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Life after lobster

(article, Anna Seip)

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One lobster omelet can really turn a girl’s head. I slogged through a relationship for five years because of one great breakfast.

The omelet tasted like heaven: fluffy egg, melted cream cheese flecked with scallions, buttery chunks of lobster and little rocks of kosher salt sprinkled on top. As I heaped praises upon my new boyfriend, he took it in stride. 

I’d never known a man before who knew how to cook. He even baked, making his living as a pastry chef at a French bakery. 

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I was young, just out of college, and my idea of dinner was a value menu with a drive-thru. Candy was one of my four food groups. David was 15 years older and subscribed to more than one cooking magazine. I pored over the issues as they arrived at his house, as if those magazines would give me some insight into his soul. My vocabulary grew as I looked up words like coulis, palmier, and tapenade. 

He took me to restaurants and made me try soft-shell crabs. And escargot. I cracked the sugar crust of a crème brûlée and sighed with joy when he pointed out the black flecks of vanilla.

David was the first person I’d ever met who would order things that weren’t even on the menu. “Give me some angel hair, not too much sauce, and some mussels mixed in,” he’d say to the server. 

I could tell I wasn’t the first woman he’d impressed with his culinary skills, but I didn’t care. The pie-in-the-sky moments were worth it. After a few months, I moved into his place. 

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One night, we went to an Italian restaurant where the lighting was soft and candles flickered on the table. I wore a slinky black dress and ordered chicken alfredo. He shook his head and ordered something else for me. 

After the waitress walked away, he said, “My alfredo sauce is so much better than anything they make here. Don’t order it here. I’ll make it for you sometime.” 

So I ate what he thought I should, and it was excellent. Who cared about eating, anyway, when the setting was this romantic? 

Another time, we went for lunch at a ski lodge with a small menu. I wanted a BLT. Wrong again. He said it was better to order turkey instead of bacon at a little place like this. But I wanted a BLT.

“If you get that,” he said, “all the cooks in the back will be laughing at us. A BLT is the simplest thing in the world to make. Nobody orders that in a restaurant.”

So I got the turkey sandwich, even though I was in the mood for bacon. 

Watching him send food back to the kitchen became embarrassing. He’d demand a better table. Or turn his nose up at a bottle of Champagne that cost less than a day’s pay. 

There were cracks in the pie crust of our relationship. And he still hadn’t made me that alfredo sauce he'd promised. 

As our relationship soured, so did our meals. We spent evenings eating in silence. Or apart. Sometimes, like an adulterer, I’d stop at a drive-thru for French fries and not tell him. While he grilled shrimp and splashed them with grape oil, I hid Reese’s Pieces in my dresser drawers. We continued that way for five years.

Finally, I’d had enough. I was full. I wanted to break up, but my birthday was days away. And what girl in her right mind would leave a pastry chef then? I wasn’t going to miss out on what could very well be the best cake of my life. 

For my past birthdays, he’d celebrated me with chocolate torte, raspberry charlotte, strawberry cheesecake, and tiramisù. So for this last celebration, I told him exactly what I liked: yellow cake made from scratch, with homemade chocolate frosting. Maybe it was unsophisticated, but it was my favorite. 

On the big day, he sang “Happy Birthday” to me and ceremoniously presented me with a bowl of strawberries soaked in a cream liqueur. 

He was the one who liked fruit and alcohol, not me. Which he made abundantly clear by scarfing down the whole bowl. Where the heck was the cake?

We broke up. I took his food magazines.

Then I met someone else, a new guy at the office. Jim and I sent goofy emails back and forth for months before we spoke. Our first conversation was about catfish: where to buy it, how to cook it, how much we both liked it.

And a year later, catfish — pan-seared, nothing fancy — was what we served at our wedding reception. 

We’ve been married for five years and have two children. Our dinners at home aren’t fancy, but you can’t beat the conversation. Sometimes, one lobster omelet in a lifetime is plenty.

p(bio). Anna Seip works as an editor at a small college in Pennsylvania.


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