dinner with the boss


-- चार हजार चार सौ चौदह --

The weekend pretty much revolved entirely around dinner Saturday evening as The Event: Scott and his wife Linda; Noah and his wife Renee, and their son Hunter, all came for Shobhit's delicious Indian food spread of five separate dishes, plus samosas, parathas and rice. Oh, and then gulab jamun for dessert and even chai after that.

Per the usual, preparation started days in advance: initial produce chopping on Tuesday; Shobhit did a whole lot more chopping on his own on Wednesday, which I helped a lot with in the evening as well (and a little bit on Tuesday). By Thursday he had five of the dishes well underway -- that's the day I took that photo of all the pots and pans on the stove, counting five of them; one held the potato filling for samosas, so only four of the ultimately five dishes were underway by then, and the pot with the shahi paneer base was full of vegetables that had yet to be blended.

That was essentially what went down on Friday evening, which comparatively was kind of a down time: blending the shahi paneer; testing a few initial deep fried samosas, so Shobhit could get some practice out of the way; he also prepared the fifth and final dish, okra-based, which he made the spiciest of them all. He invited Sachin over that evening, and he was there when I got home from work. He was there a few hours, and was seriously considering staying overnight. I kind of dreaded that prospect, knowing it would mean I'd have to wash the guest bedroom sheets again before Ivan arrives on Wednesday -- but then, I realized later, I was being rather unfair thinking that way. I can't go resenting Sachin staying over one single night if I'm about to have Ivan over for three.

But, in the end, Sachin opted not to stay overnight anyway. So that worked out for me!

After Sachin left, Shobhit and I watched the first two hours of Apocalypse Now Redux, which, as I predicted, was pretty fascinating to see right after watching the documentary series The Vietnam War. I can still remember seeing that director's cut re-issue back in 2001, and that added sequence about the French colonialists hosting a dinner kind of threw me for a loop. Until then, I had no knowledge at all of the French history there. The patriarch is angry and insistent that they will never leave, which is willfully ignorant on his part -- they clearly no longer have any long term future there, whether they have a family history dating back more than a century or not. I'm sure that's the point Francis Ford Coppola was making.

Beyond that, I was truly impressed by the production of that movie, especially for one made in 1979. None of that stuff seen onscreen could be done using CGI, and the choreography and cinematography of that helicopter attack is astonishing to watch. I've seen that movie probably at least twice before, if not three times, over many years. I probably could never have appreciated it in the past the way I was watching it over the weekend, though.

Regardless of how intensely absorbing that movie was, when my body is ready to sleep, there is no arguing with it, and I began nodding off a bit after 11 pm. So, we turned it off and waited to watch the final hour or so on Saturday morning. But, aside from finishing that movie, in the lead-up to dinner, we spent a few hours on Saturday frying aloo parathas or deep frying samosas. We made about 20 of the former and 23 of the latter -- the samosas proved extraordinarily popular. Shobhit succeeded, finally, in making them smaller than usual, which made it easier to regard them as an appetizer, and were ready to be dug in as soon as guests arrived. I had two of them myself; I would guess most people did. There was one moment where I felt like I turned my back and when I looked again, they were nearly gone. By the end of the evening there were four of them left, and Noah and Renee took them home -- their nine-year-old son, Hunter, very nearly put them into his own jacket pockets. But, we found a container to give them.

Everyone arrived within minutes of each other, Scott and Linda first, arriving maybe a quarter after 5:00. I had expected to go down and greet them at the building's door, but some dipshit living in the building did what the Board has tried so very hard, in vain, to get residents to stop doing: let strangers in the door behind them. Granted, Scott and Lina hardly look like threatening criminals of any kind, and they're a middle-aged couple clearly coming for a visit. Still, there's something to be said for consistency. I even managed to be what some might consider unnecessarily assertive with another person visiting another resident when leaving the front door later that same evening: she asked me if it was okay if she just went in, and I said, "It's best if you get buzzed in." And to her credit, the young woman seemed totally to understand and accepted it.

In any case, Scott and Linda's arrival was at our condo's front door itself, which I had not been expecting. I do like that we keep our shoes right there at the door by the entry closet, because they got the message just by seeing that and I did not have to ask them to take their shoes off. Linda was in the middle of asking Shobhit for a sweet fruity cocktail when my phone actually buzzed indicating Noah's arrival, and instead of buzzing them in, I ran down the stairs to greet them at the door and then escort them back up (which I had hoped to do with Scott and Linda). They were all still trying to figure out the intercom when I exited the stairwell door up a small set of concret steps to their right, and then surprised them as I walked up: "Hello!"

I had thought they'd be bringing both their kids, but apparently their 13-year-old daughter was at a school Halloween party instead. So, instead of the record six guests for dinner that I thought we'd be having, the five guests actually tied the record made when we hosted for Morgan's 14th birthday party in July. (And when I say "record," I mean for 2018 hosted dinners; we've certainly had many more in years past for either Birth Week parties or housewarming parties.)

And we all ate and hung out for, I would say, the next three and a half hours. Everyone left right around 9:00 because that was the end time of Scott and Linda's paid parking. They brought two large ziplock bags for leftovers, which wasn't the greatest choice for Indian food, but at least they brought something, after my insisting multiple times that they should. Noah and Renee forgot to bring any containers, and the two of them stated that the other was supposed to grab some. In the end, we just filled up four of our plastic lunch containers, which we'll probably never see again, but oh well. We have others, and we can buy more pretty easily if need be. And two of Scott and Linda's ziplock bags still got used: I put a couple of the parathas in one, and scooped some of the rice into the other.

My favorite thing about what got requested for leftovers was that seemingly everyone had a different favorite. What Scott wanted to take home was some of the garbanzo bean dish (which I usually love but this time was my least favorite; I found it to have an unusually odd flavor in it, that I could not quite place); Noah snatched the last of the eggplant squash, which Shobhit did not make a huge volume of to begin with -- and he had already had some of that for dinner on Friday. Of that one, I got just the one small spoon-scoopful on my dinner plate. That's fine, though; it's not like I don't get plenty of other opportunities to eat that. Renee specifically asked to take some of the okra dish, which she really loved, in spite of it being the spiciest one. Even Shobhit was slightly disappointed by that, it being his favorite as well, but there was still plenty left for him to get one more meal out of it. Noah asked for some of the calabash pakoras, specifically asking for lots of the base Shobhit made for it -- and this was the second-most spicy of all the dishes. Hunter, for his part, predictably liked the gulab jamun the best; when dessert was served, we each got one of those doughnut-like balls of deep fried dough, soaked in sugar water. Hunter asked for and got two more helpings of that, and with two of them still left when everyone was going, Shobhit happily boxed that up for him as well.

The Shahi Paneer, as always, was my favorite dish -- and not anyone else's! More for me, I guess. We still have lots of it at home; I had it for dinner last night; had it for lunch today; and will have it for lunch twice more this week, at least -- and that's just the batch of it made for Saturday that had paneer added to it. There's still a whole separate container of the base still, to have more paneer added to it.

-- चार हजार चार सौ चौदह --


-- चार हजार चार सौ चौदह --

Anyway, Shobhit set about to re-heating all the main dishes while I gave every single one of the guests a tour of the Braeburn Condominiums complex. This was his idea, and I have to give him credit here -- I really doubted it would be met with much enthusiasm given how much we'd be going outside, and it was raining at the time. But, when the idea was brought up, everyone was all about it. And it took a little while, probably between 20 and 30 minutes, to tour the five guests over through three separate rooftop decks in the Braeburn West building, which went one each from the fifth, fourth and third floors; down to the pool table, wifi work area and art studio on the second floor; then down to the yoga studio and inner courtyard of the same building. I told them about them but was unable to show the community kitchen or the movie theatre which can only be accessed through the kitchen, because the kitchen had been reserved and a party was going on.

I did show them the movie theatre through the window, through which could also be seen the aforementioned kitchen party attendees, who looked back at us with a bit of curiosity. I even showed them the pea patch we have back behind the west building, which I could not recall whether I had ever walked all the way back into before. I bet I have and I just don't remember it, although I'm pretty sure I never thought to include it on one of these tours before. (I'm just now thinking of a couple of other things I could have shown that I did not think to; I may draw up an optimal tour route map for reference in future tours like this.) From there I led everyone up the concrete staircase to the 2nd-floor courtyard in the Braeburn East, the building Shobhit and I live in; back into the hallway from there and we took the elevator up to the seventh floor, where I showed them in turn the two rooftop decks in our own building -- which are nowhere near as spacious but, with two more floors as well as higher up on the hill, have a far better view than any from the west building. I even got a wonderful group selfie on the largest and my favorite of those two decks, with the nighttime Seattle skyline behind us all. It's a great photo, I think, and the product of a second try after my arm wasn't quite long enough but Scott's was; Linda suggested he hold my phone to take it. That was the shot I kept.

Then I took us back down the elevator to the fourth floor, and dinner was all ready. Since there was only one child instead of two, Shobhit created a seventh place setting on the corner of the table, with this awkwardly tall metal chair we have, but it worked. I actually had gone down to the community kitchen earlier in the evening to swipe one of the folding chairs, two of the bowls and three of the plates; hopefully the party that was going on down there did not have so many people that they didn't have enough dishes. Survival of the fittest, I guess! I did return the dishes and the chair yesterday. Anyway, perhaps I should have taken two of those folding chairs instead of one. Our table set has only four chairs that came with it, and then I have my one wooden hard-back chair that used to be used for my computer desk; the white swivel chair I use now was left behind, actually, after the first time Ivan lived with me in 2014. I've been using it ever since January 2015, and considered bringing that out to the dining table. It probably would indeed have worked better than that tall chair, but whatever, it still all worked out fine.

Shobhit and I sat on opposite ends of the table; Scott and Linda in the chairs to my left; Noah, Renee and Hunter in the chairs to my right. And once we all dug in, there was a brief period of silence that kind of amused me -- just because we were all stuffing our faces. I even commented on that, but soon enough we were engaged in perfectly lively conversation that lasted until just before 9 p.m. when everyone was ready to go. I was perhaps most struck by the apparent dynamics between Scott and Noah and their respective wives. It was really easy to see that in both cases, they are well matched. Scott and Linda have been married 26 years; I don't know how long Scott and Renee have been together but it's definitely been at least 16 years -- I asked, and they told me they've been both working for PCC as a couple (Renee is Grocery Coordinator at the Fremont store) for sixteen years.

Maybe ten years ago, definitely fifteen years ago, the idea of hosting a dinner like this would have made me anxious, especially if it included my boss. (We never did host a dinner like this with Stephanie, but she did come to our housewarming party in 2007, which Shobhit did cook for; and she came to one Birth Week party, in 2008.) I no longer have any such issue, and although I did on an intellectual level wonder beforehand if anything might come up that was awkward, I had no genuine worries about Saturday's dinner. Scott and Noah both genuinely seemed to look forward to getting all these dishes made by Shobhit, and as I later noted to Shobhit, every single dish being a different person's favorite certainly reflects well on his cooking.

No one had any problem with how spicy any of the dishes were, which surprised and almost disappointed me -- since Scott loves spicy food and I suggested to Shobhit that he made at least two of the dishes really spicy. Now, the okra was quite spicy, and so was the calabash pakora dish; I had some of the latter but focused very much on just the pakora and so did not find it too spicy. Then I had it for lunch yesterday, with much more of the base in the bowl, and that cleared out my sinuses right quick. I could barely breathe while eating it -- although I was barely able to tolerate its heat level, I had zero interest in eating any more of that dish again. After dinner last night, I know for certain the eggplant (which was finished up on Saturday), and the okra were gone; I think the calabash pakoras were too. Maybe there's a little bit left. I'm hoping there's at least some of the garbanzo bean dish left just so I can mix it up instead of having shahi paneer for dinner in addition to lunches both today and tomorrow and possibly even Wednesday (that one depends on what's available at work for Halloween).

In any case, it was a really pleasant evening and I'm really glad we did it. Noah told me this morning that when his daughter got home from her party on Saturday she discovered the four samosas they took home in their refrigerator, and devoured them all. We still have some of that potato filling left but no more of the dough, so it'll probably just get eaten as a dish unto itself, with frozen parathas or something. Hey maybe I'll do that tonight, instead of hoping for garbanzo beans.

I actually went out of my way to be agreeable with Shobhit through the week, instead of, you know, wanting to murder him. For the most part it worked out well, except for the moment right before 5:00 on Saturday when he would not shut up until I took a bite of the okra, which I did not want, and knew I would not like.

Hey! I just thought about this -- when we last got into a big fight, maybe two weeks ago, he tried telling me that there are all these things he hates doing but does for me anyway, and I never do the same for him. I hate being put on the spot in the moment because I can never come up with examples instantly. This is definitely an example -- I truly, truly hate eating something I know good and well I will not like, and I do it anyway. It's always after extended protests, sure, but he still always gets his way with this shit, and in the end only do it just to get him to shut the fuck up about it. But it still counts; the stuff he does for me that he hates is just to placate me as well, so what's the difference? (Well, a key difference is that often he does things he's more indifferent to than that he actually hates, and then he tries to say he hates it just to support his ridiculous arguments during a fight.)

It's times like this I sure wish I had a quicker wit when I am angry. But, whatever. Even that moment before dinner on Saturday was relatively brief and we moved on from it and have been fine ever since. That said, in scenarios like this, when Shobhit is being obstinate, albeit often about admittedly relatively minor things, it's always his obstinacy that wins out, not mine. And this gets back to his tendency to micromanage me, which drives me insane, and often gets to other people in my life as well. I even had a friend text me not long ago, I don't like the way he talks to you. Knowing that this friend is far from the only one who feels that way, that right there is a red flag.

Now! It's still always important to remember this, especially for friends and family who naturally want to take my side: I'm no fucking saint either. Actually it's kind of ironic that I have one friend, Gabriel, who would shout from the rooftops if he could that I am no saint, yet that hardly makes him and Shobhit allies. Those two get on like oil and water.

But anyway, enough of that. The point really is that Shobhit and I had about three minutes of contention on Saturday early evening and that was about it -- not a bad record for an entire week, honestly. We mostly just hung out at home yesterday, aside from my taking myself to see Free Solo in the U District, which I took the bus to and from. Otherwise Shobhit and I watched several episodes of the HBO show Succession, which we are rather enjoying.

-- चार हजार चार सौ चौदह --


[posted 12:58 pm]