Fear of Frying

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Dear Editor,

I want to find a way to keep my house from smelling like the food I cooked. Sure, I want my food to have a properly distinctive, pleasing smell. And I want my house to have a distinctive and pleasing smell, too, perhaps one that evokes pine and essences of certain flowers and traces of the tanned hides of certain animals. Further, I want the smells to complement one another while I dine, but no longer than that. What I don’t want is for the smell of my food to overwhelm the smell of my house for hours, even days afterward.

There have been, recently, some problems.

For example. The other day a friend came by, whom I’ll call D___, to drop off some materials for this great thing that he’s spearheading and I said I’d love to help with, a thing for the neighborhood (food-sustainability related, but that’s a whole different story). Anyway, D___ comes in and first thing he says is, “Smells like someone’s been cooking T____.” I was mortified. I’d made a Seared T____ with an A____ Remoulade for dinner not even the previous night, but the night before that. I laughed and said yeah, and gave one of those what-are-you-going-to-do shrugs and pretty much led D___ out the door, barely giving him a moment to hand off of the materials.

I hustled him out so quick, I didn’t even offer him a cup of coffee from the french press I’d made in anticipation of his visit, which I saw on the counter, mocking me, waiting and still warm.

Needless to say, D___’s house never smells like Seared T____, nor does it smell like poached F____, nor S____, even with the twins and the dogs—the Hungarian one and the bigger one, a something mountain dog. D___’s house, always smells like D___’s house, even during dinner parties, which D___ has invited me to once or twice. D___’s house isn’t so very different from mine, though it is a bit closer to the park, and it is a bit larger. But the smells of D___’s house somehow seem more imbricated, if that’s the word I’m looking for, the essences more essential to the house itself, whereas the smells of my house, really an apartment, always seem like an afterthought, easily dispersed, diminished, overwhelmed, particularly by Seared T____, or more generally by F__.

At the last such dinner party, a combination “Fat Tuesday”/book release blowout, I remember how the pleasing smell of D___’s house provided such a fitting setting for the smell of each of the dishes, as they, in turn, took the stage, by which I mean, the table, the long polished dark wood one they, D___ and his partner, M___,  bring out, or up, from somewhere. By the time we were having coffee and pies and tarts and sundry sweets, the previous courses, what was left of them, were back in the wings, in their various states of deshabillé, with no “noises off,” olfactorily speaking. The smell of good strong coffee dominated, freshly ground, and locally roasted, D___ said, at the place that just opened, a few blocks away. D___ does all the cooking himself, complicated dishes. I had the distinct impression I was there to fill out the table.

My question is, is there a way to prepare T____ or S____, to grill or even fry H___ or wild C__ without overwhelming the smell of my house? And why does the coffee, the same coffee from the same place D___ gets his, which I bought a pound of on the way home, barely mask said smells in my apartment?

Last night, I had a dream that I was just finishing a late lunch of leftover C___  N___ in P___ S__ when the UPS man rang. I opened the door. He’s holding a package. We get on well, he knows my name. He says, “Hey, E__. Making a P___ B___ S___ for the kids? Love the smell, love it. Takes me back to when I was a kid, the old school playground on Gun Hill Road, in Baychester. All gone now. Isn’t it funny how certain smells do that?” I said it was funny, it was, with a grim smile, and nearly closed the door before he even had time to hand me my package, from crossfitsurplus.com.

I woke up in a panic.

This was a dream, but it actually happened. First it happened, back late last fall, and then I dreamed about it. I keep dreaming about it. The only thing that changes in the dream is his uniform. Last night, in the dream, he was wearing the spiffy shorts and the short-sleeve button-down shirt that seems almost tailored.

I don’t have kids. I don’t have a wife. I don’t have a husband. I do have a cat, to whom I feed dry food, but the good kind. My career as a freelance writer is a fiction. My career as a writer of fiction is a fantasy.

I’m scared to shop, I’m scared to cook, I’m scared to open the door. I’m scared of the kitchen during the day, and I’m scared of my bed at night.

Please help.

Your constant reader,

Anxious in Astoria

p.s. Love what you did with the Sunday Magazine.

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Dear Anxious …