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One of the things Gill has planned for us to do when I visit her in England is to go out for dinner with one of her friends, Italian Lady. While we Skyped recently to decide on a restaurant, Gill was also texting Italian Lady. The back and forth reminded me of when the kids were small, nobody liked what the others ate and since they all had different allergies, one couldn’t necessarily eat what the others could. It made for some serious hair-pulling on my part. Or, more often, I’d just retreat to the corner of the kitchen and drink my dinner while they tried not to go into anaphylactic shock while eating theirs.

Gill knows I prefer Italian or French cuisine. I tried not to be too dismissive of ‘regular English cooking’ although my memories of it are not pleasant. It’s not a dig at the country since my own Grandmother was British and couldn’t cook her way out of a paper bag. I still remember an apple pie she baked when I was young. I love apple pie and was used to my Mom’s delicious baking. Grandma’s pastry was like eating cardboard and it was filled with more sugar than apples with no redeeming spices to ramp the quality up to even mediocre. When I was in England years ago, I do recall some lovely pub meals and awesome fish and chips, but most of the meals were bland and overcooked.

Since Italian Lady is obviously Italian, I was delighted to hear that she was picking an Italian place for us to have dinner. This choice narrowed down, all we had to do was choose a specific eatery. Gill read the menus off to me and then texted my replies to Italian Lady.

“This one has a selection of pasta dishes, Ma. Linguine with mussels…”

“Eew…not a big fan of mussels,” I commented.

“Oh, well I love them! They also have a pasta dish with anchovies and…”

“Whoa there, Skippy…don’t like anchovies. A bit is fine in pesto sauce or on a pizza, mixed in with other things, but not in large doses.”

“Okay, Ma. Pizza it is. There are several varieties. They all sound yummy. But I did hope you might want to branch out, be a bit more daring during your trip. You know, shake things up a little. You and The Man In Your Life always seem to be going out for pizza.”

“Don’t knock it! You’ll be old and set in your ways someday too. And we have found a particularly good place for pizza here. In fact, when we travel to Australia, we also have a favorite place in Sydney…and Melbourne…and Hamilton Island. The only place we don’t have a favorite pizza place is in The Outback. And there, you really can’t beat the camel burgers!”

“The what, now? I can’t believe you, the person with the most plebeian tastes in food ever, ate camel meat! Ma, have you been holding out on me?”

“No! I know I told you about the camel –and the kangaroo. I’m not quite the simple hick you think me to be. You’re still bitter about me not eating that fish eyeball soup you made for me once, aren’t you?”

“Well, your disapproval did cut to the quick, Ma. I was only trying to help.”

“I know, dear. And I did appreciate the thought. So, back to the menus. What else do we have a choice of?”

“Well, here’s one with chicken cacciatore and veal parmigiana. Just don’t tell L’il Sis that you ate veal. She’ll have the PETA people out picketing the restaurant before we leave.”

“And how about desserts? Do they have any tempting ones? I do love to splurge on sweets when I’m on vacation. Just trying to pack a few pounds onto my 90-pound-weakling frame, as per your suggestion.”

“This restaurant does a Tiramisu that sounds lovely. I know you like that.”

“Only when my friend, Other Brother’s Italian mom makes it. Hers is to die for. I’m like that about having pie in restaurants too. I make excellent pastry and I don’t trust eateries so I don’t order pies when I eat out. I know I’ll just be disappointed.”

“Ma, I have to say, you’re not making this selection easy. Why don’t we just leave it up to Italian Lady to decide? She’s a woman of discriminating taste and I’m sure you’ll be happy with whatever she chooses.”

“That sounds like an excellent idea. From what you’ve told me of her, I think she may be a new good friend. She dresses well, has a wonderful sense of humour (she has to if she appreciates yours and doesn’t think it strange that you keep a piñata under your desk), loves a good glass (or more) of wine — I can see us bonding over a lovely Pinot. And most importantly, she takes care of you in my stead when you’re in the hospital. It will be nice to give her my thanks in person.”

“Yes, Ma, I think you two will be great friends…that makes me just a little bit nervous. You could decide to plot against me.”

“Never! Although if you attempt to cook me any more eyeball soup when I’m there, I’ll have to sic her on you…”