So one day you’re just walking along, making fun of your friends for their freaking out about turning forty (I mean, really, what’s the big deal, it’s a DAY), checking out the birds in the sky (my how they sing!), when BAM!!! You fall into the great pothole that NO ONE warns you about-- yes, the Great Pothole that is your 39th Birthday.
I’ve never really had trouble with my birthday. OK, that’s a blatant LIE. I have an ill-timed anniversary of my arrival: close enough to the holidays that it usually warrants one gift for both occasions, but far enough away that excitement has turned into foundering and bills have arrived. Everyone always at least pretends that they’ll be totally up for a celebration, but are in actuality usually too exhausted and spent four days into the new year to actually show up. It sucks. And I vociferously complain about it every year to any (and every) willing pair of ears.
But the idea of getting older has never much bothered me. Turning 30 was a breeze-- I was thrilled to say goodbye to my reckless and chaotic twenties and have never much looked back except to wonder why I couldn’t accept at that time that my ass and my face were the best they’d ever be. Now THAT was a waste of a decade. But I digress. I never saw the great existential crisis of 39 coming.
My dad calls me his Peter Pan child without malice or irony. I think he actually really likes the idea that his daughter is forever young because that means he’s still young, too (which he in all honesty is, as evidenced by his insatiable exotic car buying and big game hunts in Africa). But I’ve started thinking that there is something, I don’t know, unseemly, about a 39 year old in green tights with an unflattering pixie haircut. I am so, well, untethered to anything other than a cat named Monkey that it begs a little self reflection--something I’m not really all that willing to be honest about.
Like, for instance, why am I still going on inappropriate blind dates? Certainly not for fun. Unless I were a masochist, which I’m beginning to believe I must, indeed, be.
Let’s be honest. I have always wanted a family, an idea of “home”, whatever the details of that home actually are. I also believe that the right partner trumps my desire to have kids. So, if I’m too old to have kids of my own when I meet the right guy, so be it, I’ll buy them or rent them or whatever. But the dude is way more important. Which I firmly believed until, that is, it was no longer an academic exercise but a practical reality. The buffer of 38 (two years before I really have to panic) is no more. It is less than a year until the Staples “Easy” button will no longer be operational, at least according to social standards and my overly-eager-to-freeze-my-eggs OB/GYN. And what, at this pre-milestone isn’t helping me in this quest for home? Is it my shitty attitude, my “slouchy” morals, do I have incredibly bad breath? I wonder, though I’m not sure I have the constitution to ask for the truth from impartial parties.
What I do know, and what has been a long standing revelation on this blog, is that the Sunday supper that is soupapolooza! has been the beginnings of the making of this home thing for me. So if I’m going to turn 39 and freak the eff out, it might as well be with my urban family. Which is good since they’re the kind of family that plies me full of alcohol and tells me I still look really young even when I have no makeup on and mayonnaise (thank god for spell check since I had no idea that mayonnaise had two “n”s) smeared on my face. It’s kind of the ironic opposite of egg on the face, metaphorically speaking. Of course that’s only because it is emulsified egg on my face.
So what was the pity-birthday party soupapolooza! offerings you ask? Well it was a menu all about my favorite homey Texas treats: chipotle deviled eggs, pigs in the blanket with curry ketchup, a pear, candied pecan and blue cheese mixed greens salad in vinaigrette, TEXAS CHILI with honey and sage cornbread, and a bourbon banana pudding.
Here are the deets on the chili, though it’s a close riff on one I did in early 2010:
4 oz. suet, cut into small pieces
3 lbs. boneless chuck, trimmed and diced (or very coarsely ground if desired)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 TBSP chili powder
2 TBSP valle del sol chili powder
1-2 TBSP ground chipotle
1 TBSP ancho powder
1/2 TBSP hot paprika
1/2 cup masa harina
4 cups beef stock
3 TBSP white wine vinegar
Melt suet in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Remove and discard any solid pieces of suet, then add beef, in batches if necessary, and brown, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, chili powders, paprika, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then sprinkle meat mixture with masa harina. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Gradually stir in stock and vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, stirring frequently. Cook until meat is tender and begins to "melt" into sauce, about 4 hours; add water as necessary. Adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper and tabasco.
coarsely grated aged cheddar
My childless, untethered life did provide a great opportunity for me the day I got back from my Christmas break in Houston and Austin-- a good New York based friend decided as she was boarding an airplane from LAX back to NY NOT to get on the plane and to call me instead. We, in fact, crisscrossed in the airport. So I had an unexpected and amazing houseguest for the better part of the days leading up to the Great Pothole of 39 (not to be confused with something totally depressing that my grandparents yammered about over beers on the porch). Which was awesome for a number of unwritable reasons, but also because she made me a delicious chocolate birthday cake with coffee icing. Which turned into a not so awesome but well deserved two pounds on my butt. But whatever, I totally enjoyed it and that 20-something mess of a girl just laughs and laughs...
So far in this new un-buffered year I’m still in my Never Never Loft and have no plans to grow up, despite the whole existential crisis thingy. I’m not so sure that is by design, but it is by the way. But maybe if I just think I can fly, I will!