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RSVPhillippi | January 2018

 
 

What's for Dinner?

“What do you feel like eating?”  This is the phrase that has begun thousands of conversations in my marriage. That’s not an exaggeration. We’ve been married for over 30 years, so if we average sharing five meals a week, that comes out to over 8,000 times one or the other of us has asked that question. The beauty of being the first to ask is that you force the other person to try to think of something they want to eat. It rarely works because the obvious answer is, “I don’t know, what do you want to eat?”  Stalemate.

  Something that you would think would make this simple, the fact that we only eat at about 10 places, actually makes it more difficult, because we like to pretend we might try something different. We won’t. We go to one Mexican restaurant. We go to one chain steakhouse. We go to one Chinese restaurant. We go to one deli. We go to one breakfast place. Most, if not all, of these choices are dictated by proximity to our house. If we can’t walk there or drive there in five minutes, we’re not going. People are always trying to get us to go to this new place they love that is either downtown or out East. We live in Midtown. There’s no way we’re going to drive 20 minutes to get something we already know we enjoy with a fourth the effort. When I had the idea for this column I had no idea it was going to involve so much math.

Another factor in this is the fact that I don’t care for interesting food. A good friend of mine is a fantastic chef and thanks to him, I’ve tried things I never in a million years thought I would. But as amazing as he is, I’m not going to make a steady diet of pork cheeks and tongue. We spend a lot of time in his restaurant, but when we eat there we’re probably going to get the most boring thing on the menu.  This drives him crazy. It doesn’t anger him, it disappoints him -- which is far worse.

While I eat shellfish, I don’t eat what I have always called “fish fish.” Never in my lifetime have I heard someone say, “This pork chop is too porky.”  Or “This steak is too beefy.” That designation is reserved for fish. It took me 20 years or more to get my wife to stop making me try a bite of her fish that she swore wasn’t “too fishy.” It was. Every time. So right there you can strike super fancy and fish off of the possible menu.

When we go out we like to eat and leave. We don’t linger.  We see couples our age all the time that have clearly been together for decades and sit long after their meal enjoying a glass of wine and one another’s company. We enjoy one another’s company after dinner too, but we prefer to be able to see a game while doing so. So, when picking a restaurant, we’re looking for a place we can get in and out of before, say, the second half has started. The easiest solution to this is to eat at a sports bar.

This is also a factor in deciding what we’re going to eat at home, which involves not only making a decision, but making it in advance.  When we’re in the grocery store on Sunday we’re supposed to be able to guess what we’re going to want to eat on Wednesday? You notice I said in the grocery store, not before going to the grocery store. That would involve far too much advance decision-making. Add into the equation that we really only eat beef, pork or chicken and you’ve got a limited menu to say the least. Can I make chicken cordon bleu? Yes I can. Am I going to make it for dinner Thursday? No, I am not. As often as not, it’s going to be one of the 10 or so things I consider easy to make. Therefore the question, “What do you want to eat?” really means “What, from the very few things I feel like messing with making, do you feel like eating?”

The irony of this is that I’m the one who doesn’t care for a lot of different foods and yet I’m the one who does most of the cooking. It would seem this gives me some kind of control over this situation, but nothing could be further from the truth. My wife may accept that I have a relatively short list of options available to her, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to not be able to decide among them. Plus, I do most of the cooking because I have the time to do most of the cooking. My wife has a real job with long hours. I cook. She works. Stalemate again.

A long marriage, as I’ve said many times, is basically a lifelong struggle for control. Whether it’s where to go for vacation, what to get someone for their birthday, or picking a restaurant, it’s all part of trying to be on top, figuratively speaking. It’s not a mean-spirited contest. There are no winners or losers. It’s just that when you’ve been together for decades it’s something to do. We could plan ahead, be systematic, and have a plan for every situation, but then what the heck are we going to talk about? If we can’t go a few rounds about where to eat or go for a long weekend, we’re going to completely run out of conversation. We may overcomplicate everything, but it’s better than being one of those long-term couples who spend every meal looking at their phones. 

Anyway, chicken? Pork? Beef? What do you feel like eating? Let the games begin.