The day I left for California, POI took me to lunch at Buvette, one of my favorite cafes in New York.
I ordered the salade niçoise, planning ahead for the cafe’s excellent chocolate mousse, served in the form of a decadent little mountain topped with a luscious dollop of house-whipped cream, an ice cap of chilled fat.
“I’m so excited to go home,” I said to POI between bites, “I’m going to eat all the things I’ve been craving for the past eight months.”
POI nodded, his bites smaller and slower than mine, “Like what.”
“In n’ Out, for one,” I said.
POI nodded his approval.
“And…” I rattled off all the foods I associated with SoCal living and didn’t even know I missed until I was heading back.
Pho, Korean BBQ, simple Taiwanese Chinese food, Chinese desserts, my mother’s home cooking, my aunt’s home cooking, affordable Japanese food, Mexican food, Souplantation, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos… it was not a short list.
“I’m going to come back a cow,” I said.
His spoon paused mid-air, “No fat Betty.”
It was an inside joke, tinged with seriousness. On our fourth date he’d made reservations at Jeffrey’s Grocery – another favorite – and ordered an off-the-menu pork chop. It was big, as in, if two people with normal appetites split it, there might have been some leftover. But if POI doesn’t exercise, he has a below average appetite and I, if I don’t exercise, have an appetite bordering on excessive. We started at opposite ends of the chop and worked our way in, though I beat him to the middle. About ten bites behind, POI put his fork down.
“I am disgustingly full,” he said, “I cannot eat another bite.”
Great, I thought, more pork chop for me.
Eventually the meat was gone, save for the meat around the bone, which, if you know anything about meat, is the juiciest, tastiest part and often can’t be excised satisfactorily with a silly knife. Angles, you know?
POI watched me watch the pork chop. I had not made eye contact with him in a while.
“You want to gnaw on the bone, don’t you,” He was learning something about me.
“No no, no no.” I too, put my fork down and pushed the plate away, “I’m done, that was amazing.”
A few minutes later POI excused himself to the restroom. An opportunity presented itself. I have never been one to leave meat on the bone. Why now, especially with a pork chop as delicious as this?
I figured I had about three minutes, maybe four, to clean the bone and have the waiter whisk away the evidence. I got to work, never mind that I was wearing a rather frilly sundress and had my makeup done by my friend Angie, a professional makeup artist who was staying with me that week for New York Fashion Week. She had worked on J. Crew models all morning then generously gussied up my hair and face for my date with POI – just so I could smear it with pork grease. I bit down and gnawed with concentration, thinking how in the future, I ought to carry floss.
I felt a tap on my shoulder.
Damn. Why wasn’t there a line for the men’s room?
I turned, still holding the bone to my teeth.
POI’s expression bore bemusement with a shade of horror – something I like to think he saves just for me. “You didn’t want to gnaw on the bone.”
I grinned. No point in pretending now. I was two percent sheepish and ninety-eight percent satisfied. I doubt Jeffrey’s Grocery had ever seen a such a sparkling pork rib.
Since then, I’ve consistently eaten more than POI, except when we exercise. When endorphins are released, something magical happens. POI turns into a bottomless abyss for nacho chili cheese fries and pizzas and burgers with cheese. Anything with cheese, basically, and I turn into that girl at the restaurant who looks like she eats way more than the “Just a salad with the dressing on the side” she orders. For POI a revved up appetite is a biological function. For me the reverse that happens is largely psychological. Why undo all the hard work I put into ___(insert strenuous and unpleasant exercise POI coerced/tricked me into)____ by eating like I normally do? Better to wait a day, when I turn into lazy, sedentary Betty to eat tons.
A normal person would think, “This kind of thinking is great. I ought to exercise more, every day!”
But I am special.
We finished lunch and took a walk – my preferred form of exercise – towards POI’s office. We stopped at a red light and I turned to POI.
“Would you really break up with me if I got fat?”
POI hesitated, then lied.
“Well,” he said, nodding that the walk sign was on, “I’ll give you a maximum of ten pounds.”