I was Laverne to Shelly's Shirley - and sometimes the other way around - during our retail days back in college. Whenever we we planned a food outing with friends, she would fixate on what we had discussed. And if, as is bound to happen with large and unruly groups of friends, somebody changed the collective mind and we ended up somewhere else, her day was ruined momentarily. But being Shelly, she'd end up being a good sport about it - after all, she still got to eat.
Her daughter Frances has inherited not only her mother's love of grub, but her steely-eyed focus. Although she was recovering from the indignity of a chicken pox shot the morning before the three of us had lunch at Eatalian Cafe, Frances set her sights on getting through a meal with grownups, whose agenda invariably included coaxing her to eat things like vegetables.
Shelly with Eatalian's signature "Emilia," a salad of grilled eggplant, zucchini, onion, and bell pepper, topped with Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar. So good, even a kid would eat it... maybe.
I am still amazed at how little it takes for a toddler to eat and be full. After two bites of her penne in marinara sauce, Frances decided that she was done. She humored Shelly and I through our grilled salad and our ambitious order of both the Pizman (tomato sauce, mozzarella, speck, porcini mushrooms,and gorgonzola cheese) and the Rock (tomato sauce, mozzarella, spicy salami,gorgonzola cheese, spinach, and bacon). Eatalian's pizzas are made with a crust that was crispy and thinner than the excuses we made to each other about ordering two very similar pies.
Frances tucks in to her plate of penne al pomodoro. It took longer to say that than it did for her to eat her fill.
I asked Frances what her favorite food was. Not surprisingly, she said, "Chocolate!" Wanting to get more of a sense of what kids want to eat, I asked her what she liked to eat for dinner. Her answer: "Meat!" Having eaten her dad Luis's roasted pork before, I can't say that I blame her.
Kids don't think about making a meal balanced. Food is food and any food you really like is what you should eat. As adults, we become obsessed with how we combine dishes and how much nutrition and calories we are ingesting, which sometimes takes the fun out of eating.
But there are some things we never outgrow. As Shelly and I argued about who was going to take the leftover pizza home and swore that we would never eat again, the word "gelato" suddenly brought us to our senses. We tag-teamed up to the gelato counter - why doesn't every Italian restaurant in the world have one of these? - and returned with our respective dolces.
In it to win it: Frances knew all along that one can't eat a whole plate of pasta if one intends to eat a whole cup of chocolate gelato.
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