Our First Al Fresco Dinner of the Season

I really don’t like candid photos. Whenever people want to take a picture of me, I a.) make them sign a contract that gives me full PhotoShop approval–in perpetuity–over any image of me they publish, and b.) insist on spending an inordinate time on my hair and teeth. Once contractual obligations as well as buffing and fussing are out of the way, I give the go ahead to take that sparklingly spontaneous shot.

But when I saw this little moment of supper loveliness tonight, I grabbed my iPhone and just snapped. I didn’t even have enough sense to remove the Costco salt grinder or fluff the spaghetti. This was our supper table, unstyled. But to me, it sums up everything about outdoor dining: casual, simple, unpretentious, and, yes, bounteous. (It’s The One and me we’re talking about here. That man can polish off three-quarters of a pound of pasta in a single sitting.)

Dinner took as long to put together as it took the spaghetti rigati to cook. What–15 minutes, maybe? Meanwhile I sautéed tiger shrimp in a lake of brown butter and a bit of oil, then tossed in a big-ass handful of chopped garlic. I had about 1 1/2 cups of leftover homemade tomato sauce and spooned that in, too, for good measure. I dumped the drained spaghetti into the skillet and the sautéed it all together for another two to three minutes.

As I began plating, our frequent dinner companions, whom we haven’t seen since last October, dropped by for a visit. I mean, of course, the backyard bats and mosquitos. To prevent The One, a long-suffering chiroptophobe, from letting loose with his 12-year-old-girl shrieks that blow like a train whistle, I demanded he don a baseball cap and keep his eyes on his plate. Me, I’m just a great big flashing neon sign that sputters on and off “All You Can Eat Buffet!” We haven’t yet bought bug spray this season, so I wore thick wool socks with my pant legs tucked in and a dirty dish towel over my head. Lucky for us, the paparazzi didn’t know we were in town. Do you know how hard it is get them to agree to that PhotoShop contract?

The word "David" written in script.



About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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63 Comments

  1. Sigh. That al fresco dinner sounds lovely, bats and mosquitos included. My husband is not a fan of the outdoor meal for the same insect-related reasons you mention – I’ll don a full beekeeper suit to brave a dinner like this with you anytime!

    1. I despise eating outside because of the bugs. Bats, I have no issue with. But it means so freaking much to The One, that I’ve long ago caved. But he’s good at releasing me from the table when he sees me slapping myself when there’s no visible sign of mental distress… I keep asking, “Why can’t we get a screened gazebo.” Haven’t gotten a response yet.

  2. In my view, a “big-ass handful” of garlic is the only measure to use. For almost anything.

  3. I had to laugh at the description of the clothing you had to wear in order to dine outside. How romantic – Not! The table looks great, though! LOL!

    1. Susan, the sad this is some form of that is my uniform from now until mid-October. The skeeters just love me.