Today is McGruff's birthday... Happy Birthday!
I racked my brain for a gift that was thoughtful and fun, but would also highlight his natural enthusiasm. After much deliberation and several ideas, a light-bulb flicked on.
First I had to make sure he was available. Check.
I reserved our spot and kept it secret for a long-long time.
The surprise factor was killing him. He asked question after question, dragging ambiguous clues out of me. I warned him that I may not answer questions truthfully.
I led him astray, he believed his gift would take place somewhere in the far west metro (but we were really headed to the far east metro). He guessed sporting tickets, a play, and other such events. He even actually guessed his gift, about a week before, and I (somewhat) successfully played it off as a wrong guess.
Sunday finally arrived. I was very excited, hoping he would think it was as great of an idea as I did. As we were readying to leave, I revealed the secret surprise.
"we're taking a cooking class."
"Really??" he smiled. I knew I'd done good.
"Yes. It's Chinese Take Out. We'll learn to make fried rice and other Chinese dishes."
"That's great!" His enthusiasm was warming.
"Yeah, remember how all summer you kept saying we should try to make fried rice? Well, now we're going to learn how."
He tried to tell me that he 'knew' it was a cooking class.
The class was great. Our teacher was a bubbly guy, joking at every chance. He knew his stuff, answered questions precisely, and was truly excited about cooking and teaching us. Our first culinary task was to prep our vegetables and meat. McGruff and I were responsible for the carrots, half should be finely diced (McGruff's job) and half were to be thinly shredded (my task). We both did a fantastic job (if I may say so). I learned that you can fairly easily use a vegetable peeler to make fine shredds of carrot.
Throughout the class we tried a little bit of everything. Frying up scallion pancakes, stir frying chicken in a cast iron wok. We wrapped pot stickers and spring rolls. Our first taste was of red pepper and beef. The dish had a slight heat with wonderful flavor, this was both of our favorite dish of the night. We tasted the scallion pancakes, which were better with plum sauce (and I'm sure would be fantastic with sour cream...yes, I know, that's not very Asian). The pot stickers were delicious, but not as good as the fried spring rolls. The fried rice was colorful, full of vegetables and great flavor (although the chef preferred his rice softer than we do).
We had a fun time, getting involved in each process and step. We enjoyed fantastic food. We learned a lot. And now, Chinese cooking doesn't seem so daunting. I really think we could make all of those dishes at home, which makes me happy. (Especially with how much McGruff likes spicy Asian-type food.)
Today, his actual birthday, we are both at work. Tonight, we will enjoy a (hopefully) delicious meal... and (fingers crossed) delectable desert. As I'm not yet sure how either will turn out, I'll save that for another time. Last night's desert preparation came with a few mishaps, leaving me concerned for how it turned out. I'll retell that debacle, after I know how successful my baking was.