Surviving Five O’Clock

by Jason Peters on February 1, 2012 · 7 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low


Rock Island, IL

It doesn’t take much to convince a man that he’ll never survive five o’clock of a Tuesday afternoon.

Cases in point: here in the God-blessed Disunited States of America there are serious contenders for Top Dog who answer to such names as “Mitt” and “Newt”; God’s favorite college basketball team has been toppled by a disreputable squad capable of amassing only forty-two points; Notre Dame and Hope have both sunk to new lows, and here on the banks of Old Man River students are walking around campus in shorts and t-shirts, because the liberal democrats in congress have succeeded in inventing global warming in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Who, given the news, can get past five o’clock of a Tuesday afternoon?

I’ll tell you who: anyone with butter, an onion, and heat (and maybe a splash of Kentucky’s finest export).

You walk in the door to find a domicile qualified for federal-disaster relief funds. The urchins have been hard at work—or, rather, with remarkable ease they have undone a hard day’s work in just a few short minutes.

No worries. You banish them with a word, close a door, crank up a little Elgar, and hurl a dollop of butter into a large sauce pan. And why not crown it with a drizzle of olive oil? Why not indeed. You dub it Sir Dollop of Butter—thus!

And now what?

Low heat, of course, plus two fingers of bourbon—two fat man’s fingers—into a thick tumbler. Lo! How the golden elixir catches the waning January light! You heft the tumbler, swirl it, raise it to the nose, and then at last to the lips. An arm of warm fire reaches down your throat and into your guts, where dwells your soul. Ah! Let Nutt or Mutt or whomever destroy the free world, which is toast anyway. You’ve got Blanton’s and butter melting.

Down the middle of an onion goes the cleaver. You chop up both halves, sniffle, and wipe your eyes. You peel no fewer than four monstrous cloves of garlic and likewise chop them into little blonde bits. How lovely they lie on the thick wooden cutting board. (You wouldn’t dream of insulting the onion or the garlic clove by opening it up upon any other surface.) Into the gliding butter they go. Five o’clock will not defeat you. You’re preparing for the world’s greatest aroma.

And there it is: onion and garlic sautéing in butter and a few wee drops of olive oil. There’s nothing the smell of this can’t solve.

Except the problem of an empty tumbler.

But yours isn’t empty yet, so you take another small loving pull. Ah! What demented colleague can harm you now? What decision handed down by which administrator suffering from an irreversible rectal-cranial inversion can undo what you’re doing? What combination of hour and minute hands can unwaft what wafts?

The answer: none. Elgar moans in ecstasy; the fat in the pan accompanies him in a fragrant sizzling pianissimo.

You dump a generous palm-full of Italian seasoning into the pan. You think about pronouncing it Eyetalian but resist the urge. You stir the onions and garlic and dried herbs with none other than a wooden spatula and you think of ways to bugger the lives of your enemies.

But there are too many of them, so you put the water to boiling, careful to add salt and olive oil, the former measured in, and then sprinkled from, the palm of your hand, the latter introduced by the highly scientific method known as the “drizzle-then-stop-when-it-looks-right” technique, which is fool-proof.

Onto the cutting board goes no less than half a pound of sliced prosciutto—or ham if you’re hog-tied. You slice it one way, then another, and then you lay it by. Into the saucepan goes a good fourteen or sixteen ounces of diced tomatoes, together with their juices. You stir them in, then swill and sip your Blanton’s, then stir some more.

This could take a while, because Nigel Kennedy is still at his Elgar. So you refresh the tumbler if it needs refreshing and listen attentively as the goodness of creation fills both your nostrils and your ears.

Good God! You’ll need a green and another something or other! Lucky for you you’re a great husband: you recently bought your sweet precious, your espoused saint, a stainless steel Energy Star fridge, and in it, even now, is a head of romaine lettuce, fresh from somewhere the exact zip code of which rather compromises your Porcher principles.

No matter. The denizens of glass houses will let you know about your hypocrisy. Meanwhile, you make haste with your salad. Plus you throw a baguette into the oven. It’s not heated by the smoldering pages of FT, but it is warm.

When the water reaches the boiling point you throw in the penne and figure on nine or ten minutes.

And now what to do … what to do …

You know! Dump a half-cup of vodka into the sauce and stir lasciviously. Let it all reduce for about five minutes and then add a cup of heavy whipping cream and some freshly-grated parmesan cheese. Ah! If this tastes as good as it looks, you’ll be husband of the year (which you would be already if your own vote counted).

Nigel comes to a moment of crisis. Your eyes close. You cock your head and grimace in a kind of aesthetic pain that is also a kind of aesthetic pleasure. This is music. You reach for the Blanton’s. Elgar and Nigel deserve a hit, and so you take one for both of them.

The pasta is al dente, so you drain it and add it to the tomato- and cream- and vodka-based sauce and then you stir it lovingly.

What’s this? You’ve also managed to set the table, pour the children’s milk, pop a cork, and pour a little swirl of the Seven Deadly Zins for the Little Missus? What an amazing man you are! You certainly deserve something.

Salads all around, bread with butter or dipping oil (peppered and cheesed to suit), and an amazing pig-and-pasta main course, adorned with wine, and ready for that something you deserve:

Which is familial indifference.

Not to worry. You’ve survived five o’ clock. Now all you have before you is …

Is dishes, homework, piano, guitar, baths, stories, course prep, and …

And, well, the FPR site meter must keep turning, so a thousand words more or less await “writing.” Otherwise the Porch is just a palpable front porch with a few palpable rocking chairs. And in the age of The Internets we can’t have that.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar EJ February 1, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Oh, did Illinois win? I hadn’t heard.

That was the point of this post, yes?

avatar mdzehnder February 2, 2012 at 8:44 am

The head of romaine compromises the Porcher principle of locality perhaps; but there are other Porcher principles, specifically seasonality, to which you could adhere with little difficulty. Try mustard greens, kale, or even some bitter endive or frisée; all delicious, all can be made into a raw salad and all respectful of the current (if somewhat deceptive, temperature-wise) season.

avatar JAppleseed v2.0 February 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Praises be that the sin of locality is only accounted against the romaine and not the Elgar!

avatar Eric B. February 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm

The romaine is one thing, but I assume Blanton’s is mostly GMO corn? If your school job leaves you drinking brand name liquor, isn’t it time you quit the school job and build a still?

avatar Eric B. February 3, 2012 at 5:11 am

Weren’t you the one taken with the advice that we should gain the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do? (If you were, and if that’s not exact, I’m sure you’ll remember the exact words well enough to correct me.) What can that possibly mean in practice besides giving up the brand name liquor and making your own shine?

avatar Gene Callahan February 3, 2012 at 8:56 am

The prosciutto was laid aside, and I’m afraid it is sitting there still: it never rejoined the recipe.

avatar dave walsh February 3, 2012 at 10:28 am

Faith in a seed, Professor.

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