The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

October 30, 2011

Tom Lavis | Something fishy about anniversary gift

October is an exceptional month in my household.

It seems that while most of the world views June as the ideal time to marry, members of my immediate family had a penchant for getting hitched during the month where the most notable holiday is Halloween.

My oldest son and his wife celebrated their 11th anniversary this month. Our only daughter and her husband marked their seventh anniversary this past week.

They followed the lead of my wife and I. We were wed on a blustery Saturday in October 39 years ago.

To mark our anniversaries, my wife and I have done the bed-and-breakfast retreats, taken a second honeymoon to Niagara Falls, enjoyed the lavish dinner-theater experiences in Pittsburgh and toasted the years with champagne.

But ask most couples who have been married more than 35 years about how they celebrate such a milestone and I would guess many would say “quietly.”

The exchange of gifts has changed as well.

When I ask my wife what she would like for a gift, she always answers “nothing.”

When I’m asked, my reply is, “I don’t need anything.”

But I still like to add a little spice to our special day. So this year I decided to cook a remarkable dinner for my bride.

This is where I tell everyone how noteworthy this was because making scrambled eggs is a challenge for me.

I got this brilliant idea after watching a cooking show on the Food Network, where they make everything look easy.

The dish I chose was chicken teriyaki with pineapple.

I printed the recipe from the show’s website and went shopping for ingredients.

We already had many of the necessities

– onions, flour, mushrooms, crushed red pepper and garlic powder.

We even had boneless chicken breasts.

I had to buy things such as bell peppers, pineapple chunks and teriyaki sauce.

I thought the recipe may have been wrong because, when I have eaten the dish in restaurants, it always had a taste of ginger.

I asked my grocer where I could buy ginger in a can. He gave me a puzzled look and suggested I buy ginger root and grind it.

He handed me this gnarly, brown thing and said I should just shred it.

Great. I took it home and ground up the entire pretzel, which produced about a half-cup of ginger. Just enough for this recipe, I figured.

Reading the recipe, I discovered that I should be cooking in a wok. Instead, I chose a cast-iron skillet that was handed down to me by my grandmother.

I followed the instructions to the letter until I came to G, for ginger, which wasn’t listed.

Because my cooking expertise is limited, I figured the more ginger the better, So I dumped the entire shredded root into the skillet.

A smell similar to a blend of pipe tobacco and smoldering chicken feathers arose from the skillet and assaulted my sense of smell.

Add in the aroma of the teriyaki sauce and the pungent smell of onions and garlic, and I found myself getting nauseous.

I cooked the dish over medium heat, as per directions. Once I got things simmering, I held my nose and added the flour.

Stirring the ingredients, the dish looked nothing like the one on television.

I ended up with a very thick, odoriferous mush.

My wife called from work to say she would be late. That gave me time to trash the concoction, do the dishes and order take-out.

It also gave me time to set the table and light some scented candles to set the mood and dissipate the stink.

When the front door opened, I heard my wife exclaim, “What is that awful smell?”

Without answering, I seated her at the table and placed a large pizza with everything in front of her.

“I think I smell something fishy here,” she said.

I told her it was the anchovies.

Happy anniversary.

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