Recently, my wife decided to send our Priest a Christmas card in Latin. Now, since my wife does not in fact speak Latin, she used Latin.com to create the text for the card. This can be dangerous, because as it turns out we sent our Priest a card that said, "Father, we hope your bush doesn't burn too brightly this Christmas!"
Naturally, this piqued our Priest's interest. I'm guessing the train of thought in his mind went something like this, "Burning bush? What are they doing over there at that crazy Flavin house?" and so he promptly called to investigate. Somehow, this simple investigatory phone call lead to a full fledged invitation to Saturday night dinner.
As you might imagine, the week of preparation was pretty intense. Our biggest challenge, if I may call it that, was to secure a new toilet seat. That's right. Toilet seat. Let's face it, my boys are as adorable as can be but they lack a certain amount of accuracy when it comes to their bathroom rituals. And without going into too much detail, they have clearly decided that NOT using your hands as a way of ensuring accuracy is a particular badge of honor. This is all a nice way of saying that our original toilet seat was so disgusting that even our dog had taken to avoiding the downstairs bathroom. This is the very same dog who enjoys eating out of our trash can.
So my wife decided to get a new toilet seat in preparation for the arrival of his most Priestliness. Over the week leading up to the Good Father's arrival, we launched a massive search for just the right toilet seat which required a great deal of trial and error. We must have tried at least 5 different toilet seats. Now, I have to be honest, I didn't even KNOW how many different toilet seat sizes and shapes were in existence until this whole travesty began. It got pretty exciting as I found myself rushing home each night to test out that day's model. In the end, we settled on a seat that most would consider too large for the toilet with the thinking that we wanted to offer his excellency a truly spacious experience. Some people like to "trick out their ride" but we Flavins prefer to "trick out" our toilet seat. That's how we roll!
The preparation was pretty grueling. The trick was to try and make it seem like we were a totally normal family with children who don't spend half their day screaming for the butter or a juicy cup or another toaster strudel. An almost impossible task! Why ask politely when screaming at the top of your lungs gets the job done much faster and even might make your fellow siblings laugh if you're really obnoxious about it? It was also important to clarify things for the younger ones about our dinner guest. No, God was not coming to dinner. No, our guest doesn't know Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz or any of the Boston Red Sox but he is STILL important.
After an extended culinary debate ranging up and down the Northeast involving multiple levels of familial relations, my wife decided to cook prime rib instead of meatballs and spaghetti. After all, this man of God deserved a "meal fit for a king" which of course made me wonder why I'm always eating the aforementioned toaster strudels... but I digress.
Problem was, my wife has never made prime rib before. So now it is time to record rule #122 to the Book of Common Sense: when you have a Priest coming to dinner, don't cook a meal you've never cooked before unless it involves 3 easy steps and a Microwave.
Luckily, my wife's sister sent us a prime rib recipe tiled, "How To Get To Heaven Via Prime Rib" which included the classic initial instruction: "Before you start anything bless yourself and ask for the spirit of Julia Child to guide you on this cooking journey."
Everything seemed to be going smoothly with just minutes before the Priest's arrival. Luke had managed to touch only about 50% of the appetizers vs. his usual 95% rate, which I thought was rather remarkable... But then, disaster struck.
It turns out that there are these things called "meat thermometers" which are used to ensure that your guests don't keel over from some crazy meat borne disease. This all seemed well and good until we discovered that if you leave certain meat thermometers in the oven, at some point they will actually start to melt. And it turns out that if you actually read the directions, there is something in there about this whole bizarre meat thermometer melting phenomenon! It would have been nice if Julia Child had mentioned THAT.
At this point, my wife was pretty much at the breaking point. It didn't help that Luke had decided that this was the perfect time to start sticking carrots up his nose and exhale as hard as he could, thus propelling the carrots through the air and into the ranch dip as his intended (but often missed) target. With snot laden carrots flying haphazardly about my hair, I was instructed to find the nearest meat thermometer PRONTO.
That's when I knew I needed THE MAN: Tom Da Bomb, my next door neighbor who has every single gadget known to mankind including some crazy device that will even tell you when and where you should be fishing. I called over, and of course the man had the most technologically advanced meat thermometer ever devised: the Meat Thermometer 3000 ("The Meat Thermometer for The Next Century and Beyond"). This thing had all the bells and whistles. It was digital and made all sorts of noises in concert with the status of the item being cooked, none of which I understood. The thing reminded me of R2D2 insofar as its ability to beep in some secret code that probably only Tom Da Bomb could decipher.
Then something very odd happened. As soon as we inserted the Meat Thermometer 3000 into the prime rib, this modern miracle of science informed us that the prime rib was technically hotter than the earth's core and in danger of transforming into plasma anti-matter at any given moment which seemed to run counter to my wife's desire to honor the Priest's request of a medium rare meal.
Suddenly, the kitchen was transformed into an episode of ER as we tried to save the prime rib from total disaster.
"Crash cart!" I screamed. "Give it 10 CCs of saline STAT! Where the heck is Dr. Greene? I'm gonna need the defibrillators!"
That didn't get any laughs, but boy was I amused. Suddenly, I looked at my wife and she appeared to me to be transformed into the ghost of Julia Child, floating at least three feet off the ground, surrounded by the steam and fury of a woman whose prime rib was on the verge of an unfortunate metamorphosis.
With bits of carrots and cheese flying every which way (Luke had added cheese to his repertoire) we had to focus on saving this poor prime rib from total disaster. We immediately throttled the oven temperature down. Like a bunch of first year med students, we discussed all sorts of revival techniques.
Ice water injected directly into the prime rib via turkey baster? Not practical.
Maybe I could run around the front yard while blowing on it? Might work, but it was risky: the Priest could show up at any minute and such a maneuver would only confirm his suspicions that we were in fact completely crazy.
Maybe a trip to an ice cold tub? This idea was nixed for health reasons. God help a prime rib revived in such a fashion, with soap scum and little alphabet letters floating about. It might be saved, but it would certainly have an interesting TASTE and might actually verge on inedible.
Maybe it wasn't too late to make a last minute call to Domino's? Maybe THEY could make a Prime Rib pizza!?
That is when a miracle of epic proportions happened. Suddenly, the Meat Thermometer 3000 made a series of unintelligible hiccups and blurps and its temperature readout began to drop. With each successive drop in the temperature, my wife looked a lot less like Julia Childs and a lot more like herself.
Even the little bits of carrots and cheese and now pretzels bouncing off our heads (again, thanks to Luke) started to feel like warm raindrops on a beautiful summer day as our troubled prime rib began to achieve temperatures more becoming of a top notch piece of meat.
Within minutes, the patient had stabilized. The Meat Thermometer 3000 stopped beeping and whirring. Little Luke had grown tired of ejecting food from his nose and had moved on to chasing his brother Declan around the house with a whiffle ball bat, which was far preferable behavior from our parochial standpoint although I suspect that Declan might not have agreed.
We both hugged each other for joy. It was a truly special embrace. It was as if, in facing the challenges of the prime rib, we had become even stronger as a couple. We had after all faced the abyss and returned to tell about it. This was the kind of story that belonged on Oprah.
And so it was, at this very moment, with the prime rib snuggled comfortably in its perfectly temperate spot at EXACTLY 135 degrees that the door bell rang. Thanks to the wondrous and all powerful Meat Thermometer 3000, dinner was saved! Now the real fun could begin.