Every year, around July, we in the South start to scoff at our Northern brethren. As the mercury rises, we simply dab a paper towel to our brow as news from Michigan or New York or somewhere decries the heat index and the elderly and the construction workers on the top of tar roofs. We drink a little gin from the freezer and just get on with it.
But around September first, we’ve just had enough of it. It’s football season, for God’s sake. It is not meant to be 97 degrees right now at 7:16 p.m. with humidity topping 100 percent. We are a tough people. A proud people. But we are a hot people. Very hot and our energy is beginning to wain.
The first day of the Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Bazaar was today and the Men of St. Paul’s cooked hamburgers outside on a massive smoker. Terry O’Donnell, one of the men, comes inside for something in the kitchen and he is drenched in sweat. Alarmingly so. And when I head out to get my hamburger, there are people sitting at tables not 10 feet from the smoker. And they are pretending they are not about to keel over from heat prostration. We are a proud people. We are a stupid, but proud people.
And at the end of my shift at the bazaar, as I drive off, I notice Terry sitting in a lawn chair, next to the smoker, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette. At this point, it is two in the afternoon and the actual temperature is 103. You have to wonder, or at least I do, if after two months of temperatures hovering around 100 if our brains are just not working anymore. Perhaps we simply cannot process information correctly, that we are too damn proud to get out of the heat.
So, tonight I make Mark the first decent supper in a week after suffering a summer cold made worse by the fact that I, too, am too damn proud to get out of the heat. In my confinement to bed, I have watched Ina Garten make Filet of Beef au Poivre, which in English is filet mignon crusted with pepper. She speaks of Paris, where she and her husband, Jeffrey, have an apartment. It is cool in Paris. People in Paris are not stupid. They take August off and never go outdoors. Or at least that’s how I imagine it.
I want to be Ina Garten. When not at my apartment in Paris, I want to luxuriate in the Hamptons. Cooking my Filet of Beef au Poivre in my designer kitchen and serving it to Jeffrey on the terrace. But instead, I am amping the kitchen up to the century mark. By the way, filet mignon is not that expensive if you buy a healthy hunk of it and cut it in half. I figured $7 a portion. Not too shabby.
So, tomorrow the Tennessee Volunteers will take on Montana, for God’s sake, in Knoxville where the temperature will top out at 98 degrees. We will win that game, I predict, not because we have a superior football team but because those poor schmucks from Montana will not have enough iced gin in the world to get through the first quarter.
Here’s Ina’s recipe for Filet of Beef au Poivre. It’s very tasty. Mark felt cherished, which was the object of the exercise. But I am now outside on the deck, because I cannot smoke in the house, with the fan blasting me with the force of a 747, my hair propelled straight back so that I resemble the Joker.
I am proud. But I am just hot. Too damn hot.