“Excuse me...uh...could you pass your soup bowls back?”
I couldn't believe Edna was actually asking the dinner guests to pass their soup bowls back to her. She had miscalculated and ladled all the soup into six bowls leaving two guests with dry bowls. Pastor Brady looked a little hesitant considering he had eaten a spoonful. But, he caught my eye and shrugged his shoulders with that no blood on my hands look .
Edna proceeded to empty all the bowls back into the tureen and start over. And so was served the first course of what was to become a very eventful evening.
Edna can't cook. Ask anyone who knows her. I've known her most of my life and it goes without saying. She's a bit of a nut case . I say that lovingly. So, it was pure folly when Edna insisted she host a dinner party for the visiting missionary family, the Devilles.
“Edna, they're from France, you know...” I tried to suggest they were accustomed to fine dining, anything to get Edna to reconsider.
“Well, that makes it even more exciting, Lucy. The French didn't invent food, for goodness sake. Yes, I'm going to serve them a meal they will not soon forget.”
Edna kept her promise.
“Enjoy your soup. Sorry for the little mix up.” Edna was just about to smile and nod her head when Mrs. Deville started coughing. Tears were in Mr. Deville's eyes and Pastor Brady's face was beet red. I tasted the soup and immediately knew the problem.
“Edna, “ I whispered hoarsely. “Did you take the seeds out of the Jalapeńos?”
“Oh, I didn't use Jalapeńos. I found some beautiful Cabaneros on sale. Seeds?”
The next course was fruit salad and I was sure even Edna couldn't get it wrong.
“Edna, there are tomatoes in the fruit salad,” I ventured. “Pears, peaches, grapes and...tomatoes?”
“Lucy, tomatoes are a fruit . They know that in France, dear.”
The Devilles smiled reluctantly and nodded. Pastor Brady was still staring at his as if he were unsure about the fruitfulness of tomatoes.
I wish I could say things got better; but, the main course was Cajun Blackened Chicken. The billowing black smoke set off the smoke detectors and six guests ran for the front door while Edna and I braved the kitchen.
“Who told you to heat the cast iron pan until it was white-hot? Oh, Edna... Really... You can't blame this mess on Paul Pruhomme. He's not here!”
It took a little while, but we were able to get everyone seated again.
The Cajun Blackened Chicken lived up to its name and was dished up along side a large bowl of mashed potatoes. The gravy bowl sat beside them. I must admit it all looked very inviting in Edna's finest china.
I pitched in and served the plates as they were passed. The guests were beginning to feel at home and share some missionary stories. The evening was beginning to look promising.
I shouldn't have looked at Pastor Brady. I knew that look. I saw it once when he stepped into the Baptismal pool when someone forgot to turn on the water heater.
The potatoes? What was that taste? Mashed potatoes are only potatoes, milk, butter, right? Could that taste be Eagle Brand milk ? No. Surely not...even Edna knows better. Something about the gravy, too.
“Edna, you used a cup of bouillon in the gravy, right?”
“Yes, Lucy....I mashed bouillon cubes until I got a cup. Even I can use a measuring cup.”
Yes, that explains the looks on our guests' faces. The pasta salad could have saved the day, but Edna had added the pasta into cold water not boiling water. I can't tell you how that can mess up pasta salad!
“Chocolate brownies coming right up, folks.” Edna smiled as she went into the kitchen with me following right behind.
“Oh, Edna. What did you do? These brownies are hard as concrete!”
“Well, everyone is not Miss Perfect like you, Lucy! I forgot to turn the oven on, but it's OK. I just doubled the oven temperature to make up the difference....”
Mrs. Deville repeated a phrase over and over as she prepared to leave, Ce pauvre poulet noir! Edna took it as a compliment.
Ce pauvre poulet noir!...That poor black chicken!
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