How great is nostalgia?
Correction — how great is edited nostalgia?
Filmmakers bathe in it. I refuse to believe that every writer, director and producer was the starting quarterback. That they slew conquest after sexual conquest through high school — or the ’60s and ’70s — or both. There is no chance that any studio head, at the ripe age of 8, fell victim to a home invasion and reacted by putting together a game of Mousetrap to physically torment his attackers.
But that’s the fun of nostalgia, isn’t it? It’s the fun of movies. Rewriting history through a first, second, third… fortieth draft, until it reads perfectly.
Based on the success of my last imaginary gala — I decide to open my front door once again to a trio of nostalgic characters who jump off the screen perfectly…
Penny Lane, the original Band-Aid and inspiration of the up-and-coming rock band Stillwater, from Almost Famous. Kevin McCallister, the quick-quipped youngster that missed the plane to Paris, from Home Alone. And lastly David Wooderson, former Lee High School football great that just keeps l-i-v-i-n, from Dazed and Confused. A young child actor’s unforgettable performance sandwiched by two guests stuck in the decade that brought us pet rocks and people obsessed with stuffing themselves in telephone booths.
What can I say? I was in the mood for some nostalgic dinner conversation.
Surprisingly, Wooderson arrives first. When he makes a beeline for the bar, I connect the dots. His laid back drawl is a welcome calming force to counter the stressful environment of the busy kitchen. I pretend not to hear him when he asks me to throw in 10 bucks to contribute to buying a keg.
Kevin McCallister comes bearing gifts — toothbrushes for everyone — all approved by the American Dental Association. It is recommended that we brush after every meal. Wooderson seems disappointed, feeling it would “be a lot cooler if he did” bring something a bit heavier.
We wait. And we wait.
Until Penny Lane breezes through the unlocked entrance, announcing herself in a grand fashion — reminiscent of a flight attendant’s safety speech. I’ve always had a thing for flaky girls — I don’t know why. Penny is no exception. Her gift is her presence, as if that is enough contribution to the party. I’m smitten, and any irritation brought about by her empty hands fades away when she allows me to take her coat. Her coat smells like vanilla and rainbows.
Penny’s on something — it took me forever to get her to sit down. Once she sits down, she’s back up again. It’s a dangerous dance we’re engaging in, honey, and I love it. Wooderson is coolly trying to stake his claim to her — after all, the pair did appear in two romantic comedies together — but that’s nearly 30 years down their timeline. Kevin’s fully focused on the food and counting the seconds until it’s placed on the table. He’s 8! The real reason old people like having grandchildren around is because they can both agree to eat at the earliest possible hour. Inspired by our groupie guest, but much to the delight of the too-sober-for-his-own-liking Texas native as well, is a mushroom dish, sans the magical hallucinogens: Spicy sausage stuffed mushrooms.
As Kevin goes on a rant on how much he’s enjoying the subtle flavors of the spiced legumes, I can’t help but notice a whiff of after-shave in the air. Without missing a beat, the pre-pubescent virtuoso takes the compliment and even remarks on how he washed his belly button for the night’s festivities. Wooderson, impressed by the young man’s innate sense of lady-killing, asks if he hangs out with any high school girls. I notice Penny picks at her food in an erratic fashion, but when you’re used to eating on the run I guess several small meals a day is the only way to keep on trucking.
As Penny and I make fickle plans to take an enchanting, one-way trip to Morocco together — I can’t help but overhear the former athlete discussing the intricacies of how to perfectly strike a freshman’s backside with a wooden paddle. All the color in Kevin’s face is drained as if he just saw the glimmer of a gold tooth in David’s permanently painted-on smile. I know one way to cheer the kid up. A lovely cheese pizza just for him…and the other guests. A bacon and fresh mozzarella pizza, in fact.
Not quite Little Nero’s, but close in the youngest diner’s estimation. Even if it was cooked perfectly — that Chicago palate of his just wouldn’t conform to the New York style of pizza-making. Ms. Lane, of course, is quick to recall the best pizza she ever tried somewhere in Rome or Milan or Topeka, Kansas. I don’t think Wooderson is sober enough to care — pizza from anywhere is always an outstanding drunk food.
This is about the point in any night where the wave of intoxication carries you into the final stretch. Penny tries to get the gang to sing an impromptu Elton John song. To my knowledge, Kevin only knows Christmas tunes. And the only other guy at the table who is old enough to shave prefers Aerosmith. One thing this girl doesn’t lack is confidence, and she finishes the song through to the final note. I see a hint of attraction twinkle in Wooderson’s eye but I remind him that the dessert course is for him because, unlike the woman he’s staring at, he loves those red heads, man. And thus, dessert is a red velvet cake.
The cake serves nicely in giving the kid at the table a sugar rush — he’s once again able to keep up with the drinkers at the table. Penny is once again wearing her sunglasses — her eyes may or may not be closed. Wooderson picks the cake up with his hands, sampling the sweet metaphor for the gingers that please him so. The group might not have meshed as well as I intended, but there were no overdoses, arrests or tarantula-related incidents. I consider that a success.
I ask Kevin if his parents are coming to pick him up. Should’ve known they were out of town. He happily walks home, carrying with him a swinging paint can for protection.
Wooderson looks like he’s going to try and play a game of “I’m not leaving until you do” chicken with our blonde muse.
As soon as she decides to leave — for some ice? — Wooderson chases her out the door. I hear giggling from the front yard. Of course he’d get her. He’s McConaughey — and she has an affinity for ’70s porn staches.
Better luck next time as I know not to invite competition. Still, chef, the make-believe feast was exceptional.
Feel free to let me know who should be included in the next DINNER FOR FAUX in the COMMENTS section — or tweet me @mosjeph and @foodrepub.