The first friend I made at Optima Views was a delightfully chatty, and brilliant Asian neighbor whom I’ll call, Atul. I came home and announced, ‘ Honey, there’s a gay Chinese dude in finance living across the hall. I finally feel confident that we’ve made a good investment in this building.’
In any case, we have become close over the years, had many parties, and have met lovely people through our association with Atul. But there are always favorites, and ours are a couple whom I’ll refer to as Paul and John.
Shortly after we met, they invited us to a fabulous party at their newly purchased condo. Atul and I were standing in a room full of gay men, discussing real estate, when Atul, in his slight accent announced, ‘ Lily I wish I had bought your condo instead. You have a view of the entire city skyline.’
In my best real estate manner, I said ‘ No Atul, you have a unique property. You have the biggest deck in the building.’
I think about a hundred heads swiveled around when Atul replied, ‘ I hate having a big deck. When you have a big deck everyone throws their butts on it.’ True story.
In any case, I had a great time, swilled enough liquor to kill a small pony and decided to have Atul, Paul and John over for dinner the next month.
I pondered the menu realizing that my new friends not only have great taste, but they like things that taste good.
I settled on a wild rice dish, and spinach salad garnished with cranberries and walnuts. I thought that pork loin would go well with this, but how to prepare it?
I finally found an old European recipe that called for an overnight marinade of juniper berries and herbs. I looked all over town for juniper berries, finally finding them at Jewel, the last place I thought to look. I should mention that wanting the best quality meat, I had purchased two pork loins from Whole Foods, which were priced twice as much as they would have been in any other store.
That evening after an entire day cleaning the apartment, I set the table beautifully. I don’t recall if I made a Tarte Tatin or a cheesecake for dessert, but by the time I got to the marinade, I was thoroughly exhausted.
I submerged the pork in the white wine and juniper medley in a Le Crueset pot, but as I was about to put it into the refrigerator, my husband made an appearance to pronounce the pot far to heavy for any of the glass shelves to hold.
My neighbor, Irena, a night owl, came by to second the opinion, and they decided that the balcony in mid-January would be a fine place to overnight the meat. I was skeptical but I’ve always had a bad habit of deferring to my elders, despite the limited age range and my own often repeated experience of needing to trust my own judgment.
Tired as I was, I overslept and awoke to find the weather had turned. The sun was blazing hot, and the temperature had risen to over fifty degrees, something completely unheard of in Chicagoland. I jumped out of bed, and ran to the balcony where I found pot and pork heated to a toasty bathwater temperature.
My husband who had been up for several hours, looked at me blankly when I asked why he hadn’t taken the meat indoors. I said some other things as well, none of which I would like to repeat here. In fact, I yelled my head off.
I’m generally not a cheap person but I had decided to take some time off from work in order to write full time and was on a budget. I was dreading the thought of throwing all that money down the drain, and so I called my mother, a very experienced cook for an opinion.
‘ You can serve it, sine’ (literally sonny in Serbian, but used by mothers to refer to children of both sexes regardless of how advanced in age they are).
I knew then I had to throw the meat out, since I’ve found it good policy to do the exact opposite of what my mother says, and I told her so.
I then sent my husband to Trader Joe’s for a new pork loin. In the meantime, my mother called back. ‘Sine,’ she said, ‘ Take dat pork out of garbage, and make for Mickey. I promise everrryting vill be okay.’ Up until then I had thought she liked him.
It was too late to make another marinade, so I seared the meat on the stove in garlic butter and olive oil and finished it by roasting it in the oven. Furious, drained and broke, I put on a false smile for my guests. In the end, dinner was pronounced a success by our kind friends, who would never suspect me of having a terrible temper.