Living in Paradise

The Case of the Missing Pork Chops

The Case of the Missing Pork Chops

We had our neighbors over—six of them—for dinner last night. They are all new to us and great fun. We wanted the evening to be special and started planning three days out for the event.

It was, we decided, worth the 90-minute trip to our favorite island grocery store to pick up Smitty’s famous pork chops for this group. Nothing is better than the chops from Hudson’s grocery in Boca Grande, smothered in olive oil and lightly seasoned with Smitty’s homemade rub.

We even did a trial run to make sure that my man didn’t overcook the chops. There was little chance of that. He learned how to grill in South Africa where cooking outside seems to be an art form. Occasionally he messes up, but not often. Still, this time he wanted to make sure there were no mistakes, which meant having pork chops twice in one week.

For my part, I decided to make some lactose-fee dishes in deference to our very sweet neighbor who has problems with her stomach. She wanted no fuss made on her behalf. Still, I searched the Internet and found what looked to be an easy and delicious recipe for milk-free escalloped potatoes. Indiana green beans, cooked for hours in a Dutch oven with bacon and onions, was another component of our perfect dinner. I also put together a broccoli, red onion, raisin and bacon salad to round out the meal. There can never be too much bacon on the menu.

We gathered for cocktails at 6:00 and by 7:15 the dinner was ready—or so I thought. The potatoes had been in my new, never-before-used oven for 90 minutes. They were bubbly and smelled delicious. The aroma of grilling pork chops was enough to make every other neighbors’ mouths water, along with the wildlife that lives in the adjoining wetlands.

My man dished up the pork chops and entered the kitchen with a flourish. I had set out the other dishes and moved to unwrap the meat, which was cradled in a large aluminum packet. I opened it carefully and gazed lovingly at the five perfectly done pork chops. Five? I did a doubletake and counted them again. Where were the other three that my man had cooked?

I called him quickly to my side. “Where are the other chops?”

His eyes widened and he rushed to the grill, returning to the kitchen with a shocked look on his face. The chops were missing in action.

I checked the foil again and was forced to share my findings with our guests, who by now were wondering why their hosts seemed flustered. There was only one thing to do—cut the inch-thick pork chops in half. Everyone said they were fine with that. Most confessed they couldn’t eat a whole pork chop, especially one so large.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t so bad I thought to myself. I dished up my plate of goodies and sat down. The potatoes looked lovely so I tried them first. Crunch. Crunch. They were only a few steps from raw. Everyone ate them except for me. That’s the kind of people our new neighbors are.

Even though the meal seemed to go well, the mystery of the missing pork chops lingered. Soon a search party had been launched. Was it the neighborhood coyote or Sand Hill Crane who had learned to lift the grill lid and snatch the morsels? We all had to know why those chops had gone on the lam.

After a few minutes, my immediate neighbor found the first one in the bushes next to the grill. Two others followed quickly. We all shook our heads and laughed. Thank heavens, all memories of the crunchy potatoes had faded.

Everyone left, thanking us for a memorable evening that would always include the mystery of the missing pork chops. But, in truth, the dilemma was not yet resolved. We finally guessed that in the flourish of the evening, with one or two whiskeys under his belt, my man had scooped up the chops and not even noticed when three slid off the plate onto the ground.

I for one have figured out how to prevent this problem in the future. I’m calling my favorite caterer, J.T, who has already assured me he will drive to Sarasota to give us a hand. Heaven knows, we need it.