Cokie Roberts, Eat Your Heart Out

The recent passing of Cokie Roberts brought to mind a piece that I had written from an actual conversation my former husband and I had in 1996.

            Sometime during the first half of 1996, journalist Cokie Roberts reported that she and her husband Steve would write a series of columns based on their dinner conversations. They have written a syndicated column together for several years, but not in any newspapers to which I had access. I am not aware if their topics are actually from their dinner conversations. At the time, I thought the proposal seemed a bit odd, but dinner conversations can be interesting, some even worthy of taking notes.

            My former husband Arthur and I had the conversation related below in June 1996. He was the cook in the family from 1971 until the end of our marriage in 2006. He was good. I looked forward to most of his meals, and I’m sure many readers remember disappointment in varying degrees, when what they were anticipating on a given evening, did not appear on the table.

            Sometimes unusual circumstances can dictate what one ends up eating.

            When I saw the package of chicken legs on the baking tray with a matchbox, metal tongs and seasonings, I asked Arthur, “Why aren’t we having cold cuts for dinner tonight?”

            I liked cold cuts. Baby sweet pickles, giant green olives, black olives, pickled herring, marinated artichoke hearts, various bite-size cheese cubes were usually part of a delectable relish tray accompanying make-your-own cold sandwiches.

            “The supermarket didn’t have the right kind of brie cheese,” Arthur replied, “so we’re having barbecued chicken legs.”

            “Because they didn’t have the right kind of brie, we’re having barbecued chicken?” I asked.

            “That’s right. I was going to have cold cuts with brie and black olives.”

            “We’re not going to have cold sandwiches because we don’t have brie? How come we can’t have cold sandwiches without brie?”

            “Well, you asked me what I was going to barbecue, so I thought you wanted me to barbeque something.”

            “I only said that because I know how much you love to barbeque and I assumed you were going to barbeque. I thought you already knew that anytime there’s a choice between having a cold-cut dinner or something barbecued, I’ll take the cold stuff.”

            “They didn’t have the right kind of brie, anyway,” he said with a shrug.

            “I can have cold sandwiches without brie.”

            “Well, I need the brie container for my new bar of Lava.”

            “Oh.” (Translation: “That explains it all—not!”)

            “The gray-green slime has built up on the little brie can, and I want a new can for the new bar of Lava.”

            “So, the new bar of Lava is really the reason we’re having barbecued chicken legs?”

            “They didn’t have the right kind of brie. That’s why we’re having barbecued chicken legs.”

            “It is possible to have a cold meal without brie. We could have had cold sandwiches tonight.”

            “Tomorrow night we’ll have cold sandwiches…if the other supermarket has brie in the round can for the Lava.”

            “So, Lava is dictating what we have for dinner two nights in a row?”

            “You could say that.”

            The whole discourse had been civil, and I knew enough not to press the hand that fed me.

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