Mrs. Culinarian called me at work in a slight panic. "I just talked to mom," she said. "She wants to take me for a Guinness." I asked if she could perhaps deflect her, maybe suggest going for coffee instead. "No, I tried that. She really wants to spend some time with me and she's insisting on taking me out for a Guinness. I don't understand it! She's never insisted on going out for beers."
Crap. We weren't ready. Relevant parties were still out of the country. We needed a couple of more days. I needed to think of something. Dinner. We'd invite her over for dinner. She couldn't say no, and it would give us some room to maneuver, some space to operate.
We'd be able to lie.
So on the evening of August 10, a Saturday, mercifully, my mother-in-law (hereafter referred to as "Suegra") came over to dinner, and I put my subterfuge into effect. Before she showed up I drove to the local shopping center and bought three bottles of wine: two reds, and a chardonnay. Then I went to the supermarket and picked up a bottle of white grape juice.
See, Suegra wanted to have a drink with Mrs. Culinarian and talk about the things that mothers and daughters talk about. But Suegra doesn't drink white wine. So, when she showed up for dinner, I happily poured two glasses of red for Suegra and myself, and a wine glass of chilled white grape juice for Mrs. Culinarian. They went out on the porch to chat, and I stayed in the kitchen to cook.
I stood in front of the stove, cooking whatever it is I was cooking and sipping on my wine and listening to Perez Prado belt out a few mambos. I moved to the fridge to grab something I needed and stopped cold. The bottle of white wine was right there, on the refrigerator door, unopened, full of wine. I panicked -- Suegra wouldn't drink the white wine, but what if she came in to get a glass of water or something and saw the unopened bottle there and figured out that Mrs. Culinarian wasn't actually drinking the chardonnay? What if she put two and two together? The illusion had to be maintained.
I couldn't just pour myself a glass of the white and hope she wouldn't notice -- the chardonnay and Mrs. Culinarian's grape juice were too far apart in color. Suegra would notice. She'd definitely notice the difference in color between the liquids in the two glasses because obviously that's something someone would notice. She'd get suspicious. I couldn't take that chance.
Perhaps not entirely rationally, I yanked the bottle out of the fridge, tore off the foil, and extracted the cork. I grabbed a juice glass from the cupboard, filled it with white wine, and chugged it.
There. An open wine bottle with roughly a glass-worth of wine missing. I grabbed my real glass of red wine and resumed cooking, slowly sipping while tapping my feet to Perez Prado.
Of course, when Mrs. Culinarian came in to refill her grape juice, I was thrown back into the same panic. Absolutely convinced that Suegra would notice that the quanitity of liquid remaining in the wine bottle was more than Mrs. Culinarian had consumed, I poured another juice glass full of chardonnay and slammed it down. And since I thought it would look suspicious if I wasn't also drinking red wine, I kept sipping that as well.
(For a partial explanation of my mental state at the time, I had just finished reading Operation Mincemeat, the story of an elaborate hoax perpetrated by the British to dupe the Nazis into thinking the Allies weren't going to invade Sicily. The book describes the absurd attention the Brits paid to the minutest details of the hoax in order to maintain its plausibility. This likely had an effect me. An uncharitable interpretation of this is that I consider my mother-in-law to be the rough equivalent of a Gestapo agent.)
The subterfuge continued throughout the night. I got absolutely smashed. Slurred speech, poor volume control, the works. I woke up Sunday morning feeling like so much hot garbage.
But the deception worked. It bought us the few days we needed before Mrs. Culinarian's father could return from Mexico and we could come clean. And if you still haven't picked up on the slap-you-in-the-face obvious reason for why I was behaving like a lunatic and irrationally panicking and chugging my wife's wine while she sipped on a non-alcoholic substitute...
Baby Culinarian, on the way, due to arrive in April 2014.