Last night, we had finally gotten the miserably hot kids to bed and I was sitting with my feet in the kiddie pool drooling over my just-arrived issue of Saveur. Our neighbors (different than the ones I wrote about here), an multi-generational Chinese family with two boys (7 and 11) were having a party in their backyard and kept motioning for me to come over. I politely shook my head, smiled, and waved. A) I was stuffed from dinner B) Now Yancey, too, was sleeping and C) I wanted to read my magazine.
I settled in and turned to find Wyatt coming out the back door. Couldn't sleep. Then I heard Loretta crying. What the hell. We're going to the 10:00 BBQ. Much better than tossing and turning. The boys often come play over here and, though we can hardly communicate with the parents and grandparents, I know things like this BBQ are their way of paying us back.
Turns out it was the 11 year-old's birthday, so I was so glad I didn't stay reading my food magazine like a nincompoop when the real deal was next door. Loretta sat on my lap, Wyatt ran off to play with the boys, and the eating began. They'd been eating all night already, but prepared fresh batches of everything for me. It was embarrassingly abundant. First, off the grill--squid, chicken, shrimp skewers, steak and onion skewers, sausages, fresh oysters (!) all sauced with a spicy sweet soy glaze. The mound of plates in front of me was towering, and I kept reminding myself that this was my second dinner. I politely declined more with the universal "I'm a glutton!" symbol of holding my stomach.
To no avail. They proceeded to grill up a half dozen ears of corn, and set TWO in front of me. I nibbled the end of one and beseeched Loretta to help me. (She was too busy sucking down her warm Sprite). Again, holding my stomach, smiling and saying thank you. But no--Chinese broccoli! They fired up the butane burner on the table and cooked up enough for a wedding banquet like it was the only thing they were serving. God, deliver me from this goodness. I cannot eat another bite. I leaned back in my chair, enjoying the jokes in Chinese and their fascination with Loretta. Then I see my neighbor hauling out a huge watermelon which she whacked up with a cleaver. Everyone attacked it with gusto like they hadn't seen food since last week. Of course they gave me the largest piece. At that point, I decided I'd better feign exhaustion and get out of there before they started gutting whole fish.
But they didn't let me leave without a sagging plate of leftovers--steak, chicken, shrimp, sausages, corn. Coming home, the kids dragging and sticky, I felt loved, abundantly blessed, and humbled to have received such extravagant gifts.
Tonight, Yancey at the station and a muggy kitchen, I made the leftovers into a Throw 'Er in There Asian Noodle Salad. I've never made the same one twice. Tonight's featured the following: cooked soba noodles (just a handful), thinly sliced grilled steak, grilled shrimp, grilled corn kernels, julienned green beans and Thai chiles from my garden, lots of mint and chives from my garden, and matchstick carrots. For the dressing, it was 1/4 c. fish sauce, 1/4 c. rice vinegar, 3 minced garlic cloves, 3 Tb. sugar, red chile flakes, and chopped mint and cilantro. The kids ate rice and leftover hot dogs, I put my feet in the kiddie pool, and ate like it was a special occasion. Indeed, it was. We made it through the day, we're together, and there will always be more leftovers.