Tag Archives: Italian

A Sure Thing

She ordered Thai food for lunch. Pineapple fried rice, no doubt; probably with chicken. But she didn’t take a bite.

So many calls and meetings had interrupted her morning that the oatmeal she’d prepared had ended up hard and cold and unpalatable.  So she had her lunch–spiced lamb and hummus–for breakfast, and ordered takeout at lunchtime.

I’m sure she rushed to the lobby to meet the delivery person. I’m sure she tipped well.  I’m sure she put the bag on the floor carefully beside her desk, out of her way.  I’m sure she dove back into work. I don’t know why she left–maybe for another meeting, or maybe just to use the rest room.  But during that precise window, a custodian came to her office and did what he was meant to do: the restaurant bag on the floor was clearly intended to be discarded. She found it in the trash, opened and untouchable.

She was grumpy-hungry. Come to think of it, so was I.  I’d worked through breakfast, too. Lunch had been a long time ago, and that was before the stressful rehearsal, and the even more stressful drive through snow and sleet to meet her train.

She didn’t care what we had for dinner–even the kale soup, which she hadn’t liked after all that work. I’d had some of it for lunch, and liked it a lot, though with its bitter greens and wine-rich beef broth, I could see why she didn’t. Kale soup was out.

First rule of the kitchen: Love people, cook them tasty food. It had to be something we’d both like.  A sure thing.

I’d taken a small ball of pizza dough out of the freezer before I left for work. It was thawed and ready for action. I floured a mat, stretched it thin, and topped it with a little tomato sauce. Cheese next: a few dabs of ricotta, some shredded mozzarella, and some shaved parmesan. I’d defrosted a couple of meatballs, too; I crumbled one and added it, then topped with a little more mozzarella.  I was trying to make a calzone, but I hadn’t left quite enough dough for crimping.  I rolled the dough-and-toppings like a small burrito, and baked it for 15 minutes.  Not quite golden at that point, I gave it another 3.  Three more after that, and it was perfect.

During those last 6 minutes, I sautéed some vegetables: asparagus, grape tomatoes, and mushrooms.  That seemed more-than-vaguely Italian, and warmer than a salad. With the wintry mess outside, I wanted no cold food.

We watched the pilot episode of The West Wing during dinner. We’ve both seen it many times.  “I love these people!” she said, as CJ fell off a treadmill. We giggled as Sam revealed that he knew nothing about the history of the White House, and marveled at the strength of President Bartlet’s first entrance. We’ll go back to working our way through Alias sometime, but there are days when suspense and cartoonish violence should not be on the menu.

The calzone might have burned.  We might have had a driving accident in the snow. One of us might hurt the other with a flinching elbow or a careless word. Bad news or a TV story might lead to nightmares. Nothing in life is a sure thing.  But we go slowly and carefully, avoiding unnecessary risk, finding joy where we can, drinking lots of water, eating our vegetables. So far, so good.

The Second- or Third-Best-Laid Plans

Our plans began, as is so often the case, with an iMessage.

I know what to make for dinner! Mulligatawny Soup.  It’s usually served over rice, but crumbled cornbread will also do.

I was driving when the message came in, so I didn’t respond right away. I like her Mulligatawny Soup, rich with chicken, peppers, and spices, and thick with rice. I started trying to remember how many of the ingredients we had on hand.  When I arrived at the station to meet her train, our conversation didn’t go straight to food, though if it had, I might have said, “Mulligatawny is a good idea, but I could really go for a pile of vegetables, a little protein, and maybe a dinner roll.”

We headed off to the very large home improvement store to purchase electrical supplies. Her parents were arriving the next morning for a visit; her dad, a skilled electrician, was going to teach us how to install new electrical outlets. By the time we’d found everything on our shopping list, neither of us was in the mood for going to the market, much less cooking afterward.

“Let’s go out,” she said. “But to a place where it’s okay to be dressed like I am.” I was in dark jeans, a sweater, and a tweed jacket. She had worn jeans and a blouse to the office, and looked good enough to get into any restaurant I’d want to go to.

At a traffic light, the plans amended again. “We could just get take-out…”

We cruised slowly down Route 1, neither of us quite sure what would be on the menu. A favorite casual Italian place presented itself, and we stopped. And the plan amended again. “While we’re waiting for our entrees, let’s have a drink and an appetizer.”

“You’re going to laugh at me,” she said, looking up from the menu. (Plans were apparently changing again.) “Instead of a full meal, why don’t we share some appetizers and a salad?” I would never laugh at a girl who doesn’t particularly like vegetables ordering a salad. We considered the merits of the salad she had in mind, and settled instead on a sampler of appetizers–a few meatballs, a few chicken wings, and some breaded mozzarella–and a platter of roasted vegetables. We placed our order, and, as we sipped our drinks and toasted the good fortune of friends who’d just had a child, the waiter appeared with a bread basket.

It was my turn to smile. We had started by thinking about mulligatawny soup and ended up with a pile of vegetables, a little protein, and maybe a dinner roll. And we were both delighted with the evening.