I was perplexed. I know I said I hadn’t ever done a clambake before but even in my beautiful wife of almost 18 years somewhat twisted Italian way of doing things (and there have been some in almost 18 years of marriage) this made next to no sense to me. I diced an onion in no time flat and grabbed 2 huge cloves of garlic. I smashed them with the flat side of my super sharp chef’s knife and then started chopping them into small bits. I was just starting to question what I was doing when it happened. I sliced right through the tip of my finger. The knife was so sharp that I had already cut myself and covered up the wound with a little dish towel before I even felt the pain. A quick run to the bathroom for a plethora of bandages and despite the pain, I was back to the “clambake”.
By now, I really wasn’t sure what I was making. I threw the garlic, less the piece of my finger I didn’t know I had lost at that point, into the pot with the onions, seasoning, sun dried tomato paste and olive oil. Per my wife’s instructions, I added the stock and white cooking wine to the mix and let it all simmer down. It still didn’t sound like a clambake to me but it was what my beautiful wife of almost 18 years wanted and now that I had actually spilled some blood making this Mother’s Day Meal, I wasn’t going to quit. I probably should have as the problems continued for me. While the broth was simmering, I cleaned the shrimp and cubed the halibut & mahi mahi. As I dumped in all of the clams & seafood, I seemed to remember somewhere in the back of my mind that my beautiful wife of almost 18 years had told me to put the clams in first and then put the rest of the seafood in once the clams had opened. Rather than fish out the cubes of broth, I let it all go. How much damage could be done ?
I then turned my attention to the pot of boiling water I had set up on the corner burner for the angel hair pasta. Now I was planning on using half the box since we already had a ton of seafood and veggies but with my finger throbbing and generally getting in the way, I tried to pour the pasta into the pot directly from the box. Did I mention that I have a gas stove and that the burner was turned up to high ? Do you know what happens to angel hair pasta when you miss the pot and the burners on the stove are turned up to high ? It catches on fire. It catches on fire quickly. It burns quickly too. The burned pasta also looks like hell in a pot full of otherwise normal pasta. I got the tiny fuse like fires put out and turned my attention back to the clams & seafood. At that point half of the clams had opened and despite the earlier setbacks, I was still feeling good about dinner. Then I noticed that almost all of the halibut & mahi mahi I had cubed had flaked into fish bits. There wasn’t a single cube left, just clams, shrimp & fish bits. I had no idea what I had just made other than a mistake & a mess. I layered the angel hair pasta, sautéed veggies and all the seafood with a couple of spoonfuls of broth poured over the top. It didn’t look like any clambake I had ever heard of or seen but if it was what my beautiful wife of almost 18 years wanted, then it was what she got.
And you know what ? It was actually pretty good. The kids liked it. My wife had a second helping and then I caught her after dinner with the serving spoon as she was digging into the larger decorative serving bowl. Once we got the kids to bed, I finally went to the emergency room and discovered that stitches weren’t needed for my cut because you can’t stitch something that isn’t there but that is another blog for another time and definitely not a time in which we are talking about food. I stayed home from work the next morning and once the kids had all gone to school my beautiful wife of almost 18 years and I rehashed the events of the previous day and discovered where we went wrong. My wife said “Clambake” when she meant to say “Cioppino”. I heard “Clambake” and never thought “Cioppino” despite the many clues. The fact that I had never made Cioppino before probably helped to make things worse since I didn’t recognize the ingredients from a completely separate dish. We both thought that what the other person was doing & saying made no sense but I thought it was an “Italian” thing and my wife figured I would just look up the recipe online or in a cookbook.
My beautiful wife of almost 18 years and I always try to communicate to the best of our abilities. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I just know that I put a little bit more of myself into my cooking on Mother’s Day this year and I’m glad that my beautiful wife of almost 18 years appreciated it.