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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  1. First, al fresco rocks. Minus the mosquitos of course–what the hell where the bats eating that night? Surely not the mosquitos.

    Second, unfussy meals don’t get better than this one. As a food blogger, sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the “show” only to forget that the meal is what’s at the heart of entertaining.

    Third, I saw your tweets/instagrams from the weekend and felt like jumping in my car to go looking for you (in the most un-stalker-ish way possible, of course). I’m in Southbury. 🙂

    1. Tara,

      First: I think the bats were doing Pilates. Weird maneuvers–not the usual swoops. Second: Danke. Third: We have to get together. Drop me an email.

  2. I will never look at a tea towel the same way again. Oh my. And yes–I’m skeeter fodder too. Like father, like daughter.

      1. Ooooh! Sign me up for them if you do (well–the tea towels for sure)!! For the mossies, don’t know if you can get one of those ultraviolet bug enticer/annihilator contraptions? Quite dramatic when they get zapped…

  3. David, you always make me laugh! The vision of you with a dishtowel over your head, pants tucked into socks is absolutely priceless. And the pasta is lovely! I am the one in our family who always gets eaten alive by mosquitos. Thank you for making my day – more than once.

    1. Jenny, my pleasure. If I made you laugh, even a little, then my job is done here. Good food and a good laugh–that’s what it’s all about for me.