Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lunch

Seeing me start to move around the kitchen in a purposeful sort of way, my husband, home sick from work, took his cell phone away from his ear for a moment. "What shall we have for lunch?" He asked.

I had just returned from Whole Foods, and the fridge was full. I was thinking of sauteing some pretty little tak choi leaves with ginger and garlic and chili oil and serving them with leftover spaghetti tossed with sesame oil. In fact, the dish had occurred to me while I was shopping, and I was feeling smug about it, happily anticipating the aroma of sesame and ginger that would fill the kitchen.

My husband made a sad puppy-eyes face. "Can we have frozen pizza?" He asked. "Please? I feel so sick. I want frozen pizza."

The last time he went to Whole Foods by himself, my husband discovered the smallish, relatively inexpensive 365 brand frozen pizzas. I am not, in a general sort of way, a frozen-pizza type gal, but I have no particular objections to a frozen pizza every now and then, particularly if it is not too expensive and does not have very many mysterious compounds in its list of ingredients. I couldn't help but feel annoyed, though, at my husband's request. I was annoyed that my husband thought he would enjoy frozen pizza more than my cooking; I was annoyed that he wanted to use up what was ostensibly an emergency meal supply on a day when there was plenty of food in the house and a free hand to cook it; I was annoyed that my own little lunch project was about to be hijacked by his; I was annoyed, in that way that minor irritations cause flareups of long-smoldering complaints, at what in the moment seemed to be the relentless mediocrity of my husband's taste in food. Mounds of extra salt on lunch and dinner,* mounds of extra sugar on breakfast and dessert, potato chips and diet soda every day, McDonald's, takeout Chinese, and pizza pizza pizzapizzapizza! And NOW to demand frozen pizza over a beautiful, flavorful hot lunch - and to blame it on being sick, when that's all he ever wants anyway-

Possibly seeing the murderous look on my face, my husband backpedalled. "We could have pizza AND sauteed greens with noodles?" He suggested tentatively. This, of course, made me even madder, particularly as we had been over this ground last week, when I had to explain to him that it would be a waste to eat both frozen pizza AND pasta for dinner, as that would use up the ingredients for two meals on one day. If he really wanted frozen pizza, I had explained carefully, it would be best to fill the meal out with a nice big salad and save the pasta for the next evening, when it would make a full meal by itself. To have him make the very same suggestion now, just a few days later, made my eyes cross with pique.

"NO!" I snapped. "If you want pizza, we'll have pizza and salad. It would be stupid to make two meals."

The kitchen is perhaps the most fraught of domestic spaces - more, I would argue, much more, than the bedroom. On the other hand, if you are not too tired, it can be almost impossible to hold onto resentment when you are really engaged by your kitchen work. I was seething as I put away my tak choi and my ginger, but, as I assembled the elements for Lunch Take Two, I felt myself soften. "Oh," I thought, in a fit of kitchen-induced sentimentality, "let the guy have his pizza."

We sprinkled crushed red pepper on our frozen pizza, and we ate it with wild arugula tossed with lemon and oil and plenty of salt and pepper, one sake cup-full of pine nuts and one sake cup-full of walnuts, and, for dessert, a teacup-full of blueberries with honey and yogurt. It was a perfect meal.

* I am a total believer in salt, don't get me wrong, but relenstless salting of everything just seems, when I am in an uncharitable mood, the heart of dull, insensate piggery.