I’ll start this week’s blog post with a tiny recap of last week’s. I was standing in my kitchen pinching my bleeding, loosely-bandaged finger and holding it over my head. An hour before, I’d sliced a big chunk of it off, and I now had less than an hour before 16 women were set to arrive for a Friendsgiving meal, which I’d insisted I would single-handedly make myself.
Single handed, indeed.
However, just then, my friend Sarah, who is a doctor, walked into the kitchen ready to assess my finger. And she’d brought along her son, Owen.
Owen Charles Lewis is the kind of kid who never greets you without a hug. Years ago, he christened me T-Rex, and T-Rex I’ve been ever since. Most recently, Owen Charles Lewis, newly 11, has decided to take up the art of cooking.
And upon learning of my predicament, he immediately offered his services.
Sarah carefully unwrapped my finger and determined that the bleeding would not stop on its own. In the meantime, Owen looked at me expectantly.
“What do you need me to do?”
I had planned an appetizer that involved bagel chips topped with ricotta and prosciutto and drizzled with chive pesto. It was an appetizer, as are all blasted appetizers, that required a considerable amount of assembly. But Owen didn’t skip a beat.
I showed him the picture of what it was supposed to look like and he gently chastised me for using a recipe online.
“I prefer to cook from cookbooks.”
I agreed with him wholeheartedly and apologized for the soulless laptop. But, again, he didn’t skip a beat, just started arranging bagel chips on a platter in perfect lines. Sarah went to pick up silver nitrate and lidocaine from a neighbor’s house, and I took a seat at the kitchen bar.
“You know, T-Rex, you have to be careful with knives,” Owen said thoughtfully.
“Don’t I know it.”
“I have special knives that don’t cut me. But even I have to keep reminding myself to watch out. I get lazy and then I realize my fingers are too close. You have to keep reminding yourself.”
I nodded solemnly, looking down at the blood blooming through my bandage.
“It’s good advice,” I said.
“Yeah. It is.”
He dug out more bagel chips.
“I really like mincing,” he said. “Especially ginger root.”
“It’s very satisfying.”
“And the finer you mince it, the stronger it gets.”
“It’s true. Like garlic. More surface area.”
“Yeah. But if you mince ginger too much, it gets a little spicy.”
I nodded again, pretty much completely in love with this kid.
“OK. Next step?” he asked.
I handed him two spoons for the ricotta and he deftly started dolloping it on the bagel chips.
“The lidocaine shot is going to hurt,” he said offhandedly.
“I’ve had it before. But then you don’t feel anything.”
“So, if I scream out or something, you’ll know not to be scared, right?”
“Oh yeah, I’ll be fine.”
Sarah returned and we went back to the bathroom, where I tried to scream as quietly as possible. Soon though, as Owen said, I couldn’t feel anything. Sarah deftly dabbed the silver onto the wound and the bleeding stopped. Then she expertly wrapped me up and we returned to the kitchen.
And there, in front of us, was a perfect, I mean, absolutely perfect plate of appetizers. Each little chip was its own masterpiece: cheerful, colorful, succulent. Seeing it, I’ll be honest, I nearly started crying. Not only had Owen made the last dish for my Friendsgiving feast, he’d kept me calm in a span of time that could have easily descended into chaos.
I hugged him and told him he was my savior.
“I’ve never cooked for a big dinner party before,” he said.
His faced showed excitement and pride and happiness. It was like seeing boyhood poured into a cup and getting to examine how pure and clear it is, no teenage tint in sight.
In the end, I had a wonderful time that evening. But only because it started with Owen Charles Lewis.