Kitchen Disasters Happen Only When I Have Guests

I make great babyback spare ribs, so good you’d think we picked them up from Outback. At least that’s what I told our good friends when I invited them for dinner. Ah, the perils of boasting.

I rarely invite anyone for dinner because a) that means the house must be cleaned and b) I’ve always thought of myself as a lousy cook. These friends were coming for the first time, and although I didn’t need to, I wanted to impress them.

I cleaned like mad to get the house ready. I hate cleaning, but for them it was time well spent. I love them that much. I shopped for ribs, spuds, and whatever else. I like shopping.

I didn’t bother to get out my recipe for ribs, ’cause I thought I remembered it was 2 hours covered in foil at 400 degrees, then baste with sauce and broil a few minutes. And I thought last time I made them, the ribs turned out better with some extra time in the oven.

So I checked them after three hours – about 45 minutes before our guests would arrive. What I pulled out of the oven was a crispy, crunchy, dried out disaster. I was horrified to find there was no resurrecting these ribs, regardless of the gallon of Longhorn barbecue sauce I slathered on top. Nothing was going to make them edible.

I checked my recipe and no, it wasn’t 400; it was 300. That knowledge didn’t do me any good because the dinner, like a Broadway show, must go on.

Another thing I hate is disappointing people. If I promise my friends ribs, then anything less simply won’t do. Yes, I had a grill and hotdogs on hand, but I knew my friends, and Outback babyback ribs are one of their favorites.

I was almost too embarrassed to confess this kitchen calamity to my husband, a grand soul who would never laugh at me and has always told me, “You’re a great cook.” Well, in comparison to what he had before me, maybe. But the only thing left to do was ask for his help.

He was sympathetic and hugged me. He only laughed a little, bless his heart. And he was willing to drop what he was doing and save the day, knight-in-shining-armor style. We agreed he would drive to Outback while I called in two orders of ribs, and maybe he’d be back with them before our guests arrived. It would be tight. Our home is in the country, seven miles from the nearest gas/grocery and a good ten miles from the closest Outback.

Off he went, and I called Outback, getting a promise of “20 minutes”; perfect! I didn’t ask what it would cost, because I didn’t want to know. Thirty minutes later, with ten minutes to spare, back he came bearing two big, white Outback bags. I hurried the ribs onto a plate and set aside the bread and fries they came with. I was annoyed to find later that we’d paid for them because at Outback you can’t get “just ribs,” even to-go.

The doorbell would ring any minute. Now came the question of whether to hide the bags and my secret, or come clean with who really made the ribs. Since I have a fundamental aversion to lying, even to save myself embarrassment, and God does say liars hath no part in heaven, and I am counting on being there one day, I chose the latter.

Ding-dong; they were here, and we welcomed into our home two of the most enjoyable people I know. I prepared myself to confess quickly, because those Outback bags were still on the kitchen counter, and soon I’d be outed anyway. Knowing everyone loves a good story, especially one wherein you make fun of yourself, I started off with, “You’ll never believe what I did.” When my sad-but-funny tale was told and they knew the ribs they were to eat were not mine, my friend Jo said something gracious and kind like, “Oh, you shouldn’t have gone to the trouble or expense. You know we’d eat hot dogs.” Well, yes, I knew that, but when you’re ready for ribs, who wants dogs?

We gathered around the table, prayed for a wonderful evening of fellowship, and proceeded to have it. And to get quite messy eating those ribs. And you know what? They weren’t quite as good as mine.