Did I really have to write that? Really? They say that putting things into words can be prophetic. Why didn't I just say, "the meal is going to be fabulous and we'll have lots of laughs."?
Yeppers, a 2 1/2 kilo, 30 Euro, rack of.....CHARCOAL! Looks like something that came out of the ruins of Pompeii, don't you think? I should have known better. Meat on a grill and Delana do not go hand in hand. There is not even a minor affinity.
I had this whole thing under control. The meal was to be at a friend's house; a bachelor whom I was sure would not have kitchen full of cooking equipment, so I worked ahead. I made the potato salad and coleslaw the day before chez moi, where I do have great knives and a food processor. Besides, those things are always better given a day for all the ingredients to get used to each other a form a team. I mixed up the peanut butter and the chocolate cookie dough with my mixer. I made the BBQ sauce, bought the meat, loaded up my salads and dough and headed to his house Saturday afternoon.
I was SO under control. I baked the cookies, set the table, and made the guacamole. The guacamole was a challenge (and proof that it had been a good idea to make things ahead at my house) because all I could find was a cutting board the size of my palm and a knife that served only to rip the onions and tomatoes.
My idea of grilling the meat was met with protests as in "are you kidding? Grill the meat outside? We're going to freeze to death!" My response was, "hey, man up! I'm from Minnesota. We grill outside all year. Do you want an authentic American meal or what? Don't be such a pansy. It's 40 degrees outside...practically springtime!" This was said in French, of course, and I don't know the words for man up...or pansy, but the monsieur got the idea. But we decided to do it just before the guests arrived so we could warm up before they got there.
This did not go well. It was dark. The grease from the pre-baked ribs caused flames. A lot of them. It took me so long to spit out the word vaporisateur (spray bottle) that by the time the first guests rolled in, I was removing a charred carcass from the grill. And laughing my fool head off. I don't know why I found it so damned funny. I was on the precipice of disaster. As this first guest kindly took the pan of ruins from me to carry it inside, I told him that McDonald's is also American and what did he think about hamburgers? He carried the meat to the sink, and bless his heart, starting scraping the charcoal from the rack of ribs.
I, in turn, placed a pink pepto bismol tablet at each place setting. They went very well with the tablecloth.
Then we re-covered the recovering ribs with BBQ sauce and popped them in the oven.
In the end, the meal was delicious. I served everything American-style, all at once, and the French guests ate everything in courses....salads first. (I didn't try to stop them. You can only take this American meal thing so far) Then we started in on the ribs. And they were wonderful! I was speechless.
The guacamole (served with an excellent champagne which always helps) was depleted. They loved the salads, especially the potato salad which I will share the recipe for next week. They thought the meat was excellent with the slightly sweet sauce and there was not a morsel remaining at the finish of the meal. The cookies, as always, were a hit but it surprised me how much they liked the peanut butter version. French people DO NOT LIKE peanut butter.
Four hours at the table and a looming presidential election here in France brought on the usual political discussions and, as usual, I worried that somebody would be killed. I worked hard to try to keep up but between the Marseille accents, the topic, and the rapid-fire discourse, I got lost. I sat back, had another glass of kick-ass French wine, and checked out. My job was done.
And by the way, nobody ate the pepto bismol!