"How Does This Work?" My Mother Asked

I stayed at the Cape with my family last weekend, and on Sunday my boyfriend came up to meet them -- for the first time. Now, there were definitely plenty of things I was worried about. And actually, my biggest concern had nothing to do with him but rather whether our dogs would get along. He has a friendly, submissive chocolate lab, and we have territorial, alpha Jack Russell terriers. Needless, to say, that did not work out so well.

But what I hadn't expected was for my mother to notice how differently my boyfriend and I feel about food. I had surreptitiously and also quite obviously hinted at what should be on the menu when he came up. For breakfast, I suggested pancakes and then went on to make sure that my mom planned to leave the pancakes plain and just add blueberries or bananas upon request and leave all other toppings on the side. I'm not sure why she didn't give me weird looks at that point, considering I'll throw pretty much anything in my pancakes.

Then for the cookout later on, she mentioned doing hamburgers and chicken. That works, I thought. But soon she was rattling off potato salad and macaroni salad ideas and wondering what other sides she could make. Thinking quickly I reminded her I'm not a big fan of mayo-based salads and maybe we could just have some roasted potatoes on the side... and how about corn on the cob since there's a farm stand right down the road? So far so good.

And then the kicker: Since we were having a big group and we were on the Cape, my mom thought it would be the perfect day to have lobsters. And normally I would have agreed, except that the boyfriend is allergic to shellfish. I freak out enough going to seafood restaurants with him. I really didn't want to be responsible for what would happen around a table covered with 5-pound lobsters, people squirting lobster juice everywhere as they cracked open their claws, shells flying -- horrible scenes started running through my head. I mentioned the allergy to my mother, and suddenly we'd moved on to ribeyes. And dessert would be make-your-own fruit shortcakes. Perfect.

Breakfast went well, and I made sure not to tell my boyfriend that he had put turkey bacon on his plate until after he ate it. A girl's gotta have a little fun. And I don't think it was really obvious at that point what his likes and dislikes are. I have younger siblings who are ten times pickier than he is anyways, so much so that my sister always tries to skip breakfast and my brother requests eggs every day no matter what else there is.

Later on, after a competitive game of Scrabble (which we won only with everyone else looking at our letters and helping -- not my favorite game), playing with the dogs in the water, and taking the canoe out, it was time to eat again. When my boyfriend was putting together a cheeseburger later, my mom pointed out the onions, tomatoes, etc., that were on the table. I know I made some comment about how he wouldn't eat any of those, and my mom said, "That's fine if he just wants ketchup," to which I responded, "He doesn't even eat ketchup!" That may have been the first clue...

Of all the questions I thought my mom would ask throughout and by the end of the day, the one she came out with was not the one I was expecting. "How does this work?" she asked. She went on about what a big foodie I am and wondered how my boyfriend dealt with that. We both looked at each other speechless. I guess we had never thought about how we make it work because it just kind of works.

If I had to think about it, I guess it works because if we go out to eat, we each can choose our own meals and don't have to worry about what the other is eating. When we cook together, we tend to make more things that he would like, but it doesn't bother me because I cook the more complex stuff for myself, my friends, my family, parties, etc. And he doesn't mind if I make some fancier recipes as long as there are still parts he likes. And he's really probably not any fussier than the next person. It's probably more that I am in the extreme other direction as the most unfussy person around.

I'm also happy just being able to cook something for someone else.