My friend Jimmy Ardoline calls me every night from his room at Wesley Village.
Actually, it’s his “office.” His room is his “office” and he is the self-proclaimed “mayor” of Wesley Village.
Everyone at the nursing facility loves him.
We chat about all sorts of things, Jimmy and I. Small talk mostly. What we did during the day. What’s in the news. Sometimes he’ll ask me what I had for dinner. No matter what I answer, unless it’s pizza or pasta, Jimmy responds the same way: “Yuk.”
If we had some sort of fish, Jimmy says “Yuk.”
If we had veal parmigiana, Jimmy says “Yuk.”
Pork chops. “Yuk.”
Beef stew. “Yuk.”
The other night, we did have pasta, but I had a confession to make. Mary Kay put peas in the spaghetti sauce. I love peas in spaghetti sauce.
I was waiting for Jimmy’s familiar “yuk,” but I got a surprise. “I like that,” he said.
“Peas?” I asked for clarification. “You like peas in sauce.”
“Oh, yeah,” he answered.
Son of a gun, I did not expect that. Ask 10 people if they like peas in spaghetti sauce and you’d be lucky to find three who do. You’d be lucky, in fact, to find three who like peas at all.
Peas are polarizing. People love ’em or hate ’em. There’s no in between.
When I told my daughter we had spaghetti sauce with peas, the news was met with total silence.
“You know my relationship with peas,” she finally answered.
Though I had momentarily forgotten, I do know her relationship with peas. Too well.
Greta was about 4 years old when her mother decided to draw a line in the sand, or more precisely in the peas. Greta had cleaned her plate except for her peas and her mother decided the peas had to be eaten. Greta dug in her heels but so did her mom. Dessert was to be pudding, Greta’s favorite, and her mother declared there would be no pudding until she ate her peas.
(“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your peas?” for you Pink Floyd fans.)
Well, Greta final gave in and forced down the peas.
And then promptly threw them up all over the table.
“I can still get my pudding, right?” she said happily as her mother cleaned up the mess. “You said if I ate my peas I could have my pudding.”
So, unlike Jimmy, put Greta in the “no peas” column.
Peas aren’t the only food that can stir debate. Next time you are with a group of friends toss out this conversation starter: Bacon. Crispy? Or chewy? And watch the fur fly.
“Crispy?” a friend barked one night, getting in the face of a crispy fan. “Crispy bacon is nothing but meat dust.”
“Oh yeah,” came the rebuttal. “Well if chewy bacon is so good how come there’s never been bacon flavored gum?”
I lean toward crispy myself, but I’m not ready to get into a fist fight over it.
We bumped into Mike and Bette Cefalo recently at the movies and somehow got on the topic of grilled cheese, which conjured up another food debate. Somehow, this one made me think of my old friend Rick O’Haire and a similar debate one night about 45 years ago at the bar in Lou’s Place in Pittston.
Does one put ketchup on a grilled cheese sandwich?
Those who do not usually produce a Jimmy Ardoline-like “yuk” just at the sound of it. But those who do swear by it. Rick O’Haire, if I recall correctly, is a ketchup man.
Then there are those who put a generous dollop of ketchup on their plate and dip their grilled cheese into it. My kids used to do that.
Speaking of ketchup, there is also the age-old question of whether to put ketchup in one’s melted butter when eating steamed clams.
Don’t look at me that way. It’s the same look my wife gave me the first time she saw me do it.
Until Mary Kay’s appalled reaction, I truly believed everyone did this. It was the way people ate clams. I’ve since learned otherwise. I’ve also learned many people find the practice disgusting.
And get this. Several years ago my friend Michael Caputo ordered steamed clams at a restaurant in the seaside village of Rockport, Massachusetts, and when he put ketchup in his butter the waitress said, “Let me guess, you’re from Northeastern Pennsylvania.” It didn’t come off as a judgment, he said, just an observation.
Kind of like the look on Mike’s face when we went to Sabatini’s for pizza recently and I ordered mine with chopped pickles. But that’s a debate for another day.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.