What Do You Want?
"What do you want for dinner?"
The question opened a chasm before him. Far below, he could see the various nationalities of the world fighting each other for his attention. A Greek man smashed plates. A German barmaid hoisted two overflowing mugs of beer. A Chinese waiter bowed to him with respect, only to be mowed down by a Japanese samurai. Not to be outdone, and American cowboy pulled out a six-shooter and simultaneously fired and held up a plate of baby-back ribs. An Israeli and Arab seemed to be playing tug-a-war with a falafel pita, both claiming that their people had created it through divine inspiration from their God. John stepped back from the edge before the cannibals made their appearance.
"I don't know, what do you want, dear?"
Sarah gave him a look that made it clear that she'd asked him first, and thus she was absolved from having to field it herself.
For some reason, John had thought that once he was married, this would no longer be an issue. As if the joining of the two of them in the eyes of the state, god, and man would mean such intimate knowledge of each other that they need never again wonder what to eat. He had no reason to think that this would be so. His parents had certainly spent enough time pondering the same question. Of course, he'd never seen it as a kid, not until he was in high school. So he'd assumed that it was just a symptom, the first stage in what culminated in their divorce after he'd entered college. He glanced at Sarah who had picked up a magazine as if to show that she could wait for him to make up his mind. The two of them weren't in imminent danger of splitting up, were they?
"What did we have for dinner last night?"
"I made lasagna."
"Oh yeah, that was really good."
On their third date, John made them chicken cordon bleu using a hot plate and a toaster oven. The meal had not been without its problems, still Sarah had been impressed by his ambition, by the sheer effort he went into trying to impress her. They ate on the bed in his dorm room. Sarah ate like a pig, and then realizing he was too chicken to make the first move, made it herself. Later, she awarded him a ribbon for his feats in bed.
"So, no Italian," he stated.
"It's a start."
They visited John's mother to announce they were engaged. After dinner, his mom had hustled John and her second husband out of the kitchen. He later learned that over the task of cleaning up, his mother had passed along the recipes for his favorite dishes to his wife-to-be. Most of them had ceased to appeal to his tastes, but with some slight modification, she'd discovered that meat loaf was still his ultimate comfort food, and more than once he'd come home from a lousy day to find it already baking in the oven.
"What was the name of that Indian restaurant?" he asked.
"Gandhi. They're all named Gandhi."
"That's not true."
"I don't feel like Indian anyway."
Even though Sarah didn't keep kosher, at their wedding they served fish so that none of her relatives would complain. It was a salmon with mustard dill sauce, a pasta dish was also served, but neither was to John's father's liking, he left early before the burger place closed. Sarah's grandmother also secretly complained to him.
"The only time I can sneak a pork chop is when someone in the family marries a goyim," she confided.
Most people's complaints were shelved when it was revealed that instead of a traditional wedding cake, they were serving cheesecake with fresh strawberries. True to his word, John didn't push the dessert into Sarah's face.
"We could call Bob and Marsha.."
"And say what? Tell us what to have for dinner."
When he lost his job, they argued for hours. She'd been thinking of leaving her job, and she was stuck there until he found something new. He was angry about it, and lashed back at her. The chicken pot pie was forgotten in the oven, until the smoke started pouring out. They didn't even agree on what to have instead. John eating peanut butter and jelly, while Sarah fixed a small salad.
"Maybe we should eat in. We should cook up that ground beef before it turns."
"It already did. I was going to make stuffed peppers yesterday. Had to make the lasagna instead."
"There's ground beef in stuffed peppers?"
"What did you think I stuffed them with?"
"Never really thought about it."
After he had his wisdom teeth removed, Sarah fed him jell-o for two days. As he pointed out, his mouth hurt, but his arms weren't broken, but she insisted upon on feeding it to him spoonful by loving spoonful. When she was sick a few weeks later, he tried to repay the act using chicken noodle soup. After a near scalding, she made him promise to never try that again.
"That was a really good lasagna, yesterday," he said a little wistfully.
"There are leftovers. Would that be okay for you?"
"Yeah, I think so."
She gave him a kiss before heading to the kitchen. Soon, he could smell the aroma of tomato sauce cooking; she always warmed up extra with leftovers. In a moment, he'd get up to set the table and open a bottle of wine. They'd eat, talk, maybe get a little drunk, and cuddle up in bed together.
"Start thinking about what you want tomorrow," Sarah called out.