Humor Magazine

Honey I Shunk the Beef: An Unvitation and Subsequent Re-Invitation to a Traditional Irish Dinner

By Katie Hoffman @katienotholmes

Despite my Irish heritage, I’ve actually never eaten corned beef and cabbage before, so when my boyfriend’s best friend invited us over for an old-fashioned Irish meal the day before St. Patrick’s Day, I was about as intrigued as a person can be about eating salt-cured beef and cabbage. Unfortunately, like so many offers for a free meal, it turned out to be disheartening, disillusioning, and duodenum disappointing.

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I’m going to call my boyfriend’s best friend Trusty, as in the bloodhound from Lady and the Tramp, from this point on. Don’t get me wrong, my boyfriend’s best friend doesn’t have jowls or a superior sense of smell, but he always has a story to tell, and most of the time its relevancy and/or purpose is debatable. Trusty has the mannerisms and outlook of a man 40 years his senior, an attribute most recently evidenced by his choice use Consumer Cellular, a (seemingly unreliable) pay-as-you-go cell phone service that caters to senior citizens. Conversations with Trusty are a trapeze act that leave listeners hanging on the words of his last tangent before being catapulted onto the next drawn out, “Weeeeeeelllllllll, y’knoooooowww….”

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.24.08 AMDespite his peculiarities, Trusty is a truly loyal, well-meaning friend and a genuinely nice guy. Of my boyfriend’s colorful assortment of friends, Trusty is part of a short list of those whom I’ve bonded with, because he’s considerably more reserved, patient, and quiet when compared to my boyfriend and most of his other associates. I think it’s kind of like that episode of Seinfeld where everyone accused George of dating a lady Jerry. I’d hardly say I’m a female Trusty (my tangents are topical!), but I think my boyfriend’s and Trusty’s friendship works for a lot of the same reasons our relationship does: there’s a balance—a yin and yang. I digress.

An Invitation and Bakery Bungling

Trusty sent my boyfriend this text the evening of Friday, March 14th:

You & Katie are invited for Corned Beef & Cabbage for Sunday about 5:00 pm at our house!

My boyfriend mentioned the (overly exclamatory) corned beef invitation to me that same evening, but I had a feeling he didn’t respond with our RSVP. My boyfriend is notorious for ignoring Trusty’s frequent calls and occasional text messages, because he often finds Trusty’s scuttling train of thought to be fatiguing. Allegedly, my boyfriend tried calling Trusty several times on Saturday and even left a message, but never heard from him.

Since I assumed our RSVP has been confirmed at some point, I went to the bakery on Sunday around 10 a.m. to get something to bring to the party. Beyond being a gracious guest, my main motivation for getting something sweet was to compensate for the potential yuck factor of the corned beef and cabbage (and Trusty’s wife’s company). Trusty’s wife has a history of passive aggressively bringing food items to parties my boyfriend hosts, so this was a great opportunity to get back at her for her most recent banana pudding offense.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.28.23 AMSunday at the bakery is equivalent to Black Friday at Best Buy—if you don’t get in there early, don’t expect to leave without some bruised ribs or an aggravated assault charge on your record. I had to throw a few elbows just to get to the number dispenser from which I gingerly pulled out a pink forked ticket that read “36.” I thought to myself, 36 isn’t so bad! I thought I’d be waiting forever! A glance to the electronic number indicator on the wall revealed they were currently waiting on number 3.

As the visor-wearing bakery girls called all 33 people ahead of me to fulfill their orders, I internally criticized every choice each of these sweet roll hopefuls made:

Why wouldn’t you just let these experts use their machine slice your bread? You’re going to fucking regret “don’t slice it” this week when you’re making a sandwich and the slices you cut are too thick to fit in a Ziploc bag.

Did you really just come into the bakery for one paczki? You’re a tool.

No one needs a dozen jelly doughnuts. What the fuck is wrong with you? Ever heard of chocolate?

Boysenberry scones? Do you see any fucking boysenberry scones behind the glass, lady?

Munchkins? THIS ISN’T DUNKIN DONUTS. THEY’RE CALLED DOUGHNUT HOLES HERE! I’m embarrassed for you. You should be forced to relinquish your number. 

While I’m mentally berating sweet-toothed strangers, I’m pacing in front of the cookie section. You see, I decided to get a loaf of soda bread (sliced) and a dozen shamrock shaped cookies. For the record, these weren’t your average cookie cutter delights, these were the specialty sugar cookies decorated with frosting and adorned with a plastic ring that you’d insist on putting on your finger even though you know it’s going to make your entire existence sticky because you just finished licking the excess frosting off of it thirty seconds ago! My favorite.

After each number was called, I got nervous that some wealthy cookie lover would saunter over, number 30 perhaps, and with one sweeping gesture declare, “Give me all your shamrock cookies!” I had to stand my ground.

At last, my number was called and my dozen cookies were verbally secured, but that means nothing in the bakery on Sunday morning.

The agitated bakery employee disappeared into the back to search for a box that would not only be big enough to accommodate my cookie order, but would also spare me the emotional devastation of any green frosting getting smeared from stacking the cookies (bless her heart). Meanwhile, I kept my eye on some thoughtless jackass who pointed his young, well-behaved daughter toward the precious decorated cookies. Does stealing cookies from a young child have the same stigma as taking candy from a baby?



I briefly considered getting an individual shamrock cookie of my own to shamelessly enjoy in the parking lot (the bakery is a higher pressure situation than even the deli at the grocery story, okay? Anything that involves numbers being called makes me anxious–especially bingo.), but I figured I’d wait to indulge until after suffering through the corned beef that night.

The girl who was helping me returned one large box and a smaller box. The large box was emblazoned with the word “PACZKI” in red letters on the top flap. Was this chick for real? Am I supposed to show up to this dinner with a fraudulent paczki box that will no doubt trigger cries of exaltation, only to be followed with my disappointing damage control monologue, during which I’ll apologetically explain that the contents of the box are not in fact paczki, but some shamrock-shaped, frosted sugar cookies which, though totally delicious in their own right, pale in comparison to the prospect of a big box of assorted paczki. I was about to insist on a different box that was more accurately labeled “DELICIOUS FESTIVE COOKIES,” but then I saw how carefully this chick was arranging my shamrock cookies, shifting them clockwise and counterclockwise, nestling them in the box with the same attentive care as someone putting a pair of shoes they can’t afford back into their shoebox in the Macy’s shoe department.

In that defining moment, I couldn’t be the disgruntled cookie curmudgeon who complains about a misrepresentative paczki box while a huge mob clamors for glazed doughnuts and almond coffee cake nearby. I paid for my cookies and sliced soda bread and carried my partially fraudulent baked parcels out to the car.

An Unreceived Unvitation

On Sunday around noon my boyfriend sent Trusty a text that read:

We’ll be there. 5 right?

Trusty’s get-togethers usually include his wife’s entire family tree, Trusty’s immediate family, a handful of friends, five neighbors and their spawn, three buddies from college, two complete strangers Trusty insists everyone has met before, and a partridge in a pear tree. I wore my good mascara because with that many degrees of separation, Kevin Bacon could be showing up for corned beef for all I knew.

My boyfriend has a Candy Crush problem (he doesn’t consider a level truly “complete” until he earns three stars), so I asked him kindly to abstain from crushing candies during dinner, and because he literally cannot control himself, he decided to leave his phone at home entirely. These are the circumstances that lead to us missing this important text from Trusty at 4:34 p.m. the night of the dinner:

Sorry my phone hasn’t been working but were short on meat…I’m going w mother at Jack Desmonds if u want to go there

We had already packed the cookies and soda bread in the trunk, and after stopping for gas, we were en route to Trusty’s dinner party which, unbeknownst to us, had been cancelled due to a meat shortage.

We pulled into Trusty’s empty driveway about 15 minutes before 5:00.

“When Trusty says 5, he means five…” my boyfriend remarked.

We had expected a line of cars to be there, as is the norm at Trusty’s parties, but Trusty never explicitly said it was going to be a party.

“Maybe he just invited us,” I offered as we slowly climbed out of the car.

I grabbed the “paczki” box and my boyfriend carried the smaller cookie box and soda bread (which was probably the closest my boyfriend will probably ever be to soda bread).

As we walked down the gravel driveway toward the front door, we both noticed that Trusty’s residence looked like the house every trick-or-treater skips on Halloween. There weren’t any lights on. The windows were shuttered. A tumbleweed rolled by. The entire property looked about as welcome as a penitentiary, only instead of a barbed wire fence, Trusty and his green thumb had created an impenetrable fortress of trees and shrubs.

My boyfriend used the knocker to bang on the door, and after enough time passed for the two us to exchange a nervous glance, Trusty opened the door already halfway through an explanation,

“…didn’t hear from you so I assumed you were politely declining, and the meat shrunk so there really wasn’t enough, and we have a little meat left, but… You can come in. Oh and you brought…”


Once inside, it became very clear we were interrupting a nuclear family’s intimate dinner—one that we thought we were invited to. Trusty’s two daughters were sitting at the table, and to my chagrin, Trusty’s unpleasant wife appeared by his side with an emphatic, “THERE’S CARROTS!”

She gestured toward the counter like Vanna White, and I spotted a few leftover carrots in a glaze that had already started to harden at room temperature. The “little meat left” Trusty referenced was sitting on a cutting board, and the texture alone convinced me it probably wasn’t fit for human consumption.

“Weeeeeelllll y’knnnoooow, when I didn’t hear from you I thought you were politely declining. And then the meat shrunk, and we didn’t have enough… I guess you didn’t see my text. I texted you! I’m really sorry.”

My boyfriend started rattling off his many attempts at contacting Trusty over the past few days to deliver our RSVP (smoke signal, carrier pigeon, strategically-placed braille), and I set the “paczki” box next to microwave. While my boyfriend continued to chit-chat with Trusty and his wife, I realized that the frosted shamrock cookie I was counting on eating this evening would never tickle my taste buds. I couldn’t very well open the box and take a cookie out! These were a thoughtful gift! And even though technically the unspoken contract that obligates me to offer Trusty these cookies became null and void when he revealed his attempts to un-invite us, I didn’t want to make him feel any worse than he already did. I had to choice but to abandon the cookies and add them to the list of casualties these unfortunate circumstances had wrought, not far behind our appetites.

Wallowing in the depths of cookie grief, I glanced at Trusty’s two daughters in the breakfast nook. His girls are both under the age of 10, and they’re so sweet and well behaved—but I have no idea who taught these kids how to eat. At previous dinners out with Trusty, I’ve seen one of his daughters go to town on a pickle like a dog slurping the marrow out of a bone. Today, the daughter whose back wasn’t turned to me ate roughly four pieces of bread while the adults were talking, and she didn’t simply eat it like a sandwich or rip pieces off; this was an intricate process of folding and taking strategic bites of varying sizes.

“Welllllllllllll, y’knnnnnnoooow, I texted you that I’m taking the mother to Jack Desmond’s tomorrow if you want to meet us up there. My treat, because the meat shrunk… I’m really sorry…”

It’s hard to tell which was more precarious, the meat Trusty’s wife had shrunk or a dinner with Trusty’s mother present, but we agreed to meet Trusty at Jack Desmonds at 6:30 p.m. the next day.

The Mother, Jack Desmonds, and Kathleen

I arrived at Jack Desmonds Irish Pub solo at 6:35 p.m after double-checking that we were still invited. My boyfriend was meeting us a little later because he has a longer commute. For a while, it was just going to be Trusty, The Mother (Trusty’s mom), and me until my boyfriend arrived. I figured potential topics of conversation would include being Irish, my teeth, the fact I work in the same building The Mother used to work at 30+ years ago, my boyfriend, the shrunken meat, and being Irish.

Finding people you know at an unfamiliar Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day is impossible. I walked in and literally everyone was wearing the color green. I looked around the bar for Trusty, and I tried to keep my eyes peeled for a 70-year-old woman with a Claddagh-inspired neck tattoo, but there was no sign of Trusty or The Mother. I was considering retreating to my car and waiting for my boyfriend when Trusty came out from one of the back dining rooms in a striped green shirt.

He showed me back to the table where The Mother was joined with his daughters and a woman who was missing a substantial amount of teeth. She had roughly two inches of white roots showing with the rest of her hair dyed a dark brown. She looked like an unkempt, less dedicated Cruella De Vil (I liken everyone I meet to Disney characters).

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Trusty filled me in with an introduction,

“This is my mother’s friend Kathleen…” Kathleen extended her hand to me.

“I’m going to go look for the waitress. Keep an eye on the girls…” I should have begged Trusty not to leave me alone with these women.

“Hi Kathleen, I’m Katie.”

I took her hand and tried to shake it traditionally, but she started spasmodically caressing my palm and the top of my hand and wiggling her fingers in the most uncomfortable hand exchange I’ve ever experienced. I soon realized my boyfriend had mentioned Kathleen before. Her and The Mother are living together, and Kathleen is a bit of a nut job.

“Are you Kathleen, too, or Katherine?” Kathleen asked.


“I’m Kathleen!”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

“Katie’s the one Mike’s going to marry!” the mother chimed in. Quelle horreur. I’m not engaged yet, and these aren’t premature cold feet or pessimism talking, but let’s not count our chickens, ladies.

Kathleen clasped her hands together and beamed as if she was on retainer as my wedding planner, “OH HOW WONDERFUL!”

The mother looked at me seriously, “Does your mother know?”

“Um, she’s met Mike. I mean, yeah, she has an idea? We’re not engaged, yet… But. Yes?”

“Are you her only daughter?” Kathleen asked.

I nodded, “Yeah, I’m an only child.”

“Ohh! An only son and an only daughter.”

“His mom is dead, anyway. She was terrible to him. She would’ve been a horrible mother-in-law. She said he was an accident—that’s the worst thing a mother could say to a child,” The Mother finished with an indignant snort.

At this point, I wanted to crawl under the table and hide there until Trusty came back with drinks or my boyfriend showed up. As if this entire situation couldn’t be any more uncomfortable, both Kathleen and The Mother were wearing green beaded necklaces with oversized pendants that read “Irish 4 The Day,” which I found a little misleading because they’re both genuinely Irish. Trusty’s daughters were both wearing pink Easter bunny masks, which made me feel like I was making a cameo in an adorable child remake of Spring Breakers.


“How old was she when she died?” Kathleen whimpered.

“50-something,” the mother and I responded in unison.

I was texting my boyfriend that this dinner was going to be a lot more than we bargained for, because I didn’t want him to walk into a St. Patrick’s Day ambush. I set my phone down and looked up to find Kathleen crying about the death of my boyfriend’s mother, a woman who she’d never met. What the fuck is going here?

“Well, the waitress said she’d be around in a second,” Trusty returned just in time for Kathleen to dry her crocodile tears.

Trusty started rehashing the entire shrunken beef debacle again while I studied the menu. Jack Desmonds was offering some traditional Irish fare for St. Patrick’s Day, and my boyfriend had given me permission to order for him. Unfortunately, there was no telling if he’d actually eat anything on the menu:

Corned beef and cabbage

Shepherd’s Pie

Reuben Sandwich

Fish and Chips

Bangers and Mash

…Would I even eat anything on the menu?

Fifteen minutes had passed since Trusty came back and told us the waitress said she’d be around for our drink order, but it quickly became clear the pub was understaffed, which is perhaps the last thing you’d expect at an establishment named “Jack Desmonds” on St. Patrick’s Day, the Christmas of Irish pub holidays.

Doubting if we’d ever see our waitress again, Trusty went back to the bar and came back again with drinks for the women, but he soon left again to get a drink for himself, and I endured a conversation about my last name, how Irish I am, and the uncanny coincidence that I work in the same building The Mother used to work in.

“Doesn’t she have pretty teeth?” The Mother mentioned. I never tire of dental compliments.

“Yes! She does! I wish my teeth looked like that. It’s the sweets,” Kathleen added emphatically.

“PEPSI!” The Mother accused, not realizing that blaming Pepsi for all her missing teeth might have been a faux pas because Kathleen was drinking Pepsi.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 6.48.11 AM“Katie, did you ever eat those Hostess cupcakes with the cream filling? With the little squiggle on top?” I could tell Kathleen was channeling a memory here.

“Yeah, I’ve had those before…”

“When I was a girl I used to come home after school and eat those right before dinner! My mother would come and say, “Kathy, you better not be eating those cupcakes!” But I already had two packages in my belly!”

“How old were you?” The Mother asked, clearly more interested in this story than I could ever be.


“Oh? That young…”

You’re never too young to binge on Hostess cupcakes.

Our waitress finally surfaced, and we placed our orders. I took a risk on the Shepherd’s Pie, because I’ve never met a pie I didn’t like, and I was hoping that trend would continue. Just after we ordered, my boyfriend finally showed up with an unwelcome plus one: his crabby attitude. He sat across from me still deeply entrenched in the latest annoyance at his job, a coworker who, according to his reports, produces breast milk more frequently than any other mammal.

“Is this all the food they have? Did anyone ask?” My boyfriend inquired, scanning the meager menu, aghast.

“Weeeeelllllll y’knnnnnoooow, specials, St. Patrick’s Day…” Trusty offered.

My boyfriend ended up ordering the fish and chips, and I was glad I didn’t go with my gut and order him the reuben sandwich.

Another 45 minutes of Trusty’s weeeeeeeelllll y’knnnnoooows, Kathleen’s craziness, The Mother’s impatience, and my boyfriend’s crabbiness passed while I sipped my cosmo, quietly reflecting that we could have avoided all of this if we had only seen that text damn text message. Our food finally arrived, and I’m proud to say my pie record is still intact.

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During the meal, Kathleen regaled us with stories about her gentleman caller, Jerome.

“I went out to dinner with Jerome the other day. He’s cheap, so he likes me to pay.” Kathleen mentioned wistfully.

“Who’s Jerome?” I blurted out. This was the only compelling conversation that had happened all night.

“Oh, he’s a friend I’ve known since I was a girl…”

He’s a longtime fuck buddy. Gross.

“Now, he didn’t come to the house, did he?” Trusty asked.

“No, no, I told him. He doesn’t mind. He’ll wait at the end of the block for me…”

I was charmed that Jerome had such antiquated methods of courtship! Until my boyfriend later informed that The Mother told Trusty that Jerome mentioned having a threesome with herself and Kathleen, so he’s subsequently been banned from the property. Check, please.

Kathleen had a fistful of crumped dollar bills in her hand, showing them to Trusty to prove she had money.

“I’ll pay the tip for me and The Mother.”

Oh! How generous of you, Kathleen. I was worried that we’d be two dollars short.

When The Mother started in again on my boyfriend and I getting married, it was time to say goodnight. Besides, Trusty’s daughters had started biting the skin off of their Irish sausage and picking the seeds out of lemon slices. I’d had my fill of not only shepherd’s pie, but of this bizarre company. I lied and told Kathleen it was nice meeting her, and my boyfriend and I managed to escape before Trusty sucked us into fifteen minute goodbye ceremony.

Back at home, my boyfriend and I lay in bed and watched an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive, feeling the full implications of art imitating life.

Next time we’ll make sure we receive our unvitation to dinner.

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