Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Head Fake

At Carnegie-Mellon University, it is somewhat of a tradition for departing professors to give their “last lecture” to a public audience. In 2007, one of their professors, Randy Pausch, was dying of pancreatic cancer and delivered a (now quite famous) last lecture – so much so that the term “last lecture” has become synonymous with his presentation that day. In case you’ve never seen it, the link is here: It’s a little over an hour in length, but it’s a very good presentation – definitely worth watching.

Anyway, one of the things he talks about is the “head fake”. Essentially, it’s the art of distraction – getting you to pay attention to one thing, while something entirely different is happening on the side, such as with an illusionist. Now that you know what the term means, you’ll understand the title a bit more. You see, we went out to dinner with my mother-in-law over the weekend, and she didn’t want to become the subject of one of my blogs. So, on Monday, I published something entirely different, knowing full well that I was going to be publishing this one later in the week. Therein lies the head fake.

My brother-in-law, Steve, and I have birthdays in January. Every year, my mother & father-in-law graciously take the adults out for a nice dinner. This year was at Kitaro, a hibachi restaurant where the chef cooks your food right in front of you.

We did not all arrive at the same time (they only seat your entire party) so there was a little time to belly up to the bar. My in-laws had already had a couple of drinks, but there was one in particular they said was really good and the bartender was just itchin’ to make it. The “Volcano” is billed as a two person drink. Thinking it was something like a fishbowl margarita, I told her I could take it on myself. She raised her eyebrows and went to make the drink.

Dude, it was sooooo cool. Obviously, she didn’t believe me when I said could drink it myself because it came with two super long straws. But the niftiest feature was the flame in the center. That’s right, the drink was on fire! I took one long sip and made the “whah” pucker face and shivered. It was pure alcohol. This must be a standard reaction because the bartender was standing by with a cup of juice. She asked if we wanted juice poured in (only an alcoholic would say no). All I could do was nod my head because my face was still contorted in the pucker.

After we were seated and ordered our drinks, my mother-in-law ordered some spring rolls as an appetizer. Apparently, there were a few too many made while they were at the bar so the bartender let them have them for free. She said they were really good and wanted us all to try them.

When the spring rolls arrived and were placed in front of her, she said, “Who ordered these?”

You did.”

“I ordered these? Well, ok. Here, pass the plate for everyone.”

I did not want one so I didn’t even look at the plate, but apparently there was some kind of sauce.

Now, my sister-in-law has once or twice, at various meals, dirtied up the table cloth. Since then, there is always a comment telling her not to spill on the table cloth – fortunately, she is good natured enough to take a joke.

I tell you this because as the plate is being passed between my mother-in-law & sister-in-law, it got tipped and the sauce slid off. There wasn’t a table cloth so I guess my mother-in-law's plate was a good enough substitute. Needless to say, my mother-in-law needed a new plate.

During all this commotion, one of the straws from the Volcano fell to the floor. Had this been a utensil or a soda straw, we would request a new straw. But since it was going right back into the alcohol, we figured all the germs would be killed off. Besides, the five second rule was still in effect.

Our chef, Sam-I-Am (who likes green eggs & ham), was excellent! He was the most entertaining of all the chefs I could see. He was constantly clattering on the grill, flipping stuff up in the air and/or into his hat, making flames (more fire!) while cooking our food the entire time. I turned down the onion soup and grilled onions, but accepted the onion fried rice with no onions – he made it special for me.

While we were watching Sam-I-Am, I looked at Hubby and said, “He’s noisier than you.”

Hubby in turn said, “Yah. If I had a flat stove, I could do this.”

I thought, 'My ass, you could cook like this.'

Do you know how dirty my ceiling would be? Never mind the floor. We have a textured ceiling and I would never get all the eggs he flipped up in the air off it. As I think about it now, he may have been referring to the amount of noise he could make. Note to self: NEVER buy a flat stove.

At the end of Sam’s cooking show, he was tossing grilled shrimp at us. He used his spatula to flip it up and we were supposed to catch it with our mouths. He had really good aim, but none of us actually caught it with our mouths. My mother-in-law technically caught a shrimp. A hot shrimp hit my mother-in-law in the neck and bounced into her shirt so she did end up with a shrimp hickey and a little surprise for my father-in-law later.

Silver lining:
1. I am very blessed to have in-laws that I love and even like. And I think they generally like me, but after this, I might be in the dog house.
2. Dinner was fantastic, not to mention entertaining. Almost as entertaining as Thanksgiving at Hubby’s aunt & uncle’s.

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