Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To the PR Setter Go the Carbonara

I hobbled into the kitchen and watched the ingredients unloaded on to the counter. I took stock while the gas sparked under a pot of water and then again under our largest pan. Garlic, prosciutto, milk, butter, cream, parmesan and romano cheese, eggs (just the yolks), chives, cinnamon, pasta.

“I brought eggnog, too.”
“Because the pasta’s not heavy enough?” I asked.

This was my Post-New York Marathon meal.
It’s the type of meal I would normally shun, not for its lack of deliciousness, but for its running, and hell even its life, consequences. You can feel your heart slow down after this meal. Minutes and perhaps even days of your life disappear with each mouthful. But, it’s heavenly.

For those reasons, it only comes around after I finish a marathon; when the health rules are slightly lax, and the guilt for eating a meal such as this subside, or at least hide for a few hours.

My cousin and I were at a Caps game recently and had the following exchange:

“I always get you something after you finish a marathon…any requests?”
“I want the meal.”
“The carbonara?”
We both let out a heavy exhale.
“The carbonara.”

One September night back in 2007, I’d finished my run for the evening (more often than not these days, I can mark time by race training, and it was a run for the Chicago meltdown year), barbeque chicken crackled on the grill, and my wife and I had just finished putting the finishing touches on the guest room. We watched a pair of headlights swing around the front of our house and then heard a car door slam. Cousin Jane had arrived.

Rachel and I had been married for just over two years when her cousin moved to the D.C. area after completing her chemistry Master’s and needed a place to stay. The doors to chez Holzwart (rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?) flew open.
Up to then, Jane was my funeral buddy. Rachel and Jane’s grandparents passed fairly close together and we found ourselves in Billerica, MA for their funerals. Jane made it a point to come over to me while I sat awkwardly in the funeral home, trying to play it cool, but she was on to me from the start. And she delighted in calling me on it.

You may also recognize Jane from our wedding pictures…she’s the one not smiling. In any of them.

That first night, we sat down to that barbeque chicken, and I eyed her as she ate half of it before putting her napkin on the table. “What’s the matter? You don’t like the food?” I asked. I would later learn that regret swirled through her head at that moment.

But, with my wife playing rugby at the time, our friendship grew from one of convenience to a legitimate bond. She drank our gin. I initiated her into the ulcer club that is being a Washington Capitals fan. We bonded over ab workouts in the basement (do people still do pilates?), the art of sarcasm, food, and more specifically, what brings me to this post today, high caloric meals.

One evening, Jane declared she was cooking. “I think it’s going to be pretty good,” she said. “But it’s probably best if you don’t see what goes in it.”

Which in my head meant, not just unhealthy, but really unhealthy.

The house filled with the heavy aromas of garlic, simmering cream, and various salted pork products. In short, heaven. And heart attack.

The three of us shoveled forkfuls of this creamy, cheesy, congealing, concoction into our mouths at an alarming rate. Then went back for seconds. Then regret. Not that we went back for seconds, but that our stomachs wouldn’t let us go back for thirds.

If she could somehow work beef jerky into it, it may be the most sensuous meal I’ve ever had.

And so, the post-marathon meal was born. It may only be surpassed by a helping on the following day after everything has had a chance to coagulate. Jane hates leftovers so we end up with what’s left, which is generally a lot. It calls to me whenever I open the fridge, even for just a bite, which inevitably turns into several. Cold, hot. It doesn’t matter.

The one thing Jane and I never bonded on was running. But this was her way of appreciating the effort. And my way of getting her to cook for me.

Do you have a post-marathon/post-goal race meal that you indulge in?

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