I had invited Derek to dinner, and I reminded myself that food has traditionally been one way a woman can not only penetrate the body of a man, but do so in a perfectly innocent and acceptable manner. I wondered what instinct had pulled up paella when, on the spur of the moment, I agreed to the dinner at my house a mere twenty-four hours away. I had no chorizo. I had no crab. And strangely, I had no reservations about pulling it off. I grabbed my purse and headed out the door.
The crab was easy enough to secure at King Soopers, but neither they nor Sprouts had link chorizo, and ground would not do. I wasn’t usually in the grocery store at 5:oo p.m. or later and found myself surprised by the number of men alone there at that time. I realized that it made sense because most of them looked like they had just gotten off work. But none of them seemed to be paying attention to anyone around them, even though many of them were not sporting wedding rings. In my thirties, I had seen the grocery store as a viable place to meet men. But it seemed that the men who had once been on the lookout for a good woman at the grocery store were now conducting their searches on dating sites and weren’t even aware of the women around them in the market. I made a note of it as I tore off to a nearby butcher shop.
Chorizo in hand, I went home and attempted to relax. There would be plenty of time the next day to cook, neaten the house, and get myself together. I hoped. I’d held many a dinner party over the years. Why was I suddenly nervous about this one? Then I brought up the image of that startling hair, those brown eyes, and that energy field that pulled me into it. He was the first man in many a year I found captivating. No wonder I was nervous.
The next morning I girded my loins by working every muscle group in the weight room over the course of two hours, followed that up with a half hour on the treadmill, and finished with my usual stretching and plank position. Then I went home and began the flurry of activity to create a great meal.
Forget what anyone has ever said about paella being a simple and easy dish to make. It is simple enough, but getting it right can be tricky. And the way I make it requires a lot of prep work. I always shell my shellfish instead of serving the dish with the shells intact. It just makes it easier to eat. Fortunately, I didn’t usually make the dish with mussels because Derek didn’t like mussels. It would be king crab and shrimp for shellfish. There would also be chicken and chorizo, which are common ingredients for paella. Green peppers, onions, and garlic were, of course, in the mix. The rice had to be short grain, and while I usually used brown short grain rice in dishes, I could not risk undercooked rice, so I settled for white. The liquids would be fish stock (I had some homemade) and white wine, along with a little chicken stock.
And paella would not be paella without saffron and paprika. Fortunately, some anonymous person had sent me saffron around the time of my birthday. I still did not know who the donor was, but because saffron is about as expensive as cocaine, I was thankful for the gift. Cocaine had never been on my shopping list and never would be, but when you need saffron, you need saffron.
I planned to have Greek caviar and brie with prosecco as starters and follow that with a mixed green salad with shrimp and a vinaigrette dressing. I’d bought some good focaccia because Derek liked bread, and I had homemade almond cake and some organic strawberries for dessert. This meal was going to have epic levels of sexy food, some it historically considered to be aphrodisiacs.
But what I had in mind for the evening wasn’t sex, it was penetrating Derek’s body with good food, penetrating his mind with good conversation, and maybe penetrating some invisible barrier beyond which there might be possibilities.
I set to work. And it was the most joyful food preparation in a long time.
Note: The name Derek is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall