I remember a Bozooka Joe cartoon from when I was a kid. It was just one panel, and featured a mother saying to her son: “I’ve told you a million, billion times not to exaggerate.” I didn’t get it at the time–I was, like two. Or maybe four. But I eventually did, and came to find the cartoon funny. It was my earliest exposure to–what is that–irony? Whatever. It spoke to me. I identified. It stuck with me–the humor, not the gum.
For I’m an exaggerator, and always have been.
And that’s why, tonight, I used the phrase “arctic” to describe the breeze coming through our dining room window. Mike and I had just sat down to a sumptuous meal of spaghetti and meat sauce–made by him–and arugula salad–made by me. My statement about the wind was met with a look of disbelief.
So, OK. It’s not quite that cold. But it is cool by L.A. standards. For June.
This is what got Mike and I started on what I’ll call “the dinner of disagreements.” First we debated the quality of the wind. Then we got into an argument about Joni Mitchell’s “River.” (Mike finds it “on the nose,” whatever that means. I love it.) Then it was the salad.
You see, I made arugula again. I always do. When it comes to lettuce I am a one-hit wonder. I’d eat arugula for every meal, if I could. I adore it. And tonight’s batch was extra special. This was no Trader Joe’s fresh-pak. No, the rocket, this time, came from Cookbook, a super fancy artisanal-and-organic-everything store in Echo Park. I can’t generally afford to shop there, but I’d won a $50 gift certificate, so stopped in yesterday to pick up a few things. A total of eight items consumed my certificate. One of them was a medium-sized sack of my favorite lettuce. I knew it would be stellar.
And it was–better than I even expected. Spicy, tangy, peppery–everything you want arugula to be. The Platonic ideal. The ne plus ultra. The stemmy jewel in a lettuce-y crown.
“This is the best arugula I’ve tasted since I lived in the Hamptons,” I said, as I put the finishing touches on my dressing.
Mike turned from the stovetop to stare at me. “Did you really just say that?”
I made a face at him. “Whatever. It’s super good.”
He sighed, and trudged to the table dutifully. I should mention he kind of hates arugula.
And yet I keep making it. I am selfish this way. As if that’s not bad enough, I make huge portions. Where salads are concerned I have a tendency towards excess–a fear of not having enough, I suppose. So, instead of putting a modest pile of leaves in the bottom of the bowl, I fill it to the rim. I make enough for ten. Soldiers. Big ones. With scurvy.
Poor Mike is not one to leave food uneaten. Something about his childhood. So he eats. And eats. And eats.
Tonight he was on his third portion of greens when we got into an argument about whether or not I was “predictable.” Mike said that, where salad was concerned, I was. I interpreted his comment more globally, and took umbrage. Both of us shoved great gobs of serpentine leaves down our throats as we took turns rebutting the other:
“I didn’t say you were predictable.”
“Yes you did.”
“I was talking about your cooking!”
“Oh, thanks a lot!”
And so on.
We got through this eventually. But soon we were disagreeing again. This time it was about preschool graduations. Mike thinks they’re silly. I think he has a heart of granite. “How can you not see the import,” I cried, wiping oil from my lower lip, “of such rituals in a child’s life?”
“You’d better be there,” I said, folding my napkin emphatically, “on the day.”
“The day what?”
I narrowed my eyes at him impatiently. “The day she graduates.”
“From preschool? Of course I’ll be there!” he said.
“You’d better cry.”
“It’s in two years.”
“I can’t make any promises.”
He’ll cry, alright. He’ll cry because I will make him arugula salads every single day for the rest of his life if he doesn’t. Huge bowls of them. Buckets. Barrels. Vats. Dumpsters. Corn silos. Universes. Filled with arugula. Then tossed with tomatoes, olives, and thinly sliced parmesan rinds, just like they were tonight. (That last part was a mistake. But I will repeat it if I must.)
Wow, you’re saying, you’re really the punitive type, aren’t you?
No, I’m not. I just really love my rocket. With cheese instead of rind, it’s truly a spectacular dish.