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The Last Supper Club
Meal #3 - Home, Home on the Ranch

Ordered by: Robert Ronald Atworth

Dressing on the side, please. I’m watching my figure.

Date of Meal: 12/14/1999

Meal: Grilled chicken salad with ranch dressing, nachos and cheese with picante, cookies and cream ice cream, and 2 root beers

Participants: Eric, Ashish, Bhavi

Clockwise from left: Cucumber (1), A&W Root Beer (6), Breyers Cookies & Cream, Hidden Valley Ranch, Goya Picante Salsa, Lettuce (1 head), Herr’s Multi-grain tortilla chips (1 bag), chicken breasts, tomatoes (3)

The obligatory cheese mugshot.  Also, forgot to include it in the original ingredients pic.

Preparation

This week Kat wasn’t able to make it to dinner, because she’s been working like a dog (heh) this past week and has been exhausted.  The show must go on, however, and so my favorite newlyweds, Ashish (@awwsheesh) and Bhavi, were my guests for this week.  I sent them the Excel spreadsheet that I had taken from the website we’re using, with all of the “none requested”s taken out, which is by the way still at about 204 requests, and asked them to take a look and make a request.  It’s a pretty daunting task, and as Ashish said, “This is like one of those restaurants with everything on the menu.  I hate that.”  He’s referring to what I often term “selection anxiety.”  I ran through the list and tried to come up with a few choices that I thought we could handle, because I was pretty sure that between the three of us, none of us possessed the skills to cook proficiently outside of our wheelhouse.  This meant nothing with collard greens, grits, ribs, or chili.  We’ve already done a steak and a burger, so we wanted to mix it up a little.  There was also one last thought: I didn’t want anything that involved fries.  Kat’s fries are just too good; I couldn’t cheat on them with an inferior mistress.  We settled on the salad and nachos because that seemed like something we could tackle, and for other reasons you’ll see in the Q&A section.

Before I get to the assembling of ingredients, a word about one of our guests.  I’ve known Ashish since high school, and have taken 2 man-cations with him, and there’s a particular philosophy he has that I thought would be interesting for this project in particular.  Ashish doesn’t like meals.  He likes to eat, sure, but he’s more of a utilitarian eater.  He eats for energy and to stop hunger.  He doesn’t enjoy spending a lot of time sitting and eating as an activity in itself.  There were a few times on vacation where we’d be doing stuff all day, and at around 4pm I’d start getting moody and impatient without knowing why.  Then I’d realize we hadn’t eaten since early that morning, and Ashish would have a wicked smile when I mentioned this, because he’d gotten us to skip a meal that day.  What a dick.  Me, I belong in a completely different group.  Over summer break from college, I would take a road trip with friends to Philly just to get a Pat’s cheesesteak, and we’d stop for lunch at Roy Rogers at the rest stop on the way.  We used to call these “Fat Trips”.  So how would Ashish be able to appreciate a last meal?  Would he just want a sandwich he could nosh on during the walk to the chair?  Would he get the guards to forget that they were supposed to ask him?  Then, as they’re strapping him in they’d go, “Wait a minute, did we ever ask you what you wanted to eat?” and he’d just smile that grin of his right before they flick the switch.

While this meal seemed pretty easy to prepare for, there were a lot of those ambiguous terms that encounter different readings when you mentally transform your kitchen into a prison kitchen.  Salad.  Ashish said, “We obviously have to go with iceberg.  They wouldn’t do better than that.”  We decided that cucumbers and tomatoes were probably the minimum ingredients for a salad that someone who doesn’t give a crap would put in, although if we go off of the standard set by restaurants, I bet we could have included some shredded carrot, aka “salad confetti”.  For the nachos, we wanted to get the round chips, like what you would find in a movie theater or at a ballgame.  I had no idea what “picante” was as a noun, but we looked it up on Urban Dictionary and it turns out it’s just a type of salsa that’s spicy.  Ashish and Bhavi were going to host at their place, and they had salsa, but it looked way too bougie for our purposes, so we set our goals for something like Pace (or in this case, Goya).  We also went with the decision to leave out sour cream, guacamole, beans, meat, and other nacho accoutrements.  Bhavi suggested american cheese to melt over it, which I took to be her commitment to the spirit of prison food, but I discovered later that she just really likes american cheese.  Like, she picks it as her cheese for a lot of situations.  Yuch.  The following is a transcript of the cheese discussion Ashish and I had:

Ashish: We should get one of those mixed cheese bags of “mexican cheese”. It’s usually chedder and jack mix,  I think.

Eric: Oh yeah, definitely. Good idea about the mixed cheese bags.  We finally found something that Associated or Met is good for. (that’s a New York supermarket joke, for you out-of-towners…according to Google Analytics, all 0 of you.)

We began to divvy up the tasks, and that’s when Bhavi piped up with, “So how do you grill chicken?”  I felt a wave of relief that I hadn’t just made the assumption that the three of us were all novice chefs.  Ashish took on the chicken (meat detail, or “meatail”) while Bhavi and I worked on the salad.

Kind of looks like he’s got his magic chicken wand out, right?  Right??

Cooking tip for this week: always season your meat.  Also, sometimes pan frying is exactly the same as grilling, especially when you don’t have a grill handy.

Bhavi on tomatoes.  I never know the right way to cut those things for salads.

That’s my “I’m a-peeling” face.

The real star of this week: a peeler.  Works so much better than a knife.  Yes, I am this obvious.

Since the salad was coming together pretty quickly, it was time to make the nachos.  I devised a system I will totally endorse right now: the layering system.  It works great.  First, one layer:

Chips plus cheese.

Now put the salsa on.  That salsa had absolutely no viscosity.  If I had hit it hard enough, it would have come out shaped exactly like the bottle, quivering slightly (yeah, picture that for a second).  Also, doesn’t that pile of chicken breasts look, I don’t know, obscene?

Second layer. No idea what I’m laughing at here.

Now onto some finished shots:

What a motley crew.  They look like all the cousins’ spouses hanging out at a family reunion.  But hey, not bad looking nachos, eh?  Eh? (nudge)

As opposed to Casa Silver, Bhavi and Ashish have a real dining table.  We ate like adults today! (not pictured: The roommate back at my apartment watching Top Chef: All Stars)

Your meal is served.  We’ll keep the Pepcid AC on hand, JIC.

The Meal

We originally had candles going, but that felt weird, like a cross between an anniversary dinner for the three of us and a séance.  We went with electric lighting and listened to Pinkerton in honor of the Weezer concert this month that we slept on but would have probably really enjoyed.

1. What do you think he did?

Ashish read about him beforehand, so he was out of the discussion.

Bhavi: Nothing so terrible.

Eric: Remember he got the death penalty.

Ashish: There’s only one way you get on Death Row.

Bhavi: Ok, he murdered women.  Two sisters.

Ashish: Right, nothing so terrible.  Just women.

Eric: Now you’re over-compensating, Bhavi.  I think this meal is different from the others in that it’s got a lot of variety, and I think the salad means he might have considered how he would feel after the meal.  I think it was a planned crime.  Kidnapping resulting in murder.

Bhavi: I think he’s a man who enjoyed his kill.

Eric: Flip-flopper. (also, Bhavi and Ashish just discovered Dexter, if that informs any of this)  Ashish, what did he do?

Ashish: He robbed and murdered some guy, and threw him by some dumpsters.  Multiple gun shots to the head, torso, and groin.  There were also knife wounds to the abdomen and chin, and his right pinkie had been severed so Atworth could steal his ring. (pinkie ring?  Seriously??)  Atworth was arrested while burglarizing another residence later, and was found driving around the dead guy’s car.  I think he ordered this meal because he’s stupid.

Eric: Yeah, I guess there are very disparate choices.  Cookies and Cream and Ranch?

Ashish: Cookies and Cream, the simple man’s ice cream.  Actually, (laughs) I like Cookies and Cream.

For the sake of honesty, Ashish couldn’t remember all of the details of the crime, so I’m reading about the wounds for the first time now.  Gun and knife wounds?  Do you think he ran out of bullets, or did he start with the knife first and was like, “This is taking WAY too long.”

2. What are your first impressions?

Bhavi: This is simple man comfort food (also noteworthy, Bhavi grew up in a vegetarian household, and had her first two steak dinners only about a month ago.  So her definition of comfort food might vary slightly)

Ashish: Better than I expected.  This looks like the kind of prepared salad I pass by in the supermarket and won’t get.  But the nachos look like what I grew up with.  But altogether I’m not happy with this meal.  It’s a salad I would never eat.

Bhavi: I’m ok with the nachos.  It’s a texture thing.  The salad is super bland.  I thought he was being smart with the salad before.

Ashish: Yeah, I usually like more stuff.

Bhavi: I bet you he was disappointed when he saw this salad.

Eric: Can we fault him for getting prison salad?  I mean, he wants a salad, that’s fine.  After all the meat I’ve been eating doing this, I was pretty excited for something that I thought might actually be healthy for me.  But this is probably not his first salad in prison.  He knows they’re not delivering on the salad promise.  This isn’t a Cosi salad we’re talking about.  It’s prison-salad.  So I think he could have planned better.  But I will say this is the closest thing to a last meal so far, in that it seems like a greatest hits collection.  Nothing goes together here, unlike the last two meals which seemed like conventional “you’re not necessarily going to die today” meals.

Note: Bhavi was showing tonight’s menu to a friend and her comment was, “Doesn’t look very healthy,” which gave us a laugh.  You know what else isn’t healthy?  Lethal injections.  I think you can splurge a little.  You don’t get to use leftover Weight Watchers points in the afterlife.

3. How close is this to what you would have picked for your own last meal?

Bhavi: I like the diversity.  Spicy, crunchy, cheesy, crisp, meaty.  Before I die, I want my taste buds to go wild.  I want different textures, flavors, and taste.

Eric: Wow, I’m glad that was coming to a point.  For a second I thought you were just going to keep rattling off food adjectives.

Ashish: This is as far as you could get from my last meal.  I want no salad on my plate.  When I let myself go, I eat fries usually.  I want indulgent things.  I love nachos, but they would need more stuff.  I’d want international food, but lots of different things.  I don’t want to eat Mexican food and suddenly realize I would want some Indian food.

Bhavi: Yeah, a taste of different flavors and textures from all over the world.

Eric: A wedding cocktail hour.

Ashish: Death Row tapas!  

Eric: Yeah, I don’t think I’d get any of these things, except maybe the dessert, but we’ll get to that later.  By the way, Ranch dressing?  What is that even made of?  Not a fan.

Bhavi: New York on Flavor of Love loved Ranch dressing.  

Eric: Oh god, some guy ate it off of her toe.  Yeah, not my thing.

4. What are the strong elements?  What are the weak elements?

Ashish: I liked the nachos and the picante sauce.  It was surprisingly pretty spicy.  My mouth is on fire right now.

Eric: I thought the chicken with the Ranch dressing actually tasted pretty good.  The Ranch accentuated the pepper in the chicken.  Also, the root beer.  I love root beer.

Bhavi: Yeah, root beer is way better than Dr. Pepper.

Ashish: I think Dr. Pepper is what cancer would taste like.

Ashish: I think the salad is definitely the weakest part.  A darker leaf might have been good.  One that doesn’t taste like water.

Eric: Yeah, like spinach.

Ashish: And the dressing.  I don’t like Ranch.

Eric: It’s way too creamy. (Note: I’ll actually request Ranch in one situation.  To dip cheese fries smothered in gravy in.  If you haven’t had this, get drunk immediately and hit up a diner.  You can thank me after the EMTs have revived you)

Ashish: Actually, my salad gets a little more exciting every time picante gets into it.  I’m getting that mixture of spicy that makes it more than just a normal salad.

5. How does the meal work as a whole?  Were there any unexpected surprises in the pairings?

Bhavi: 2/3 work.  The root beer and the nachos. 

Eric: What about the ice cream?

Bhavi: Oh yeah, the ice cream will go well with the root beer.

Fast-forward to later in the night, when I decided to do a root beer float with my second can and the ice cream.

This would probably make it onto my Last Meal menu.  Root beer floats are happiness in a frosted mug.

Bhavi and Ashish like theirs naked.  Although Bhavi then poured some root beer in toward the end.

Now back to the questions.

Ashish: The picante salsa and the salad.  That worked well for me.  I also enjoy nachos a lot.  Like, more than I would a pizza. (strong words, since Ashish claims he’s always in the mood for pizza)  The nachos and the salad together feels like a taco.

Eric: And the Ranch is like the sour cream.  It’s like a Wylie Dufresne taco.

Bhavi: Deconstructed!

Eric: Or maybe just not constructed.

At this point we all felt very uncomfortable.  The combo of the root beer and the nachos made us feel sluggish.  I suggested we wait a little while before dessert, at which point they suggested “Just Dance” for the Wii.  If you haven’t played it, this game is amazing.  You go head to head and follow the dancer on the screen.  We did this for close to an hour, until we were sweating and had to open a window.  Also, this is typical for the Ashish/Bhavi household.  Going over is like being allowed to sleep over at your friend’s house.  One time I went over at about midnight to hang out with Ashish while Bhavi was sleeping.  We woke her up at 2am when we were doing karaoke duets to try to get a high score on their karaoke machine (you see what I mean?) and she came out, grabbed a mike, and joined in, talking smack about how we were out of tune.  So for the future first Mrs. Eric out there, I hope this sounds good to you, because I now have a new ideal to strive for.

6. How satisfied are you after the meal?

Eric: Dancing helped.  Ice cream right after the meal would have killed me.

Ashish: I feel full.  Almost too full.  It didn’t help to take seconds.

Bhavi: It’s not my choice, but not terrible.  The cheese, Ranch, soda, and ice cream packed together would have been too much.

7. Is there anything you’re craving after this?

Ashish, Bhavi, and Eric: Sleep.

Ashish: Nothing food-wise.

8. Was there anything missing you would have liked?

Ashish: Some sweet element to the salad.  There was also no real bread.

Eric: Guacamole.  Better nachos fixings.

Ashish: I would have made the nachos the meal and the salad the side part.

Bhavi: The salad was weak.

9. What does this do for you state of mind?  Do you feel more at peace?

Ashish: No, I feel like I ate dinner.

Bhavi: I’m satisfied, so I’m at peace.

Ashish: I won’t be uncomfortable.  I can go to sleep and not be hungry.  I’m not gassy or anything.

Bhavi: Not yet.

Eric: Just Dance got the gasworks going, I think.

10. Ready to die??

Ashish: Sure.

Eric: Yeah?

Ashish: No. I wouldn’t drive around the guy’s [I murdered] car.  This isn’t what I wanted to begin with.

Bhavi: Especially that salad.

Ashish: You know I packed that for you for lunch tomorrow, right?

Eric: Yeah, I’m not ready to die at all.  But that root beer float came close for me.  The salad was a trailer park salad, though.

Ashish: Yes, definitely a trailer park salad.  I packed some for you to have for lunch tomorrow, too.

Eric: Thanks.

Lessons Learned

I think the big lesson here is that I think we’ve come up with a big counter-argument to what I assume is the great culinary debate of greatest hits vs. meal cohesiveness.  Sometimes a lot of different things that seem to have no relation to each other go well together, like nachos and salad or a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.  We also learned the importance of textures intermingling, as well as savory, sweet, sour, and spicy (and whatever other adjectives Bhavi wants to rattle off).  Also, international food!  Huge addition to the discussion.  And finally, we learned that Bhavi considers a salad to be “comfort food”.  Yeah, maybe for a rabbit.  Thanks to Bhavi and Ashish for filling in today, and hosting me at their house.  It was an awesome dinner, and I think in the future we’ll have a few more larger meals in the club.  

Since many of you will be home and eating like gluttons over the next few days, send us what was on your menus, and even some photos if you can.  Let’s see some of your greatest hits.

And finally, happy holidays from the LSC.  If we don’t do a meal next week, we’ll see you in the new year.

Eric and Kat (and Ashish and Bhavi)

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