It’s time for another guest post! This week’s guest post is from Gary Neights. Gary is a friend of Paul. They met in the early 90’s in Baltimore where they both worked at RWD Technologies in business process and software. Paul was heavily involved in local politics (rising to President of his City Council) and he often tried, unsuccessfully, to get apolitic Gary into politics. That changed in 2017, when Gary became the first Democrat in decades to win a local election in his municipality. Gary, like Paul, studied engineering at Penn State and also served as an officer in the US Marines. Gary is married and has 2 daughters.

As submitted by author Gary Neights on March 28, 2020:

I love to eat and am learning to love to cook.  As a kid I used to cook  – cakes from a box, chocolate chip cookies, pancakes with fake maple syrup.  In high school when I was promoted from dishwasher at ‘the finest French restaurant in Harrisburg’ to pantry chef, I learned the from scratch art of escargot, Black Forest cake, and spinach salad with hot bacon dressing.

After that I morphed back to meals with minimal prep and cleanup.  Burgers or steaks on the grill.  Cereal.  Mashed potatoes from a box.  Restaurants fit into that category.  Over time Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel, and Golden Coral’s all-you-can-eat buffet evolved with city living and work travel to fine dining establishments like Bacco in the French Quarter, Birchrunville Store Cafe, Brass Elephant in Baltimore,  Scoma’s on Fisherman’s Wharf.  Many of these experiences were with Paul and involved mass consumption of libations.

But cooking… not for me.  My wife is an amazing cook and with so many chefs available, why bother?  COVID-19.  Hunkered down in the house.  Working from home.  Playing games with the family.  Way too much peanut butter and jelly (of course, without bread to reduce carbs).

Stocking up at Costco I saw veal cut Osso Buco style and thought, I like that.  Into the cart it went along with lots of canned goods, coffee, and the obligatory warehouse-sized pack of of toilet paper.  When I got home Jennifer looked at the veal and stated, “I hope you know how to cook that,” and I said, “I thought you did.”  A little later she handed me a recipe printed off from Cook’s magazine.  I noted the expiration date on the veal and threw it in the fridge.

A couple of weeks later after buying most of the necessary ingredients, I read the recipe and announced – we will have dinner in 2 hours.  An hour and a half and half of a bottle of wine later, I was finished with prep and ready for 2 hours in the oven.  The wine and cooking experience were fun and everyone enjoyed the meal.

Over next few days we ended up with a set of leftovers from Jennifer’s cooking.  A single banger (sausage) from an Irish favorite bangers and mashed potatoes.  Rice from chicken tikka masala.  Tomatoes from the Osso Buco.

Working from home I became starved one early afternoon and with 20 minutes before my next conference call I decided to make a new dish.  I saw black beans on the shelf and remembered back to a buddy of mine who said he loved black beans and rice.  The instructions on the can included onions and garlic.  Remembering the Osso Buco, I thought, close enough – I’ve got this.  Working furiously I chopped an onion, pressed garlic, minced a hot pepper for good measure and sautéed.  Added a can of black beans, leftover Tikka Masala rice, and leftover Osso Buco tomatoes.  Plus a sliced banger for a good measure of protein.

This dish of leftovers was quite tasty and lasted for 2 days of lunch.  While this crisis has its stressful side, I am finding enjoyment from hanging out, reconnecting, and getting back into cooking.  Looking forward to new cooking adventures, perhaps with matched cocktails or wine.