"Corsec!" Mirax only called me that when she was irritated with me. "Do NOT lecture me on this, I have been doing this since ... since before Dad went to Kessel!" She also didn't bring up her father's imprisonment unless she was really mad at me and considered it my fault. My father -- a Corsec officer like I was -- tracked down and got Booster Terrik convicted on smuggling and tax evasion charges. Booster did five standard years in the glitterstim-mining penal colony for that; my wife was still a child when it happened.
"It always comes out perfectly! Everyone likes it -- no, they love it! I can cook a pekopeko using a ship's manifold while in hyperspace. I may not be a great cook, but it's the one thing I can do. So back off!"
The problem here is that Mirax is mostly correct -- she isn't a great cook. But her roasted pekopeko does come out pretty well -- in certain circumstances. She learned to cook on ships because that's where her father lived his life as a smuggler. She's also correct in that her version is pretty good, but it's variable. Sometimes it comes out not fully cooked, and we end up slicing up the cooked bits and leaving the raw meat near the bones to be recooked later. Not a big deal when you live like we do, but she's been embarrassed when it happens in front of guests. And tonight, we're having a bunch of people over for dinner. So can you blame me for trying to run interference and to help?
"Mirax, I didn't say your way wasn't best, but hear me out ... I've been told that if you cook poultry to 70, that will cook all the proteins so it's not bloody in the least ..." I was trying to win with science and logic, but my wife was not interested.
"GAH! Did I just say 'back off'? Or are you deaf? Maybe you're just simply stupid??" She was really cranked up now. I couldn't lose more now if I push my point to completion, I guess. So I continued. "At that temperature, all the harmful microbes will be killed and the meat will still be tasty, and the meat is thoroughly cooked. It's not good to have medium-rare poultry, after all, right? We don't want our guests to get sic--"
"Why now, Corsec? Why now?? Why argue with me about this just as I'm putting the damned thing into the cooker?" She wasn't even pausing for breath. I guess I didn't present this too well, and we'd now officially crossed the line from angry to murderously hysterical.
"Fine! You think I'll kill everyone with my cooking, then I won't do it. In fact, I won't do anything! They're your friends, you do the cooking and cleaning!" She threw the prepared bird and the roasting pan it was sitting in off the counter. The roast, the rack, the pan -- they all clattered and bounced around, sliding around the floor. I kept watching it slip and roll as I heard my wife stomp out of the apartment, slamming doors as she went. When it had been quiet for about ten minutes and I thought it was safe to do so, I picked up the mess and put the turkey in the sink.
I wonder what my grandmother would say to me now. My mother always complained that I was messy when I was making something in the kitchen. Nanna would always defend me in those situations, cleaning up my messes behind me. No one was here to do it for me now. I'd have to do my own cleanup, but I didn't actually mind it -- it's therapeutic in it's way, gives you time to think.
I just wished that cleaning up the mess with Mirax could be as simple as washing and sterilizing the floor, then the roasting pan and rack, then finally rinsing off the pekopeko. Nanna was always methodical and always cheerful to me, the glue who held our family together. She could calm any storm, always knew the right things to say. Nanna had had a tough life, but right now, I wanted to be like her.
I unwrapped the newfangled meat thermometer that I'd bought to demonstrate to Mirax how easy it would be to check if a roast was done. You stick the thermostat half of the thing into the roast, then place the radio sensor anywhere you like. You can even put it in a pocket and carry it around with you. You program the final temperature, and the alarm rings when that temperature is achieved. Easy -- no trouble at all, and you're guaranteed a well-cooked roast. According to people I've talked to about the ideal roast temperature, for pekopeko it's about 70.
Mirax doesn't like timers or thermometers. She says cookers are too variable; if you'd cooked on a starship manifold, you'd agree, I guess. The pressures would go up and down, too. You have to develop an instinct for when food is done. I'll be the first to admit, no one cooks better than Mirax when the oven is crazily inconsistent. I'm not saying it's all good, but it's edible.
I was trying to make my point that I have a way to make cooking in less mercurial situations more predictable. Obviously, from the blow-up we just had, she won't have anything to do with it, even making extra work and leaving me to do all the prep for dinner tonight.
What is it with women? They tread all over you, they scream and yell and get downright violent, and then it's kiss and make up. They tell you weird stuff like, "You're like my favorite underwear," and expect a guy to think it's cute. Now, if I said that to Mirax, she'd be furious. Okay, male underclothes and female underclothes might be different in presentation and cleanliness, but I have my favorite comfy pair, and I'd mean it as a compliment, too! But would she consider that statement an endearment? Do I look stupid??
Don't answer that. No, I clean up pretty well, but I guess I do act kind of stupid. Like I did today. I shouldn't have brought up the temperature thing the morning of the party. What a dummy I am! I guess I really do look stupid ...
I was mumbling to myself, wondering why I married, but I have to admit it's not really that bad. Overall, I have to say marriage has been good to me. I've never felt more whole, not even when my Dad was still alive. These sorts of incidents are minor in the big context of stuff, I know. Excitement? Adventure? A Jedi craves not these things! Luke often tells me that's his mantra, passed down by his Master, Yoda. But if a Jedi doesn't crave excitement or adventure, why would a Jedi get married?
It's the biggest adventure, in many ways. And it seems neither Master Yoda nor Luke have ever been married, either. Well, maybe they're not as dumb as I am.
I've done plenty of kitchen duties as a Corsec recruit, as a Rogue, and as a Jedi, so I know my way around a vegetable peeler. I discovered as I've been ruminating, I've peeled way more things than I needed for tonight. These potatoes are from Sullust, very fluffy, and they're great mashed. Fortunately, it's mostly men coming, and men love these, as long as I can get some sort of gravy. Too bad I'm bad at sauces. That's another thing Mirax excels at making.
I peer into the cooker and I see the beast is becoming browned. It smells great, and the bird is giving off a lot of juices. Maybe Mirax will come back in time to make that gravy sauce she can make out of anything. When she gets mad, she tends to go out for a long walk and buys something really expensive. Unlike a lot of people, she doesn't hold a grudge after her temper abates. It flares like a rocket when she's hot, but it cools quickly. I just have to wait for her to come home; then everything will be all right.
Sure enough, in about an hour, she's back. I see the door open and she's hauling lots of packages, tied up with string. She doesn't say anything, just blows into the foyer and heads toward the sleeping chamber. I hear her singing and humming (she's tone-deaf; this is surprising since her mother was a musician, I hear ... she must've gotten that from Booster), and I'm just relieved that her bad mood has dissipated enough for her to come home.
Mirax comes into the kitchen, "I bought you something, my Sugarbooboo!" Now I'm Sugarbooboo instead of Corsec. Nauseating, but I'll take that.
She is waving a long, thin, silvery stick at me. "See? It's a cooker thermometer!" I'm not quite sure what to say, since I already got her a thermometer. In fact, the alarm end is clipped to my apron, and I discretely slip it into my pocket, trying not to peek at the readout as I thumb off the alarm. If she wants to use an old-fashioned stick-it-in-the-beast-and-wait-for-the-radial-dial-to-register type of thermometer, I consider that a victory.
I can't help but sneak a peek at the readout on my thermometer, and I note it's at 50, so it should be coming out just as the guests arrive -- perfect timing!
I bite my tongue and say nothing when Mirax opens the cooker and pulls the roast out. She's ignoring the sophisticated, needle-thin probe I'd already placed in there and jabs her relatively blunt instrument into the breast meat. I note that there will be a big hole there and wonder how much juice we'll lose when she pulls the device out.
"130! Perfect!" I am not sure I'm hearing right -- did I set the cooker that high? Then I realize she's using an archaic system of temperature measurement: you double the standard temperature and add 30. Why do some people insist on sticking to that? It's so Old Republic, but that could explain it. Standards were rigorously enforced with Imperial rule, and those who rebelled hardest against them tend to use the old ways, even for trivial things like temperature.
I'm mentally converting 130 to standard measurement when I see her pull the stick out and plunge it into the thigh of the bird, "150! It's done!" But wait -- 130 is only 50! The reading I got did agree with her more rather primitive tool. And 150 is 60 ... way too cool to be ready, according to all the cooking people I've spoken to.
Although Mirax is in a better mood, I've learned from experience that it doesn't mean she's still not kind of brittle. She bought the thermometer as a way of giving me my victory without admitting she was wrong. But this isn't the point -- the roast is supposed to cook to 70 -- equivalent to 170 on the old heat scale. "Are you sure?" I ask, very tentatively. I brace for the anger burst; I can feel her trying not to crack.
"Yes, Snoogums! It's perfect, I even measured near the bone. Isn't this what you wanted me to do?" Her voice was all sharp edges. There was no way I wasn't going to bleed if I chose to take her on. The syrupy sort of response just isn't Mirax, too. There was a very uncomfortable silence; I couldn't think of anything to say.
Finally, Mirax spoke, "Will you be making gravy, my Cuddlebunny?" The endearments made me really nervous.
"I can't," my voice cracked, and I tried not to sound scared, but I really was, "I can't do that. You know I can't. You do it better than anyone. Can you do it?" How to handle a woman? Flatter her, acknowledge her superiority in this venue and hopefully find domestic bliss again. Or babble like a cretin and plead temporary insanity.
She didn't exactly snort, but I could feel her confidence surging, so my tactic was working. "Be a dear and set the table, and get out the electrical carver. No lightsabre tonight, it'll overcook the meat."
"Not a bad idea," I mumbled to myself, careful not to say it loud enough for her to hear me. I don't have enough time to construct a miniature lightsabre for tonight, but I made a mental note. If she was going to cook a roast that rare, I should be prepared to finish the cooking at the table during serving. I just hoped no one got sick from eating this beast.
As I put out the cutlery and platters Mirax had acquired, I wondered about the temperature of the barely-cooked bird. It was too early to take it out of the cooker, and thus it would be cold by the time everyone got here for dinner. Maybe she plans to reheat it? Dare I ask?
Again, do I look stupid?
I retreated to the refresher to clean up before everyone showed up, and when I came out, I was pleasantly surprised. I have to say the table looked great. Mirax had whipped up that great sauce, and she does have a great eye for plating and presenting food, even if she isn't that great a cook. Comes with her line of work, I guess -- make it look good and the customer will want it and thus pay more. Even the roasted pekopeko looked fantastic, and I prayed the the meat wouldn't be medium-rare under that golden-brown skin.
It turned out perfectly -- the bird's skin wasn't crackling-crisp, and we opted to remove it as we served the meat, but the meat was succulent and juicy. It had a tiny hint of pink, but it wasn't rare at all. The juices ran clear, and despite my fear that her puncturing of the bird would cause it to be unmoist, it really wasn't. The meat wasn't dry as dust, and when I cut it with the vibroknife, the meat fibers didn't shatter and tear like wood. It actually gave way, as opposed to breaking -- that's how tender it was.
I wondered throughout the meal where I'd gone wrong. 70, they'd all said with conviction and certainty. I decided I needed to know -- the urge was stronger than a fear of spending the night alone. Again. But how to ask her without causing injury to this tentative truce?
We'd finished washing up and putting away the platters and dishes and were getting into bed, but I still hadn't thought of a good way to ask. Fortunately, even though Mirax is not strong in the Force, she is very female and very intuitive.
"You asked 'restaurateurs' and that ilk about the roasting temperatures, didn't you?" She didn't even need an introduction to this question, she knew I was wondering. I tried not to let the fear show, but she ignored it and rolled toward me on the bed and started rubbing my chest as she nestled her head on my arm.
"Um ... yeah. How did you know?" It would be so much simpler if she had the Force and could read my mind. That would make me feel better than not being able to figure out how she does it.
She pressed closer to me, "Because you're a guy. Guys don't listen to their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, or anyone else who'd know better than them. They listen to so-called professionals, salesmen, sport commentators, and drunken bar-brawlers." She was rubbing my belly now, and it felt nice, even though I was really full.
"You were so annoying and certain about the temperature of the damned roast, that I knew it was likely someone with food service credentials. Tell me, what's the poultry like when you eat at the places your sources cook?"
She had a point, and I may as well admit it. It hurts less when the wound is inflicted quickly. It honestly does. "Yes, you're right. It's too dry."
"Husband, they have legal reasons to cook meat to that temperature. And meat continues to cook after you pull it out of the heat. The only reason my stuff comes out kind of raw in the middle sometimes is because it doesn't have enough time to sit and continue to cook when it comes out of the cooker. That way, the meat gets done without getting dry on the outside. Get it?" She was poking my ribs rather sharply now, and I could feel her imagining jabbing that thermo-probe in me. Perhaps she was testing to see if I was done?
"Ouch!" I swat at her hand, and wrapped it on my own. I was desperate to make it all better. "I'm sorry, Mirax. I was just trying to help. I didn't mean to make you upset. I'm so thankful you're my wife ... I'm just trying to help ..." I didn't want to sound pathetic, but this is how it normally turns out. I was grateful she was calling me Husband now; it's another of those things that women can get away with, but men can't. I'd be flayed alive if I ever called her Wife.
"I know, Husband." Mirax bit my ear, very, very lightly, "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have lost my temper there. I'm thankful for you, too."
She knew that was one of my hot-buttons. I groaned into the darkness, "I wish I wasn't so full ..."
"Mmmm ... be thankful that you are, or you'd be under attack right now, husband. Besides, I don't want that type of mess on my nice, clean sheets tonight, for which I give thanks. We need to change these more often -- clean sheets feel so nice."
I laughed, suddenly much more relaxed and dozy, "Mirax, I give thanks for you every day; I thank my stars and the Force ..."
We were both drowsy, full of food, and having made our peace for the night, we fell to sleep. "Thanksgiving ..." I heard her murmur.
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