September 16, 2000
Fezzik's Birthday Party
The day of Fezzik's birthday dawned bright and completely clear. It was going to be a very hot day, and I still had to tackle getting the ribs thoroughly braised before the party. It was going to be really warm in the house.
Breakfast was easy due to a lucky break at Albertsons, they'd had trays of cinnamon rolls, two for the price of one, so I'd gotten the two trays. So we each had as many as we wanted, and the microwave was very good about heating them up exactly right. John had roasted coffee the day before and I had half a mug of the super smooth brew. That was very nice indeed as a start to the day.
The first thing I had to do was the ice cream mix, as the resulting mix had to sit in the fridge to chill until it was time to actually freeze the cream. I had Geoff mash bananas while I got milk, cream, sugar, a pinch of salt, and a few spices into the mix. The spices were interesting. One was just ground stuff I had, the other two were nutmeg and vanilla. Instead of using vanilla extract, I had bought the beans yesterday and today, I split one of the beans (which, unfortunately, had dried up significantly in its glass tube) and used the tip of my knife to dig out all the pod's seeds and let them free into the diary mix. The pod then went into the drink as well, as it had some flavor to lend. I'd bought whole nutmegs from Penzey's and so I simply used a fine grater to get a fine dusting of the super fragrant spice. There really isn't even a real comparison between the dusty powder in a can and this astonishingly perfumed stuff right off the dried pod. The whole pot then went on the fire and I heated everything well past 160 F. For some reason, ice cream seems to freeze better if the diary is heated with the sugar past that point, it seems to have something to do with the molecular changes that happen to the sugar and the over 200 various compounds in milk when it's heated. I've had ice cream from unheated ingredients as well, and have always been surprised by the difference.
I had Geoff add lemon juice to the bananas and they went in the fridge in their own bowl on top of the pot filled with cream and milk and stuff.
Then we sat down and watched Alton Brown's episode on baby back ribs, which are mildly different than beef country style ribs, but the basics of getting really tender, flavorful ribs seems to be pretty universal. The basic tissue makeup of beef ribs isn't that different. It was about halfway through the video that Geoff realized that I wasn't just watching this for fun. I was actually trying to figure out what to do with the darned ribs. So, once through the vid, I mixed up a good batch of dry rub the way Alton Brown recommended, in the proportions recommended, and then I covered the ribs with the stuff and put them in a roasting pan that I then covered with foil, as I wasn't going to do the foil packet method he recommended as these things weren't going to lie nearly as flat.
They had to do the dry marinating thing for a while, so I watched the liquids part of the program a few times through. I also didn't really have to get them into the oven until sometime after 1, as folks weren't coming until 4, and they'd need the three hours to braise, but not too much more than that. We had various grazing things for lunch, and then at 1, I mixed up a double batch of the liquids, poured it over the ribs, and then set the whole mass into the oven at 275 degrees, which is about 50 degrees over Alton's recommendation, but then at this altitude, we needed the extra heat. I then left it alone for about 3 hours.
While they cooked, the house got cleaned, vacuumed and stuff. Fezzik watched a bit dubiously, but he also seemed to know that something was up, and was in and out a lot, avoiding the vacuum, but wanting to know what was going on.
John had found out last night that we'd run out of green chiles, between the freezer disaster over the summer, and using them at the last party, we were just out. So he went off and got some from a produce stand in Longmont, fresh roasted and hot as blazes. He added them to the stew, and then made some chipotle and smoked habanero orange salsa. There are moments when I'm very glad that I'm pregnant and I don't even have to try those spicy things anymore. Nothing to prove here.
At four, I pulled out the ribs. They were fall apart tender, and I seperated them into portions with a knife and tongs and piled them into a platter. The juice from all the cooking I defatted and then poured into my biggest wok, the open top and relatively narrower bottom makes it a really great chef's pan for concentrating juices. I then set the juices to boil and reduce until they formed a very nice glaze. While that happened people started to arrive.
Various families with very small children came first. Joan and Ray came with brand-new Haley in her basket, and a quieter Alex in tow. Peter and Sandra came with Quintin, who is smaller than Alex, and Sandra has another on the way. She and I had fun comparing pregnancy notes and she had some good advise about choices that was really cool to learn and hear about. Quintin and Geoff got along really well, when Geoff managed to teach Quintin, very patiently, that the magnet side of the magnetic letters were the sides that actually stuck to the fridge. Joan had fun patting my belly and half regretting that she'd had her last one. She also had a bunch of things she wanted to give us, as Haley was growing out of the newborn things and going on to bigger baby stuff. She was also weaning, at about four months, and Ray was very happy to give her a bottle and be part of her feeding as well.
The coolest part of all this is knowing that when we do have the kid, we'll not be alone, that there will be several people who have just experienced things again that we can call and ask questions of and know that we'll get reasonable answers. And they're all people that also aren't pushy about giving unwanted anything.
Since they're likely the ones to leave first, too, it was very reasonable, and we piled up dishes and desserts on the counter and the dining room table. With all the people going in and out and some of the kids not realizing that the screen door was open, there were about as many flies in the house as outside. The day, luckily, had hit its hottest and was starting to cool down, and the shade from the shadow of the house in the backyard was especially welcome to the folks that arrived. Outside was clearly cooler than the inside, and when the juices hit a good glaze, I was thankful to be able to go outside with that and the platter of ribs.
Around 5 we started cooking the various sausages we'd bought, bratwurst, Italian very hot sausages, and a chicken salsa and cheese sausage, definitely not your bland sort of chicken. We also had 'normal hot dogs' as the kids refused to eat the weird ones, and several dozens of buns. The ribs were dipped in the glaze, and subjected to the fire just long enough to heat them through without burning the glaze too much. Then they were put on a platter with all the sausages for people to choose from. Dogs arrived, and were ordered outside pretty repeatedly, as the table full of food was about at nose level for Molly, the Great Dane, Precious, the other Newfoundland, and Fezzik. Kona, Boris, and Forden, were just kept out because all the other dogs were out. Boris and Forden were a little confused by that as the last time they'd come, they'd gotten to not only come in the house, but lie on the futon with the people.
Lots of folks were happy to meet Boris and Forden as they'd heard so much about them. That had been a little daunting for Debbie, but they did good. Also Debbie and Matt brought Fezzik an ice cream cake, as they knew he didn't much like toys, but he did love ice cream. Boris found the wading pool and wanted water in it badly enough that we all filled it for him. All the dogs happily splashed through it and in it all the rest of the afternoon, so it was another good reason to keep them outdoors with their muddy paws. All the dogs had a great time galloping around the yard and playing with each other and begging food off people. Fezzik rambled amongst them all, not going too quickly, but doing a good sight better since his chemo shot.
Pretty much everyone knew Fezzik had cancer. So everyone made much of the old man, and he got a ton of hugs, pats, and treats all afternoon. We'd also said not to bring Fezzik gifts, but treats for him were always appreciated, so he also got several bags of healthy treats. Not quite like the 15 pounds of Milk Bones haul he made at his tenth birthday, but a good one nonetheless. Around 6, they started to crank on the ice creams. Lynn had brought his ice cream maker as well, and cranked out a batch of vanilla while John and folks did the banana. Both teams had kids in to help with the cranking and they both did it until the ice cream was so stiff two men sitting on the case while a third tried to crank it couldn't any more. Then they let the ice cream cure a bit while everyone finished up eating dinner.
We pulled out Fezzik's ice cream cake about then. John cut him a good, big slice, and everyone gathered around to sing 'Happy Birthday' to him. John put the slice down in front of Fezzik after about the second 'Happy Birthday to you!'. Fezzik took a taste of the slice with a lick, and then made everyone go 'ooooo' when he took the entire slice in his mouth and basically chewed it once before swallowing it whole. My. He finished it before the song was done. John just laughed and got him another piece, which he ate, this time, in two bites. He really did enjoy his cake.
The ice creams turned out beautifully. The banana was really, really rich with banana flavor, and both ice creams went really well with a berry cobbler the Gibbons had brought. Dan was off to France, but Bonnie decided that they should come anyway and the kids had a blast. All the kids ended up downstairs, playing Crash Team Racing on the big screen TV and screaming and chest beating was common among the boys. Matt snuck down and played as well. I giggled and joined him and played one round, but there was a bit too competitive an atmosphere for me, so I left it for the boys and went back upstairs.
Various of the early folks were leaving. Haley was deep asleep. Alex had been watching the big kids downstairs with wide eyes and enjoying just watching the racing. Molly, the Dane, had fallen asleep on the porch, so the Goodells were tuckered out. Lots of hugs and lots of good-byes, and as their taillights were disappearing into the night, other people showed up.
Turns out the Brownlows and the Hydens have this tradition. That every time the Washington Huskies (University of Washington) plays the Buffalos (Colorado State University), even if it's only once every five or six years, they get together wherever the game is played and go to see the game together, each cheering for their own team. This time it happened to be here, in Boulder on this weekend. So the whole crew of them, with a Radovich in tow all showed up here, after the game. They're all people that John and I knew from Data I/O, back in the Redmond days, and people that we knew pretty well as Paul and John developed Synario together, the thing I'm still working on. Lloyd and Cathy Hyden were working at Data I/O as was Rado, but they were all in different groups but we got to know them pretty well as the early social life at Data I/O had been pretty intense. Lots of parties, the bowling league had had a party nearly every night they bowled, and there was a particular crew that had partied together a lot.
It was astonishingly good to see them all again.
Paul, Deidre, and Isabel, their two-year-old daughter, were going to be staying the night as they were meeting other friends in Boulder tomorrow and their flight wasn't until late. The rest just came to stir up the dreg ends of the party and did well at it. The last of the ribs were eaten, along with a few sausages, and the salads. Everyone liked the ice cream and Fezzik got more pets. Everyone got a tour of the house and the land and it was fun to just go outside in the cool night air, so much nicer than the hot day had been, and look up at the profusion of stars. We then all sat down in the livingroom and all played catch-up. Most everyone had left when Data I/O had gotten bad, folks had joined various things, including dot coms that had soared and crashed. It was interesting to realize that nearly everyone was much happier now.
Cathie finally hauled Lloyd and their boy away around midnight. Radovich had had to leave much earlier to catch his flight out of DIA. Isabel stayed up way late, asking Geoff to read her Pooh books to her, and generally going her best to stay up. She was good, though, too, even tired she wasn't cranky, particularly and when Mom finally said that it was time to quite down, she did.
I hadn't known that Jay and Dave K. hadn't told everyone in Redmond that the Rosty's were pregnant, and it was a really big and happy surprise for Dierdre. She couldn't help herself and patted my tummy, too, and told me to get used to it as when you're really pregnant, she found that some people, even complete strangers, will do that. She was so happy for us, it took me back a little, and actually made me appreciate it just a bit more than I had before. It was interesting to realize that that could happen.
So, as things finally wound down, and Paul helped John toss away all the paper things and put the few dirty dishes in the sink, we all relaxed and declared it a good party. Fezzik agreed and fell asleep on the diningroom floor, now that he was allowed back into the house, and on the note we all took to our own beds.