Friday, February 12, 2016

Contraband Pork Valentine's

Consider yourself warned: this post has literally nothing to do with pancakes but pretty much everything to do with Valentine's Day. If you were hoping for a good recipe, you might want to look elsewhere, just for today. But if it's a laugh you are after, you definitely came to the right place.

My last post really got my thinking about my dating years, which, I assure you, will provide me with endless writing content in posts to come. The idea of chronicling our young love really appeals to me, partly because it sounds nice to have it all written down and mostly because what could interest my readers more than stories of an awkward dating relationship? Not much, I'm sure.

My husband and I met during our undergraduate studies at a small private Christian college in Seattle. He was headed for a future in medicine and I was deliberating between a degree in nursing or nutrition. Thankfully, the first two years of classes for both majors were identical, heavy in the sciences, so I wasn't in any rush to decide. And, lucky for my husband, his list of course requirements almost mirrored mine, at least at the beginning. I spent a lot of time studying my Anatomy and Physiology textbook and he spent just as much time studying me. If you know what I mean. I was oblivious and honestly thought he had "forgotten his notebook" and needed to swing by my dorm room to "copy my lecture notes."

Fast forward nearly 2 1/2 years. It was our first Valentine's Day as a couple. I'll save the details on how exactly we ended up together for another post but at this point, we were 8 months official. Comically, I'd actually spent the Valentine's Day prior with him as well. Of course so did my sister. And one of my closest friends who also happened to be his only ex-girlfriend (they dated for a matter of hours but they dated all the same). It was an odd gathering, a three-on-one non-date "date" for us boyfriend-less girls. I guess you could say the guy was just doing his part to help us out as the girl to boy ratio at our school was 3:1. Anyway...

It was 2005 and this year it was just going to be the two of us. Graham was living in an on-campus apartment with 5 other college students. A handful of them had significant others and he must have slipped the remaining guys some cash and told them to disappear for the evening. He had a small, minimally-equipped kitchen and a negligible knowledge of cooking. His meal repertoire consisted of a combination of about 5 ingredients: chicken, canned soup, pasta, toast and Nutella. I think over the course of our short relationship, I'd encouraged him to add onion as a creative 6th ingredient. I mean, he was dating a foodie after all.

Needless to say, I was not anticipating a home-cooked meal that evening. All I knew was that I was to dress up and arrive hungry. I wore a black dress, put on lipstick and showed up at his door with gift in arms. Just a couple months prior, we'd said the big 3 words to each other (I love you) and I thought I'd be "super creative" and make something special for my music-loving boyfriend. I'd purchased one of those CD case books that has plastic sleeves to house your entire CD collection. I spent days writing down 100 of the reasons why I loved him onto hand-made little red and white heart-shaped cards that I then slipped into each of the plastic CD sleeves. Tedious? Yes. Appreciated? Unfortunately not really. (Though he didn't confess that to me until I FORCED it out of him years later). When I arrived that night, Graham had set the stage: a card table sat in the middle of the living room, covered with a fancy white table cloth. The table was set and the mantle was adorned with tons of burning candles. And there were red roses, the whole 9 yards.

Let me take a little time out here and provide you with a little tidbit of information about the school we were attending. Like many other private Christian schools, admission to our school required that we sign a contract that outlined the expectations of us while we studied there. One such expectation was that there would be no consumption or possession of alcohol, regardless of whether we were of legal age. This rule caused no small uproar for many of the students who, by law, were old enough to drink. But that's a whole other ball of wax...

Back to our dinner. Graham greeted me at the door to his apartment and escorted me into the candlelit ambiance. He wore black pants, a dress shirt and a tie. His cheeks were flushed with nerves as he led me to the table and asked if I would care for something to drink. I said yes and he disappeared into the kitchen and returned carrying a blended beverage that was somewhere between yellow and brown in color. We'll call it a dirty yellow. It was in a tall glass and on the rim sat a single pineapple slice. I asked him what it was and, though I can't for the life of me remember what exactly he told me, I know he said it was tropical and contained pineapple. It didn't look super appetizing but I wasn't about ready to crush this adorable boy who was going over the top to treat his foodie girlfriend to a romantic evening of "wining and dining. Well. As close as you can get to "wining and dining" when you are 21 (him) and 20 (her) years old, attending a private Christian college and under contract to abstain from alcohol. I took a sip. It wasn't good. And it wasn't entirely bad. Weird is probably the best way I can describe it. He looked at me, obviously biding for my approval and so I smiled and told him it was yummy.

He went all out, y'all, and served the rest of the meal in courses. I sipped on my drink here and there as he brought out appetizer, main, and then dessert. The details of the rest of the dinner mostly escape me except I know the main feature dish of the night was a delicious pineapple pork. The meal was leisurely and the candles burned low. They burned more than low, actually. Our little living room dinner date left permanent smoke marks up the wall above the mantle. (My apologies to Graham's roommates - I'm pretty sure I remember hearing you guys lost the damage deposit for that one!)

It wasn't until the end of the night when the full truth came out. I was impressed with the cooking skills my boyfriend had whipped up, seemingly out of no where and I wanted to know all of his secrets. What was in his recipes? How did he make the pork? The drink? He was acting a little sheepish and so I pushed him on it. After much prodding, he finally confessed that the pork marinade recipe called for rum (alcohol? gasp!!) and of course he didn't have any so he enlisted my sister's boyfriend (now our brother-in-law) to bring him a bottle. Michael was not student at SPU and therefore was not "under contract" so was happy to supply a bottle of the contraband. Being the legalistic, rule-following girl that I was, I was slightly horrified when he revealed the "secret ingredient," but at the same time, I felt very much relieved to discover this was all he was hiding. Except that it wasn't. Next came the real kicker: Graham, being the economical guy that he is (remember coupon dates!!), wasn't about to waste a single drop of the expensive rum that went into that marinade. So, he did what any poor young college boy might and, wouldn't you know it, he discovered THE RUM MARINADE FOR PINEAPPLE PORK DOUBLES BEAUTIFULLY AS A BLENDED BEVERAGE WHEN YOU ADD A LITTLE SUGAR.

I think I'm still gagging. And laughing. But mostly gagging.

Needless to say, there will be no pork on Valentine's Day for me ever again.


  1. Hilarious! I look forward to hearing more of your love story :)

  2. Hilarious! I look forward to hearing more of your love story :)


posted by kelsie