“What are those for?” Starsky asked, as Hutch sorted through a bin of produce.
Hutch was already holding a cluster or bunch or flock or whatever-you-call-it of suspicious-looking bulbous things with pointy bottoms and tree-like tops that Starsky already wanted nothing to do with. Grocery shopping with Hutch–always an exercise in name-that-exotic-inedible-food-item–was worse around the holidays. About two weeks before Thanksgiving, his partner would start to transform.
From the regular guy Starsky knew–a guy who considered food little more than fuel to keep body and soul together, who would protest the fast food they often ate on the fly while downing it with gusto, and who, like Starsky, would consume cold coffee and stale sandwiches on stake-outs that always ran longer than their eight-hour shift–about two weeks before Thanksgiving, Hutch, this regular guy, would start to change. While Hutch had always been an adventurous and creative cook, during the weeks before Thanksgiving, he turned into Julia Child’s favorite student. And Starsky knew from experience that Julia and Hutch had some weird notions about what normal human beings should eat.
Like the stuff Hutch was picking out right now.
Hutch found another bulby-tree-thing
and shook it gently free of its brethren, smiling as if he’d discovered the lost gold of the Incas.
“You know what these are,” Hutch said without looking at him. He was still inspecting the pile. “They’re beets. I know you’ve eaten beets before. Your mom told me–“
“Those are beets?” Starsky said dubiously. “What’s all that green stuff hanging onto them?”
“Beet greens!” Hutch said with way too much enthusiasm. “When you see beets with their tops like this, all fresh and green and not wilted, you know they were picked just this morning. You’ll love those greens, Starsk. Sautéed gently with a touch of butter and some raisins and pine nuts, they’re really sweet. I like to roast the beets with a bit of maple syrup to intensify–“
Starsky needed to put a stop to this right now. “If you talked to Mom, then she musta told you that I hate beets. I don’t like ’em as soup. I don’t like ’em boiled. I don’t like ’em pickled. They taste like dirt. And so will all that grass-stuff growing out of ’em. I can think of much better things to do with pine nuts and raisins this time of year–like puttin’ them where they belong–on gingerbread people and in cakes and pies. Not in boiled grass.”
Hutch just chuckled like he always did when Starsky insisted he hated certain foods. Which meant that Starsky would be facing not just a plate of beets in some form or other on Thanksgiving day, but worse yet, their greeny growing things as well.
Starsky groaned. “You know, Hutch, the song don’t go, ‘On the first day of Christmas, my partner gave to me…beets!'”
“Have some faith in me, buddy! After all this time, you should know that you usually love the things I make for Thanksgiving.”
“Yeah, the normal stuff. The turkey with the cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole–the only way man was even meant to eat anything green–candied yams with toasted marshmallows, mashed potatoes swimming in butter and gravy–“
“It’s time for us to start eating healthier, Starsk. We’re not getting any younger. This year we’re having lighter fare. Less carbs, lower fat, more natural food. Wild rice with pecans and cranberries, green beans with almonds, butternut squash with cinnamon, sweet potatoes with apples and a light pecan topping, beets roasted with a touch of maple syrup, roasted cauliflower with caramelized onions–“
“Cauliflower!” Starsky yelped. “You’re pulling my leg!”
“Do I have to remind you about your fitness profile and your cholesterol rating? We’ve got to get those numbers down.”
“You’re supposed to change your diet after the New Year, Hutch! Not on Thanksgiving.”
Hutch just patted him on the shoulder. “You’ll thank me after your next checkup.”
Starsky was almost afraid to ask. “What about pie? You’re gonna make your famous pumpkin pie, right?” Starsky waited all year for that pie.
“At almost 600 calories a slice, I should say not. We’ll have a nice fruit salad.”
For half a beat, Starsky thought he might actually cry. “You keep talking crazy like this, and I swear I’ll have Thanksgiving with the Dobeys. You and your beets and your cauliflower can eat by yourselves.”
Hutch was picking out apples and pears for his fruit salad, only half-listening to Starsky. “As a matter of fact, you will be having Thanksgiving with the Dobeys. We’re eating with them! Edith and I ran into each other at the bank, and she was dreading having to cook the heavy fare they usually ate on the holiday. You know she’s always worried about the captain’s health. His latest health profile was even worse than yours. We got to talking and decided we’d get a jump on the New Year by making a healthy Thanksgiving. She and I worked out the menu and–“
“It’s a conspiracy?” Starsky was shocked. His partner and his captain’s wife plotting together to destroy Thanksgiving?
Hutch just laughed. “Trust me, Starsk. It’ll all work out just fine.”
“Just tell me there’s gonna be turkey. There will be turkey, won’t there?” If Hutch was going to offer up some kind of fake meat substitute, he was taking a plane home to New York!
“Of course there’ll be turkey! It’s one of the healthiest foods you can have. But Edith isn’t serving the smoked ham she usually provides. Not this year.”
“Does Dobey know that the two of you have decided to ruin his favorite holiday?”
Hutch looked pensive. “I don’t know. He’s usually too busy to worry about the menu. Most years, he’s just hoping he’ll be able to get home for the meal if nothing crazy happens in the city.”
Well, this was just a fine kettle of fish! Starsky’s all time favorite holiday ruined by his partner’s health mania. And Edith Dobey! One of his favorite people. He’d never felt so betrayed.
“Of course, Starsk, since you reminded me of the first day of Christmas song, it occurs to me we could skip the turkey and have a brace of partridges
instead, with a nice pear salad.”
Starsky nearly lost it. “Who eats partridges in this day and age? Who even heard of cooking partridges? Where would you even GET partridges–” He suddenly realized a half dozen people in the supermarket were staring at him. He lowered his voice. “I’ve gotten used to your up-and-down reactions to Christmas, but you never sabotaged Thanksgiving before. Now you’ve gone too far. It’s un-American!”
Hutch just laughed and pushed his cart over to a pile Brussels sprouts.
Starsky’s eyes grew wider. He clamped his mouth shut, realizing his ranting would just encourage Hutch’s wicked streak, and he’d add even more inedibles to what had once been the holiday Starsky looked forward to more than any other. Maybe he should talk to Huggy or Mrs. Walters about joining them for dinner. He had a feeling Captain Dobey would be happy to sneak out with him. As Hutch puttered along, picking up one gross vegetable after another and humming merrily, Starsky’s gaze suddenly landed on a different kind of display.
Hutch looked over his selections with anticipation as he started stacking them on the check-out counter. The healthy vegetables were colorful and fresh; he knew they’d be delicious on his and Edith’s Thanksgiving table. Starsky might rant and rave, but once he tasted these minimally processed foods that needed little more than a touch of olive oil or maple syrup or bit of butter to bring out their natural deliciousness, Hutch knew he’d win him over. Just wait ’til Starsky tasted these Brussels sprouts roasted with caramelized onions–
His hand hit something in his cart he didn’t recognize, and he looked down. He was about to pick up a small bag of garden soil
that was leaning against the side of the cart next to a jar of plant food and a bag of decorative stones. He blinked. He didn’t put those–
Standing up straighter, he peered at Starsky. His partner was wearing that patented “innocent” look he’d perfected over the years. Which meant that he was responsible.
“What’s this for?” Hutch asked.
“I wanted to contribute something to the meal,” Starsky said, as if that should be obvious. “It’s healthy! Full of minerals for strong bones and teeth. Low fat. Low calorie. Maybe we can have it for dessert.”
Hutch smiled and stacked the items on the counter along with the rest of the food.
Starsky’s expression changed to one of surprise. “You’re keeping that stuff?”
“Sure,” Hutch said, suppressing a smile. “I can use it to make a Dirt Cake!
It’ll be the perfect dessert.”
To be continued…