Monday, January 31, 2011

Mongolian Hotpot--The Girlfriend Test

Well, that’s what we called it. Sounded foreign, exotic. If the label alone scared off the girl, all the better. Who needs vapid genes? I go for intrepid every time. When one has sons like Brooklyn and Chicago, one needs to be watchful. Like their father (except in one notable instance), they go for cute.

Before Brooklyn met and married London and when Chicago was still living at home, we had a test for new girlfriends. Or rather I had a test. DH could care less. Is she cute? Can she carry on a conversation? Stuff like that is all he cares about. He might diss the girl later, but he wasn’t into testing her limits. I definitely was. After all, this could be the future mother of my grandchildren. What’s she made of?

Okay, I’ll admit that starting the test when the boys were dating at 16 may have been, well, premature, but that meant that I had perfected my testing skills by the time things were likely to get serious.

In the interests of supporting mothers of sons who are dating, I am sharing this simple test with you. Two words. Mongolian Hotpot.

I have absolutely no memory of where this originated. Maybe we had it at a restaurant and I said, as I usually do, “I can make that!” Or maybe people in a novel I read dined on it. Beats me.

The upfront work of prepping veggies is a bonus. You get to spend more time grilling the girl than slaving away in the kitchen. All is done before the little thing arrives. That allows lots and lots of conversation before dinner. By the time the sweat beads appear on her trembling little lip, you are ready for the final test: Mongolian Hotpot.

Simply put, I heat broth of some flavor with onions, carrots, and mushrooms and let it cool down. I strain out the veggies and it is ready to reheat again to boiling in a fondue pot set in the center of the dining table alongside the plate of veggies and bowl of brown rice.

Also prepared in advance are the veggies: green onion stalks, whole mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach leaves, celery and carrot matchsticks, and thin slices of chicken, shrimp, and beef. Put a loaf of bread out, and voilà, dinner is served.

Each person skewers what heesh would like to start with and lets their fork sit in the boiling broth until done to taste. Sometimes one loses one’s food and has to go fishing for it. And of course, your food comes in contact with others’ food, and might be considered, by the squeamish, to be contaminated. How well does the young woman cope with the fishing and the touching? I watch. What does she choose? I watch. Can she carry on a conversation while fishing? I watch.

London passed the test, even though she is not an adventuresome eater, so we welcomed her into our family. Chicago has a new girlfriend, Minnie, whom I am eager to test. Could it be why Chicago has not brought her home yet? Nah? He doesn’t know about the test? Does he?

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