I like pizza and lasagne. Well, I used to. After several weeks of saving money by accepting invitations to dinner at my boyfriend's house, I never want to eat anything with tomato sauce in it again because it appears the only two dinner options he can conceive of are pizza and lasagne.
I countered by inviting him to my place for dinner and a movie. He said, "Okay, I’ll bring some food and we can cook." I pictured him stopping by the store to pick up some fresh ingredients for a recipe he wanted to try. Nope. Stouffer’s frozen lasagne. Fourteen minutes in the microwave. The next time I suggested carryout, maybe from Golden Buddha, Nagasaki Inn, Thai Garden – hell, even Applebees. He showed up with Dominos pizza. The smell made me queasy. I went to the kitchen and made myself some soup, a quick Asian recipe with a simple broth, a few veggies, some noodles, fish balls and a garnish of cilantro.
"Now what is that?" he asked, eyeing the steaming soup like something might spring out of it at him.
"Fish ball soup."
"What?! No. They really have balls? Sick!"
"No, they don’t have balls. It’s like a meatball… only it’s fish." The explanation didn’t help. He actually scooted a few inches away from me and, with a wary sideways glance, dragged his pizza box along protectively.
So the next time, I announced that I would be cooking us dinner. I was in the middle of preparations – happily peeling, slicing and dicing – when he came over. "Cold beer in the fridge for while you wait," I told him, and then thinking of the capelin roe catastrophe (from my story in the "I Love Sushi" Experience) I decided it was best not to let him root around in the fridge and added, "Let me get it for you."
"Why? What the hell’s in there now?" he demanded, apparently also still traumatized by the fish egg incident. "Am I going to open the door and find something looking at me?"
"As a matter of fact, yes," I warned him, thinking of the package of whole frozen smelts that was thawing for tomorrow night.
"Jesus. Your kitchen is like Fear Factor."
"Don’t worry. We’re having chicken tonight. Just good old American chicken that was probably murdered and torn limb from limb at the Tyson plant not far from here, where there is nothing icky or creepy apart from the smell and the occasional accident with a worker falling in a rendering vat like happened a couple years ago. Okay?"
"Okay," he said, grudingly reassured. Then after a moment, "Wait – what part of the chicken? It better not be ******* beaks or something."
"It’s not," I snapped, getting a little testy at the reminder of a past cooking failure with him. On a trip to Colombia I had been served a bowl of hearty soup that contained chickens feet, which made a lovely rich broth for the rice, potatoes and other veggies to simmer in. It was delicious. Using chickens feet purchased at the international market back home, I had recreated the recipe for us. After finding out what was in it, he had spat his first mouthful of broth back into his soup bowl and declared a 24 hour moratorium on kissing me because I’d had "nasty bird feet" in my mouth.
After that debacle, I was keeping it simple and safe: chicken with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. I left the kitchen for just a couple minutes to take the trash out to the dumpster and while I was gone, the boyfriend apparently got up to get himself another beer. I walked back into my apartment just in time to see him slamming the refrigerator door. "Tentacles! There is some **** in there that has tentacles! That is it! We are going out for dinner."
"There’s nothing with tentacles in your dinner tonight. Calm down."
"I don’t care. For all I know, your cat could be in there," he countered. He was smiling and half-joking. But only half joking, and clearly alarmed. "And where is Bella, anyway?" he added checking the windowsill where the kitten could often be found.
"Now, come on – I can’t leave all this food on the stove in the middle of cooking."
"Well, I’m going out and get something then. I can’t eat that… whatever it is. I’m sorry. So, what should I get?"
"Just no pizza. No lasagne. Please."
"Right. Got it," he said. And twenty minutes later he made a grand entrance trailing a waft of the distinctive metallic smell of tomato sauce and announced, "Spaghetti!"