Saturday, September 24, 2016

Divining the Course of a Love Story Through a Pot Roast Recipe

I have a friend who has been crazy about a guy for the longest time.  He is one of those cute, funny, attentive fellows that makes a girl feel special on an almost constant basis. I have never wondered "what's the attraction?" when she talks about him.  I get it.  I totally get it.

That said, their relationship has taken the slowest boat to come to fruition in recorded history.  If patience is a virtue, my friend should be a saint by now.

It's not through any fault of his or hers that their relationship took its snail-like course, it's more the circumstances of life that blew the ship onto it's non-linear path.

When they first started hanging out, he was a very good friend of her husband-to-be.   He was part of the type of large pack of friends that seldom hung together long after high school.  But, here they were, post high school, post college and still together every weekend. When she was introduced to her fiance's friends, there was no delay in getting folded into the group.  They hung out together every weekend, drank at the same watering hole, took group trips together and when it came time to tie the knot, everyone was on hand to celebrate.

Though they had a pack mentality and did everything together, there was always something special about him.  He had a way of standing out amongst all the big personalities in the group.  She felt an ease with him,  a pull to be with him.  But, since she was now married and he always had a girlfriend in tow, the attraction was just that, and nothing more.  But she wondered, does he feel it too?

Years went by, relationships and marriages came and went and through an unexpected encounter, he and she reconnected. Their first phone conversation in twenty years lasted for four hours and ended with a promise to get together.  The type of promise that she suspected might be a hollow and polite ending to a long conversation.  Turns out, it was anything but.

What came next over the ensuing year was a series of epic hangouts that would last for hours and hours, complete with drinks, dinners, shows, and long, deep talks that did nothing but reveal the seemingly endless list of things that they had in common.  What it never did was end in a goodnight kiss.  It looked like a date, it smelled like a date, it walked like a date, but it never ended like a date.

On one of their "dates" she went to his place afterward and he offered to send her home with some of his world famous crock-pot chili.  She declined, but made a mental note that not only did he share her interest in food, that he actually took the time to cook meals for himself.  They later had long conversations about cooking and she found out that he was something of a crock pot genius.  A short time after that discussion, he gave her a recipe.

He did not give her this recipe the way the rest of us might, emailing some snippet from the NY Times food section or texting a link to something on Epicurious.  Instead, he handed her a piece of paper, that contained a hand written recipe, which on inspection was unlike any recipe that anyone had ever given her before.

When she opened up the folded piece of paper, she saw the words "German Pot Roast" centered at the top. The title was written larger than the contents below it.  The contents below the title were lined up in three neat columns of caligraphy-style text.  The first column had the quantities for a small crock pot, the center contained the ingredients and the column  to the right, the quantities for a large crock pot.  The print was immaculate and perfect, the columns in perfect alignment and the footnotes at the bottom, instructing the cook in variations on and additions to the dish, perfectly centered to the title.  He had taken what must have been hours out of his day to lovingly hand-write this recipe.  The signs were clear, he was demonstrating his feelings by way of a recipe.

At least that was what we all thought as we watched what turned out to be a year of intense flirting, long conversations, hugs and hand holding and a tall tower of stacked up similarities and shared interests.  Then one day, he pulled the bottom brick out of the Jenga tower and the whole thing came crashing to the ground.  What started out as what looked like it may have been the great, romantic love story of our generation, ended abuptly with his offer to introduce my friend to his girlfriend.  He revealed that they had been dating for a few months and now that he was sure that she was "the one", he was ready to introduce her to all the important people in his life, including my friend.

The wave of devastation that washed over her was intense.  She cried more than I had ever seen anyone cry before.  And understandably so.  He had carelessly toyed with her feelings, without so much as a shred of self-awareness or empathy.  Or possibly worse, he knew exactly what he was doing and wanted to keep my friend on the line until this other girl showed a vested interest in him.

Initially, when he had given her the pot roast recipe I was impressed because it was what seemed like a loving gesture and was so beautifully hand written.  The other day, I pulled out the copy of the recipe that she had texted to me.  I printed it out and inspected it more closely.  As I read the recipe line by line, I took note of the fact that it used convenience ingredients such as packaged gravy mix and beef bullion cubes.  This was not a recipe for a lovingly prepared pot roast, but rather a 1970's housewife's quick fix slow cooker dinner.  Something where you chucked all the ingredients into a pot, set it and forget it. Which upon reflection of how he treated my friend, seems like just the recipe for him.

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