Words fascinate me. That’s probably why I like to play Scrabble®. I love the challenge of finding the perfect spot on the board to block, score points and occasionally lay down a bingo (50 extra points for using all seven tiles in one play).
I like to win and often do. (To be completely honest, I hate to lose.)
But in this game there’s more involved than winning. Equally big payoffs for me are discovering new words and enjoying the social aspect of the game. So my “house rules” are somewhat relaxed. Blank tiles can be exchanged and reused at will, challenges are friendly – if you misspell a word you simply replay your word. No missed turns or lost points. I allow using a dictionary to look up a word even if it isn’t challenged.
What a hubbub (cool word) these rules can create.
One friend of mine strongly disagrees. At her house you have to know the precise meaning of any word you play – even a word correctly spelled. If you’re challenged and can’t define and use your word in an everyday sentence, it doesn’t count. Try doing that with unau or spahi on the spur of the moment. I’ve missed my turn at her house more than once.
Yes, I’m somewhat competitive, but I also want to have fun. So scrabble at my house is like having a tasty dessert. In fact, it often is dessert.
Combine dinner and a friendly game – and you have the makings of a fun evening. Add some wine and music and it’s just about a perfect evening. Which is a good thing, because I also love to cook.
Fortunately, I have friends who love to eat and sample my kitchen fare. Really good friends know I rarely make the same thing twice. Why? I generally don’t use recipes and when I do I almost always alter them. I like to experiment with ingredients – cooking with what’s on hand in my pantry and fridge or with whatever strikes my fancy in the grocery store.
Take last week. On my way home from a lunch meeting I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a vegetable. It was supposed to be a quick in-and-out stop, but at the checkout the man behind me in line was raving so much about the Friday special – jumbo shrimp – I couldn’t resist. I paid for my broccoli and lettuce and headed back to the seafood section to check it out.
The next thing I knew, I was on my phone asking friends if they’d like to come for a spur-of-the-moment dinner that night. To my surprise, I found out she had been about to call and invite me for dinner. She had discovered the same special and was in the middle of prepping a shrimp salad recipe – more than enough to share she said. I accepted her invite and offered to bring wine and some fresh fruit for dessert.
On my way out I picked up some shrimp and Cajun rub. Shrimp two nights in a row sounded fine to me.
And two nights of shrimp – different people, different meals – were so much better than fine.
The salad recipe was a definite keeper – I’d use it. For the second night (another spur-of-the-moment invite) I decided to whip up a shrimp and pasta dish only to discover at the last minute I needed cilantro. (Yet again, thank goodness Ava’s is only a few blocks away.) My Cajun shrimp experiment with corn and grilled asparagus on farfalle was lip-smacking good – spicy enough to be exciting without burning.
I didn’t serve a fancy dessert the second night. We played a slow game of scrabble instead, sipping wine and laughing while we played. (I do seem to recall munching on some M&M Peanuts though.)
I won. But only because at the end of the game I managed a Hail-Mary type bingo play worth 89 points.
Dessert never tasted as sweet!