Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beef & Incense

We went to a wedding today. It was a big fat (insert European ethnicity here) theatrical wedding, but I guess they all go like this in an Orthodox church. This was my first time inside an Orthodox outfit. It was a grand, sprawling building, the cornerstone proudly proclaiming 2000 as its year of dedication. It had a great, dark grey metal dome in the center, white stucco walls, modern storefront windows inset with very European looking stained glass, and giant arched oaken doors. We pulled into our parking spot right on time, knowing that weddings always start a couple minutes late. We went to the big wooden doors, and Mrs. Spiffy rattled on the handle. Vigorously. Then she tried the other one. They made a deep, clanking sound like a castle drawbridge under siege. I cringed and shuffled quickly over to the breezeway doors, as if we'd just played Ding-Dong-Ditch-It on the neighbors. We slunk down the hallway toward the dome, and could hear some warbly high-pitched sing-song coming from the sanctuary. As we rounded the corner, I was aghast to see the wedding party on the chancel, and a full house. Everyone was seated, and things were well under way. We ducked around the photographer and videographer and found an opening in one of the back pews. Apparently, this is a tight ship, and when they say it starts at 3:30, they mean the bride is on stage at 3:30. Crap. The first thing I noticed, other than our dear friend in the white dress, was the incense. The place smelled amazing, steeped in the kind of aroma you could get used to but not sick of. As we settled in, the enormous scale of the place came into focus. The dome overhead was littered with stylized portraits of all their favorite saints and prophets, with a giant Jesus in the center. At least, I think it was him. All the saints looked distinctly white and well groomed, with Matthew and John writing their gospels on ornate gilded desks and showing off their scrolls as if they were appearing in a life insurance commercial. The front of the building was hollowed out and covered in gold leaf. There was a painting of some androgynous saint, perhaps Mary, but he/she was obscured by a frescoed wall of dark mahogany scrollwork, more painted saints, and arches. All the action was taking place in front of this wall, and it was interesting action indeed. They guy in the big golden robe would sing-say something, and then a barbershop quartet would echo in pentatonic harmony from the side of the stage. Sometimes they repeated what the priest said, sometimes they sang in Latin, and sometimes they just made stuff up. Back and forth, forth and back with the sing-saying and the echoing, waving crosses and incense around, jingling bells and marching around the altar 3 times. Although I have no idea what was said, I think it was beautiful and probably means the couple is now married. As the crowd was being dismissed, it became apparent that the groom's side had gotten the memo about dress code. Apparently this is his church, and everyone was decked out in variations on black. Black suits, dresses, ties, everything. Everybody greeted the couple with a hug and a kiss, and several hearty slaps on the back. Our side was distinctly American, with pastels and lime green and polka dots (I just adore polka dotted dresses, don't you?). The greetings were far more sedate, handshakes and a moment of eye contact were all some could muster. I tried not to feel self-conscious in my non-black getup, but any anxiety melted when the radiant bride came to greet us. We bailed out of the reception, even though it was already beginning down the hall. It was early afternoon, and there was time for a night out on the town. Besides, I've given up drinking temporarily for the Shrinking Piggies, and didn't want to be tempted. Especially not in a church. As we were driving through downtown, we played our favorite date-night game, called "I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?" There was no hockey or concert in the arena, none of the bars looked all that great, and we weren't dressed for the outdoor ice skating rink. So, we went home and watched Over The Hedge with the kiddos, and I made a weird little meal. I was in full experimentation mode, as I've never had anything like this before. Don't even know what to call it, would you help name the thing? It did turn out, and I'd like to hear if it's a hit anywhere else in the world. =============== 1 1/2 lb. ground beef Onion Chopped garlic 2 cans french-cut green beans Italian bread crumbs Spices & olive oil Flaky Layers Grand rolls (Pillsbury) Preheat the oven to 350, and drizzle some oil in a frying pan Chop half the onion, sautee with 1 tsp. chopped garlic Brown ground beef with garlic & onion Season liberally while cooking - Montreal Steak Seasoning, crushed red peppers, salt & pepper Place dinner rolls in the oven when preheated Toss beans in a baking dish with 1 tbsp olive oil, oregano, italian seasoning, basil Drain beef Return beef to heat, chop and add the rest of the onion, add about 1/2 cup bread crumbs Stir until coated Combine beef and beans, bake until rolls are done, about 8-10 minutes Serve. Get surprised compliments. Watch it disappear.

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