I'm all: I wonder what kind of $1.99 meat I should wrap around a pickle, using cream cheese as an adhesive? And Merry Christmas.
Then later: The ketchup container is making noises like an injured bird. It squawks as I push for the final dollops, then it takes a deep breath and starts in again. Ketchup is one of those things you can't think about too much without dry heaving. The aesthetician who decided the color and texture of this condiment was obviously a sadistic fuck. And that smell. It's thick enough, and alive enough, to weave into your hair or the fur fringe of your hoodie. You'll emit a tangy wake when you move from room to room. On the other hand, try eating a fried egg sandwich without it. You might as well just chop your tongue off, and gum away at Chocolate Slim Fast Shakes for the rest of your life.
I'm scooping raw Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, milk and onions into golf-ball sized hunks that I assume will taste delicious. It's a gloppy wet mud of ingredients. I wonder if I'll catch ptomaine poisoning from a half moon of raw meat that gets trapped in my fingernails. I'm more of a nail gnawer, than a hand washer. These balls get dumped into the slow cooker for the duration of three mood swings and the robot dance.
Cheese gets shredded: A plain old gouda, and an aged gouda. This choreography goes, sloosh, a tablespoon of cheese on the cutting board, sloosh, a pinch of cheese in my mouth, sloosh, another tablespoon, sloosh, another pinch packed into my mouth like milky chewing tobacco. We will be having fondue with our "Gremlins," white wine boiled with lemon juice and all this cheese, $16 worth of cheese, melted to a drinkable state. Say what you want about good will toward men, the real meaning of Christmas Eve is saturated fat pushed to the boiling point.
"Have you ever seen the animal that the mogwai is based on?" Chuck asks. Digs out his phone, and pulls up an image of a dandelion-haired monkey clutching an anonymous finger. I remember the photograph from when he showed it to me last year, as we ate fondue and watched "Gremlins." It gives me a sharp pang somewhere between my uterus and the place where the ghost of Toonses lives.
The pickles are dressed in corned beef cloaks, glued on with cream cheese. Rednecks certainly know how to make finger food. This is delicious. We eat an entire plateful. I haven't had a single meatball. Sometimes if I touch a food too much, I become unwilling to eat the finished product. It's like getting to know someone too well. So it's fancy pickles. And the pecan cookies Chuck made. Reminding myself again to memorize Phoebe Cates' monologue about how her father died: This could make a great parlor trick. I'm always looking for a good parlor trick.
The vegetables, by the way, are ignored.