How to ruin some steak and not worry about it

A whole year. That’s a long damn time.

A year is 365 mornings, 365 shots at having a good lunch. It’s 365 tries at getting to bed on time. It’s 12 full months of working out, if you have the heart to do it. It’s four quarters of self-improvement. It’s two half-years worth of books.

A year is an ocean of time.

And a year can also be nothing more than the snap of your fingers, no time at all.

That’s how time felt Monday, as Liza and I celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary.

The date — June 22nd — first snuck up on us, later tumbling into our lives as it went from weeks away, to tomorrow, to today and, now, in the past.

When the anniversary did come up, it wasn’t what I’d thought of when were getting married. In a non-COVID-19 world we would have both taken the day off of work and gone off to do something decadent. But, we live in a very different reality than we used to, so Liza and I both worked regular shifts and got to hang out for one (1) hour before she had to work for another hour or so.

But when she was free, we set to work as a pair in the kitchen, Liza making a pretty damn good chimichurri sauce while I boiled some potatoes to mash and tried to make some steaks. Because we planned this dinner in honor of our first year of being married, I’d picked up some expensive pieces of meat that I was initially stoked about.

In the end I came to fear the both of them.

Ever unwrap some steaks and just stare at them, unsure of what the fuck you were thinking? That was me. Reading the recipe we had planned (and had managed to not mess up in the past, when we used thinner pieces of cow) impending trouble was obvious.

If I followed the directions to the letter we’d end up with 80% raw beef and no one would get to eat. So, I’d have to just change the timings on the fly. Right. No worries, I told myself while puffing on a JUUL in nothing like a panic — this will work.

After all, I was the main cook in our union before the pandemic. And since COVID came around I’ve only had more time to practice. I can make things now without looking at books! I know some recipes by heart! I feed my family of two! I am accomplished!

Wrong, buddy. Instead of managing to properly change the timings and temperatures for our steaks — hunks of deceased bovine that had grown to a full foot-thick in my kitchen imagination — I managed to sear them beautifully while leaving the insides far rawer than I have ever been comfortable eating.

So I ran them through the cast-iron gauntlet again, full of cracked pepper and rotation, sharp-eyed observations, and faux-confidence. This will work, I told myself.

After the second round of searing, the steaks — having now had more than twice as long as the recipe called for on the fire — were still effectively raw in the middle. So I panicked and cut the damn things up and seared the fuckers as little steaklets.

That is defeat.

Oh, and I didn’t boil the potatoes quite long enough so my shot at garlic mashed potatoes only came out as a B-. Hell, we were even low on butter.

But none of it really mattered. We got to eat in the dining room instead of on the couch, and the dogs begged, and we talked about our first year as a formal team. Being married is good. It’s so good that after wringing myself out in the kitchen trying to win a battle I wouldn’t, eating with Liza brought me back to Earth in good spirits and calm mind.

It’s lovely to find your center in someone else. Sure, we’d be fine individually. By the time Liza and I got back together she was already wrapping medical school and I was post-rehab. But as a two we are pretty fucking great. I’m way happier, and flat-out healthier and saner and smarter, when she’s around.

So, fuck the steaks, whatever. Next year — knock on wood — we’ll get to go out and have someone else handle the preparation and relax a bit more. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of my first year of marriage for anything, even the times when I was floundering and shouting at a dinner that was falling out of grasp.