Having attended the annual Firefighter’s Ball at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, as a member of the “surviving” First Wives Club, I was pretty confident I could get through our own holiday party the following week. At the fireball Ed and I were able to visit with members we hadn’t seen in up to eighteen years! And I’m sure that this has happened to you before: You forget that time doesn’t stand still. Ed’s former Captain Tim, that I had met when they were both training for the Ironman triathlon competition in Hawaii, was still diving, sans tank, for his own fresh fish! I picked up a few anti-aging beauty tips; (Anyone heard of Pevonia?) found out that gel inserts do indeed hold up a strapless dress in a strapless bra. Dancing to Ricky Martin with other women whose father’s and husband’s found they needed a rest (As if they had to prepare for late evening alarms and “runs”.) was like the old days too.
Our own party started with retired Captain John suggested a game in which everyone had to write down on a slip of paper why Eddie had married Eve. And while the unasked question, “Why did he stay married to Eve?” may have only lingered in my mind a moment, my insecurities ran rampant. And it didn’t help that everyone knew by reputation that I hadn’t cooked a darn thing, well certainly not of any consequence, for this or any other Bushman event. (Especially if I wanted it to be a hit!)
But I knew that since I was the one retrieving the small slips of paper and since I was hosting the party and since I was mixing the homemade margaritas and since firefighters are known for their politeness, was thereby insured of some decent answers. (Although there was that one nervy, cheeky, magnet-earring-wearing rookie that dared to write out the word, “shotgun”, in ink.) But only the seven SCV residents that read my last tamale tale would know for sure. The one word we were looking for was, simply put, for the “entertainment”. Only Dr. Bob came close to it with his answer, “fun”. But I couldn’t fully accept that since he’s a psychiatrist and ought to know that kind of thing anyway!
Ice being broken (On my head!) we moved on to the promised tamale making. Eddie had actually started preparing the beef and pork early in the day. He sent me on countless errands thereby missing Camille’s spin class (And D.S.’s training thankfully.) and Samantha’s singing class (Sorry again to the best soprano and alto in town, Miss Leota!). After renting the karaoke machine, taking Samantha and friend Elisabeth to the biggest McDonald’s playland in southern California, I coerced an early departure out of them by promising a Mexican cookie from Maria’s Villa Market on San Fernando Road and 13th Avenue.
I have to admit to being a wee bit nervous about entering the Mexican market. It had been years since I lived in East Los Angeles and frequented one of these markets daily for the lusciously colored rectangles of coconut candy and mouth-watering rainbow sprinkled sugar cookies. (Not to mention those neat bready looking things with the clumps of brown or beige colored sugar in checkerboard patterns that I know have a name that will forever escape me!)
Anyhoo, transgressions aside, I found a parking space right in front, entered the store and joined my two girls in scanning the room. They noticed the promised pastry display case first thing while I salivated over the restaurant menu that promised an “A” rating and my personal favorite, chili Colorado burritos!
Remembering why I was there I spoke with a gentlemen in the rear of the market, over the delectable deli area, for the fifteen pounds of prepared masa (corn) dough. I called Eddie to make sure I had everything he needed and we agreed their homemade chili Verde sauce would be a nice complement to our menu. Once my order was filled I made my way back to the front counter, passing all forms of unidentifiable (To my inexperienced eye.) foods: fresh brightly colored vegetables, red, green and yellow chili peppers and small packages (that I would use to add to sour cream as a dip I guessed) neatly enclosed red, dried, peppery looking substances. Another visit perhaps would be in order?
Now, back again, to the seemingly never-ending tamale tale. Our guests loved hovering over my kitchen counter, in all their holiday finery, with that cold, wet masa dough stuck to every fold and crevice of their hands (and clothing) until the wee hours. Luckily Eddie and I (Take note reader here is where I actually did cook.) had made cheese enchiladas, including hand dipping the corn tortillas in warm vegetable oil and then into warmer, oilier, enchilada sauce. (Double yuck! Eddie neglected to tell me, until tortillas #60, to let the oil drain a little from the tortilla before unceremoniously plopping then into the enchilada sauce! And even now I am actually, physically, grimacing while typing this all out. The thought is just too gross to bear any longer! Although, to be completely fair, he didn’t actually harness me into cooking until tortilla #55.) I don’t think he found my complaints all that “entertaining” at the time! But I’m sure that today, now that the pink has been restored to the pads of his fingertips, he’s reliving my repulsion to all of his firefighter/chef friends!
One of the smart things I did though was talking Eddie into making enough so that we could serve the same fare for Christmas dinner. My brother-in-law practically did a cartwheel in his driveway when I told him of our plans. He mentioned Tecate beer might be a wiser choice then margaritas. I figured it was a good reason to stop by Maria’s market again and get a cookie…and maybe a burrito to go. My brother-in-law told me that he had heard that the meals there were exceptional. I’m sure Eddie will find the homemade meal I present him with fresh from Maria’s kitchens “entertaining”. How will you be entertaining this holiday?