Cooking, Sex, and Lying About Grandma’s Gravy Recipe

Spooning? What the hell is this guy up to? Is this new column going to be a cooking column or a sex column? Well, dear reader, it will be both.

After all, what is cooking if it isn't a way to someone's heart? A way into someone's pants, I say.

That could be why I'm 39 and what you might call a confirmed bachelor. I've been to more than 50 weddings — no shit! Anyway, I'm single, I've messed up more than one relationship, and I've tossed more meals into the trash than I care to share. (That's a lie — I usually eat it even if I fuck up the recipe.)

I've worked in the food industry for the past 20 years; Yes, I'm a "foodie." I love food, everything about it. Food is more than pure fuel; it's a way of life. And at one point, I was packing it in at more than 250 pounds. I had the gut to prove my love. (Easy — we all have varying degrees of control over what goes into our face holes; hopefully your date does, too.)

I wear clogs (believe me, chicks dig 'em), the official footwear of the chef, and I know enough tricks to make someone think I know what the hell I'm talking about. From wine to dine to 69, I tend to have some experience. I've puked down the front of my shirt more than once, and I've also had more forks in front of me than I knew what to do with. I guess you can say I've been everywhere, from the White House to the outhouse, even though I've only eaten while on the can a couple of times.

But that's another story.

If you take anything from this column — besides some laughs — I hope you try a couple of my tips, and even a few of my relationship-proven recipes. Most of my creations come from what I call tribal knowledge — shit I learned from close friends, family secrets, and messes while in the trenches. I figure that even if that hot broad I spooned every night last year isn't going to last, at least her mother's secret recipe for Italian dressing will. It's mine for forever. Hahahahhaha, bitch!

So, stand by for ramblings and burns and hopefully even a few little flare-ups that can be healed.

All right, Thanksgiving is once again upon us, so I thought I'd throw out a couple of tips on how to Not Be a Turkey. (If you're already digesting the feast, don't worry, you can apply this advice to just about any holiday meal, particularly Christmas.) Chances are, if you're dating someone or, for that matter, married (you poor devil), then you're going to be heading to someone else's home for dinner.

When you show up, bring something expensive or, at least, impressive. Like my mom's cranberry side dish. I mean, even if you grew up in a house where mom made everything from a box — powdered taters, pre-mixed dry stuffing, Cold Duck wine — hopefully you discovered at least one great dish. Such was the case in my typically Betty Crocker home. Even though nothing on my childhood dinner table was healthy or fresh, at least the cranberries were killer. My mom makes the best damn cranberry side dish in the world (even though it still sits right next to its sibling, the can-imprinted cylinder of jiggling, gelatinous cranberry sauce).

Mom's cranberries have lots of brandy in them, and they're cooked from the fresh little inedible tart fruit right in front of your eyes. Nothing beats the sound of fresh-cooking cranberries, and the juicy smell that emanates as the fruit cooks in syrup is holiday magic! Trust me on this one: I've brought it to several dinners and it has always been a big hit. (Don't forget to tell your host what you're bringing ahead of time, so you don't piss off the chef — very important).

If you aren't that adventurous, or your significant other doesn't think his/her Nazi mother will approve of invading her meal, then here are a few other tips:

Bring wine. Show up with some stellar bottle that you'd never buy for yourself. Go to the best liquor store, or the most chichi grocer in town, and ask the manager or in-house sommelier which wine goes best with turkey. I've picked up some $30-plus bottles of pinot noir that were so tasty it wouldn't have mattered if I had been eating frozen turkey in a tinfoil hat.

Another thing you always want to do is compliment the cook on how moist the turkey is, even if it's as dry as grandma's lap. Last year, at my friend's feast, I witnessed the future son-in-law tell the chef (who happened to be his future father-in-law) that he overcooked the turkey. I was also at the ensuing wedding, and I guarantee you those words were going through Dad's head when he walked his lovely daughter down the aisle: There she goes, marrying that cocksucker.

Along the same lines, don't pour gravy over every goddamn thing on your plate. Hey, the chef spent all damn day slaving over the stove to have a meal that goes together. The side dishes are supposed to taste different and you are supposed to appreciate the marrying of flavors around your plate. If you bury everything in loads of goopy gravy, you're sending a clear message: I don't care about you or your meal.

Speaking of, gravy usually makes or breaks the Thanksgiving meal. For some reason (read: women wear the pants), the wife or mom is usually in charge of this department, so lie, if you have to, and tell her, "This is the best damn gravy I have every dolloped into my head cavity! It's waaay better than my grandma's!"

At least this way, when you're walking down the aisle, Mom will be thinking, My baby is marrying an angel.

Gobble gobble!

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
C.M. Redding
Contact: C.M. Redding