There are big recipes and little recipes. Last night I went into New York City to have dinner with Maggy and Andy. We got the big recipe right.
Maggy and Andy’s dinner invitation was issued in pity. Pam is on the road promoting her new book and I am alone. So they invited the old man to come for the evening. I arrived after a long day, parked my car in the garage beneath their building and rode the elevator to the 20th floor. Maggy opens the door. I receive her hug and kiss, then look out over the lights of dusk to the East River.
We walk fifteen minutes to a place called Uva, take stools at the bar because free hot hot d’oeuvres are offered there, and order a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. In a moment Andy arrives from work. Over chill-fogged glasses of wine they regale me with stories of Andy’s friends Biff and Dave’s visit from England, and the all-night cabaret where the party of twelve ordered vodka not by the glass but by the bottle—and the tale of the astonishing bill presented in the wee small hours. Funny how a week turns shock and horror into big laughs.
Then it’s time to walk home and rustle up our supper. Maggy has already bought some nice wild shrimp, and we are set to make Shrimp Scampi. We stop at a liquor store with only a few wines in the cooler and buy a bottle of what seems like a crisp white wine, and in a moment I am standing on their six-by-three foot balcony. When I look south I see an endless procession of white headlights pouring up First Avenue, and when I turn north I see red tail lights forever. I love this sliver of a balcony, and the view from 200 feet above this throbbing metropolis.
Andy uncorks our white wine, and it’s a blunder. We’ve picked up an Italian white called Moscato. What do we know? Moscato looks fine to us. But one treacly taste tells us: Moscato is Italian for Muscat. There’s a leftover bottle of something in the fridge, and that suffices. Who cares? We’re together.
We make the Scampi, but the angel hair acts like a Turkish towel, soaking up all the liquid. It’s, um . . . dry. But who cares? We make a recipe note and serve up. What’s not to like about angel anything? How far wrong can you go with luscious pink shrimp? At odd moments, I go hug my daughter. Just because. When Andy dials up Pandora.com and the music starts, Maggy and I dance. Why not?
The little recipe we got mostly wrong—bad wine, dry Scampi. But the big recipe we got right. Have you ever noticed how this works? Getting the little recipe perfect can never save a big recipe gone bad (yet we spend most of our time trying to get all the details of life perfect). But when we tend to the important things, the little stuff is just that. Remember that the next time you make Shrimp Scampi with angel hair and Moscato.