“Once Married”

I was once married to a man who had to have three different foods for dinner. There had to be the main food – the meat or fish or pasta. There should be a vegetable, although if the main food was a pasta, there did not have to be a vegetable, because the tomato sauce could be considered the vegetable. If the main food was pasta, even though the tomato sauce was considered a vegetable, there still had to be a second and third food, and the second food was preferably a salad of some type, and the third food could be garlic bread. If the main food was meat or fish then it was easy – a vegetable or rice could be the second food, and a salad the third. Or it could be a vegetable and rice and no salad. This was the most common meal I served because it was open to the least interpretation. Meat, green beans, salad – couldn’t be easier. I could sense my husband’s discomfort when I made something like tacos, which we both loved, but made him feel off balance. Because tacos have many parts, yet are a meal in and of themselves. The way I do them is I warm up the hard shells, then, on the kitchen counter, I put bowls filled with chopped lettuce, sautéed hamburger meat (seasoned with cumin and garlic powder), sour cream, thinly sliced green onions, grated cheddar cheese, mashed avocado, and salsa. Theoretically this could be considered to be eight items. And it ends up all thrown together, not separate, so this is confusing. My husband usually, when I served the normal three items, would eat one thing at a time – finish his salad, then eat the steak, then the green beans. There seemed to be an order but I tried not to follow it, because it made my head hurt. There was also a thing about silverware that I could never keep straight. He liked a small spoon for oatmeal but a big spoon for dry cereal, or was it the other way around? A sharp knife for certain foods (of course, a roast or meat chop), but he didn’t like to use that same knife to butter a roll or an ear of corn, so I had to make sure there was a butter knife if there was something that might require buttering. I never figured out the correct procedure when I made spaghetti with sausages, but if I recall correctly, he would need a sharp knife to slice the sausage, but a non-serrated knife to butter the bread. But we didn’t both need a non-serrated knife, because we could share the one used to butter the bread. That one could be placed between our two place settings, resting lightly on the rim of the butter plate. I can’t remember which size spoon he used for ice cream, but now when I have a bowl of ice cream, I sometimes find myself wondering if his new wife has encountered the same challenges that I found so insurmountable.

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About Kathy Stevenson

Kathy Stevenson’s short stories and essays have appeared in an eclectic array of magazines, newspapers, and literary journals including The New York Times, Red Rock Review, Philadelphia Inquirer, Clapboard House, Chicago Tribune, Tishman Review, The Writer, and many other publications. She lives in San Diego and has an MFA from Bennington College.