I have discovered that the road to high drama or comedy often starts out as an innocuous trail of breadcrumbs.
Such was the case recently, when in the middle of cleaning her kitchen cupboards my friend Susan texted me with the wry declaration that she was married to a condiments hoarder.
“Dozens and dozens of packets of soy-sauce, ketchup, and sundry containers of salad dressing, vinegar, etc.,” she wrote. She thanked God for small mercies--at least Ron didn’t save the packets of salt and pepper, but she said that she could not suggest throwing any of the collection out.
Ron had said defensively that the last time the kids were over, he had given them all little ketchup packs to put on their French fries.
“At that rate,” wrote Susan, “there’s no way we will be able to use them up before the end of the next decade! Then there are all the other little packets…And every time he gets takeout…there are MORE!”
“Oh, dear,” I texted back, adding that I had used up my own ketchup hoard by snipping the ends off the sachets and emptying them into my large ketchup bottle. Strangely, Susan didn't seem impressed by that.
“Squeeze them into big bottles hey?” she replied, “Ron suggested that, but I told him that was his job…that’s when he said I should throw them out.”
Ron’s hoard would have come in handy when Paul and I stopped to pick up supper from the Dairy Queen a few days later. He had been ill, and had lost his appetite for a couple of weeks, so I was relieved when he had the sudden urge for a DQ Crispy Chicken Salad with his favourite Honey Mustard dressing. Things began to unravel quickly when the server brought out the salad and told him that she was sorry, but they were out of Honey Mustard dressing. Paul was disappointed. The young server was poised with a cooked Crispy Chicken Salad, but without the Honey Mustard dressing, Paul did not want it.
Childhood family dynamics made me a Rescuer of Awkward Moments and this one triggered me. I instantly remembered a leftover sachet of Honey Mustard Dressing that was waiting in the door of our fridge at home. Disappointment was unnecessary! All would be well.
As soon as the car stopped in our driveway, I rushed inside, an invisible red rescue cape flapping in the wind behind me. I skidded to a halt in front of the fridge, and flung open the door--but there was no dressing! In my own round of purging zeal, I had thrown it away. Next I ran to the pantry, where I was sure I had an unopened bottle of honey mustard dressing. I searched in vain before remembering it had gone the way of the sachet when I had noticed that the “Best Before” date was several years in the past.
Paul was eating his melting ice-cream first, but it was going fast. I felt like a contestant on a cooking show trying to beat the clock. I ransacked my cookbooks for recipes for Honey Mustard dressing—no luck. Undeterred, I ran upstairs and printed off the first honey mustard recipe I could find on the internet.
I gathered the ingredients quickly: Dijon mustard, honey, cider vinegar, salt and oil, and started measuring them out. The print on the recipe was small and I had to squint—my reading glasses weren’t handy but I didn’t want to waste time searching.
1 ¼ cups of Dijon mustard did seem like rather a lot, followed by 2 ¼ cups of honey and 3 ¼ cups of cider vinegar. I was just thankful that I had these things on hand in such quantity. I underestimated the size of bowl I would need and had to find a bigger one to transfer the mixture into. This must be a commercial recipe, I thought, but by now I was committed.
Then I paused to take a calming breath and looked closely at the next ingredient. I saw to my dismay that what seemed at quick glance to read, “41½ teaspoons of salt,” was actually, step number 4--1½ teaspoons of salt, and that what seemed to be ever-increasing ingredient quantities were the result of my including the step numbers in the measurements. The last one would have been step 5. ¼ cup plus two tablespoons, of oil. The practice of thanking God for small mercies was heartily applied as I contemplated the amount of oil that would have swelled the growing concoction on my counter had I not pressed the pause button before adding that.
I pushed the overflowing bowl to one side and began again with the right amounts this time--and triumphantly carried in the hard-won dressing just as Paul was opening his chicken salad.
Afterwards I asked him how it was.
“Not the same,” he said—Paul is nothing if not truthful. He had no idea of the behind-the-scenes drama that had gone into its production.
I did briefly consider how I might rescue the original bowl of ingredients, but to do so would have meant adding 2 more cups of Dijon Mustard and another cup of honey to balance out the volume of cider vinegar--which was 13 times the correct amount of just a ¼ cup. There would have been enough dressing nobody really liked, to last a lifetime. You have to know when to cut your losses.
I’m trying to decide if the moral of this story is “haste makes waste” or “penny wise—pound foolish.” Maybe I should ask Ron.