*MY VERY FIRST BREAKUP DINNER (AND A SIDE OF POTATO SALAD)

I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

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It’s not real life, but I with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change. It’s not real life, but with love, Comicbook Crook can change.

Sigh.

Will he?

I don’t know. My mantra was losing conviction.

I tried so hard.

I tried so hard to make him love me.

I tried so hard to love him.

I tried so hard to undo what he did in that hotel room.

I was tired. I was tired of trying. Comicbook Crook had his good points. And I firmly believed everyone deserves to be loved. (I believe that to this day.) I had tried to turn my rapist into someone special. I had found things to love, and even had a list of reasons for not breaking up with him. Believing that list was becoming harder and harder to do. Despite my lack of conviction of love, the primary reason we stayed together so long was because the 21 year-old me lacked the fundamental skills to break up.

I was at a loss for what to do. When confronting breaking up, many follow their heart. I couldn’t do that. I trusted the thing I understood most. I reasoned with my head and made a list.

List

By the time I was shipping Comicbook Crook Brownies in Box, I had already stopped working at summer camp to spend more time with my family before my move to Los Angeles. I stayed home and worked for my mom this summer as well.

My mom gave me the book 10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives written by the incomparable Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Coming from my very liberal mother, you knew she was desperate. I read the book. While I didn’t agree with the conservative rhetoric or Schlessinger’s view point, there were truths that one could grab on to… like break up with idiot boyfriends.

I wasn’t keen hurting Comicbook Crook’s feelings and wasn’t quite sure I could stomach breaking up with him.

Maybe staying with him won’t be so bad. That way I won’t hurt his feelings.

He may have been dense, but he knew I wasn’t happy. He added to my summer reading list: Are You The One For Me by Barbara De Angelis, PhD. With conviction, he said, “It’s how my dad decided he should marry Jane. (She would never be a step-mother and only his dad’s second wife.)

I read two chapters.

One list, one book and two chapters of another, I had resolve with what I should do.

His July visit was around the corner and it coincided perfectly with his half-birthday. While most don’t celebrate half-birthdays, the Crook’s mother got him in the habit of celebrating them as his birthday is December 26. I was delighted, after a long search, I had finally found that blasted Transformers comic he had been looking for.

The visit was filled with ups and downs. Squabbles. Weirdness from him.

Did I ever mention Comicbook Crook like comics…. And sci-fi and fantasy? Well, he did. Xena: Warrior Princess was one of his favorite shows. In the early evening, in a moment of unquantifiable geekdome, he insisted on transforming his Nissan Altima into the ultimate fan car. To do this, he would pry the M & A off so the car read, Nissan Alti. He rationalized a true fan would appreciate the nod to Alti, (the Siberian Amazon Sameness that taught Xena her evil ways).

Alti

My parents held dinner.

Half an hour later, Crook still wasn’t done. Apparently, Nissan used some super strong glue for the letters on their car.

No kidding.

I was growing increasingly impatient with his behavior. He told me he wouldn’t come in until he had successfully pried the M & A off, so I left him outside while I ate dinner with my parents.

Eventually, he came in. We were already done.

nissan altima

The next day, Comicbook Crook kept trying to keep me to himself. I was annoyed. 

My family graciously invites you to their home and this is how you act?

We had more conversations. I let him know I was dissatisfied. He assured me that this was just a bump in dating.

On his second to last night I took him to celebrate his half-birthday. Before dessert, I presented him with his (parting) gifts. While I had found and purchased most of the gifts before I convinced myself breaking up was necessary, the gifts in large part were to assuage my guilt.
At least I’m doing one nice last thing for him.

The next day, he had to go back home. While we were saying goodbye, he said he wanted to work on things. I blurted out, “I just can’t take it anymore.” And like that, it was over.

I was sad but deeply relieved I managed to get through breaking up with him. He drove away. I went inside to have dinner and told my parents what happened. They tried to be sympathetic, but I’m pretty sure I caught my mom smiling.

Mom had made her famous potato salad for the Crook’s visit. She’s accustomed to making it for a party, so as often happens if she makes it for the family of four, we had extra. I had two helpings and nothing more.

Plated

That night was a milestone. And with each forkful, I celebrated I was gaining myself back.

POTATO SALAD (for 4)

INGREDIENTS:
4 Organic Russet Potatoes
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
3 Eggs
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Purple Onion. (Purple onions are sweet, and add some extra color)

Ingredients

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Put onion in a bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with cold water.
  4. Wash, Peel, and wash potatoes again.
  5. Put potatoes in cold water. This will help them from oxidizing.
  6. Slice potatoes down vertical axis and then again the wide way. Pieces should be approximately 1 inch square or larger, but roughly the same size.Diced Potatoes
  7. Put back in cold water.
  8. When all potatoes are cubed, cover pot, put on burner and set to medium heat.
  9. Cook 20 minutes.
  10. Put eggs in a small pot of cold water. Cook 8-10 minutes.
  11. Timer will go off.
    1. Check potatoes. They should be tender. If your fork doesn’t slide in easily or they still taste starchy cook slightly longer.
    2. The eggs should be done. You want them hard-boiled. Take a slotted spoon. Remove one egg and spin it.
    3. (If the egg does not spin, it’s not done and needs to be cooked more. This egg is done.)
  12. When potatoes are done drain into a colander.*
  13. When eggs are done, carefully pour out hot water and fill pot with cold water (to stop cooking process)
  14. Put potatoes in a large bowl. Let cool about 5 minutes.
  15. Add: ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, and salted onions. Gently mix.
  16. Peel eggs.
  17. Chop eggs into large pieces.Potato Salad
  18. Add eggs to potatoes. Gently mix.
  19. Cover and put in refrigerator.

Potato Salad Mixed

*COOK’S TIP:
I like catching the water from my potatoes so I can use it to for vegetable stock later.

*BEDROOM EYES QUESADILLA

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed… the kind would be standard in a relationship.
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My college had a student body that was mostly women. The popular statistic was that women out-numbered men 3:1. With that ratio, dating was tough. But, to compound dating woes, allegedly, 65% of those men were gay. I’m not sure of the validity of the statement, but it seemed accurate.

The school paper even substantiated the statistics with a comic…
Frame One: Snaggle Tooth boy-troll wearing an I LOVE COMICS shirt.
Frame Two: Buxom hot girl.
Frame Three: Snaggle Tooth sees girl. Caption: How to pick up a girl at our college.
Frame Four: Snaggle Tooth, “I’m straight.”
Frame Five: Hot girl whisks Snaggle Tooth away.

I laughed. This wasn’t a little bemused laugh. It was a laugh that welled up from my belly and crossed my lips before I remembered who was sitting across from me.
Comicbook Crook was not amused.

He wasn’t bad looking, he just wasn’t going to win a beauty pageant. At any other college, he’d have a date or two… maybe. But, here, he was one of the few straight men. I was just one in a laundry list of women Comicbook Crook dated. I got to meet all his exes, even the one that broke up with him one month before he and I met. Part of me was happy to be part of the list. In some twisted way it validated my insecurity- I was somehow desirous. (Again, at this point, I didn’t realize that our first date started with date rape.)

Today I wouldn’t put up with his quirks, but part of being good at dating is ending something that doesn’t work. With my inexperience, I wasn’t good at dating…

…yet.

It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. I had invested considerable emotional energy, but the rose-colored glasses were slipping off. Me laughing at the comic was just a symptom of my growing discontent.

My three summers of working at camp helped me find my voice and undo the negativity that “friends” from junior high and high school heaped on. Camp had a compounding affect:  It taught me to confidently stand within myself and while doing so I gained more confidence. But, even with jokes, camaraderie and safe flirting, there were certain lines you didn’t cross… It was church camp after all.

3-7-14 Hubble Chapple Cross

I crossed those lines with Bedroom Eyes. There was no sex; he was one the 65%. We danced. We danced our asses off. (Yes, I know I’m quoting Footloose.) During my junior year, it became our Monday night tradition to go to Axis on Lansdowne Street. Monday night was “Gay Night.” Looking back on it now, it seems funny to have a bar with a theme of “Gay Night” where they proclaim they’re LBGTQ friendly. But this 2000/2001; Boston and America were still changing.

My first dance with BRE was awkward.

Dance - 1 Awkward

Awkward in the sense that he was a boy. Prior to him, the most I had done with a boy, dancing wise, was the HS shuffle with a friend. I had never danced a fast dance with a boy. He pulled me close. I moved with him as best I could. But, even with my years in Band and understanding the rhythm of music, I didn’t have experiencing moving my body to that rhythm. He pulled me closer. Hips gyrating. His hands on my ass.

I better do something.

Dance - 2 Gettin w it

The moment when you figure out how to dance at a club…

I put my hands on his bicep. I didn’t want to be in his personal space. Besides, even though I wasn’t a virgin, I was quite virginal in my mind and practical experiencing. Putting my hand on his bicep was non-threatening and the best I could do at the time.

I looked around and saw how other people were dancing and decided I better do something more… I put my hands on his chest. He didn’t recoil. We just got more in sync. It was completely fluid and absolutely freeing. I felt sexy. This was safe sexy dancing. Then, I learned a key component to BRE’s sexy dancing— It’s all in the eyes. His big, beautiful, deep and penetrating Bedroom Eyes. I felt one dancing with him. Forget Sabrina, I had the post Patrick Swayze Baby attitude. Nobody’s going to put me in a corner!

D Dancing - Baby Working It

I never told Comicbook Crook I went dancing with Bedroom Eyes. Perhaps, I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating. My love of BRE and what we shared on the dance floor may have even prolonged the relationship with Comicbook Crook. BRE was certainly giving me some of the safe emotional and physical connection I needed. Combined with the flirting and safe sexy dancing, my shaky confidence was becoming stable and even blossomed.

BRE and I didn’t even need alcohol to loosen us up to dance, it just happened once we walked through the doors. With the pulse of the music and everyone moving we fell into the momentum of dance.

In April the school had a big end of year dance where the leadership within the school clubs was handed down to the successor(s) for the next school year. It was a lot like prom. This time, I didn’t have to take a camp friend. I took Comicbook Crook and was excited to show off my moves. We both wore black and looked super slick. There was dinner, speeches and then it was time to dance! I’ve always loved dancing and now I had moves I could use. Comicbook Crook didn’t want to dance. I found Bedroom Eyes. I was a dancing machine, a monster. I owned myself. I loved dancing with BRE.

But, I didn’t go to the dance with him, I wanted to dance with my man.

Dancing Machine

It took some effort, but I was able to coax Comicbook Crook to the dance floor. He wasn’t thrilled, but slowly, he relaxed. Then there was a slow song. Easy stuff— Hold each other close and shuffle your feet. A fast song came back on. We stayed close.

Then I did what the music commanded me to do, which was walk backwards and beckon him to come get me. It was a cute move and I thought he’d walk forward to chase me. Instead, he had a bona fide temper tantrum. He needed a formula and pre-determined steps.

Why can’t he just go with the flow and dance with me?

Again, I had to console him. He was ruining my very first dance I had a boyfriend for.

I know I was stiff my first time, but at least I tried. I expected him to do the same. It was part of his job as my boyfriend to make me happy. I had reasons to stay with him, but coming up with new reasons to stay was becoming harder and harder to do. The big reason for not breaking up was boiling down to:

I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

But, the months of childish behavior, stealing, not eating crust and not letting me be me were adding up. This tantrum was put into my column of “reasons to break up.”

QUESADILLAS

Bedroom Eyes and I would often grab some food before a night of dancing… it was simply practical. On his side of campus they served diner-like food. Everything was loaded with starch, which would be good for sustained energy on the dance floor. Quesadillas have it all. While the traditional quesadilla is made with flour tortillas, really any kind of tortilla works.

INGREDIENTS
Guerrero Tortillas
Cheddar or Tex Mex Cheese
Pickled jalapeños

For the sides:
Sour Cream
Pace Salsa

 

Quesadilla Ingredients

Layer 1

Don’t be like some of the cooks at my school and scrimp on jalapeños like the one on the left.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS
Preheat toaster oven or oven to 375F.
On a tray lay out your tortilla and put the cheese and jalapeños.
Add more Cheese.
Cover with another tortilla.

Bake 10 minutes.
Quesadilla Baked - Done

Slice to desired size.
Serve with sour cream and salsa.
Quesadilla Presentation
TIP:
While putting the oven to toast for the last couple minutes is tempting, it will make your quesadilla to crispy and it will fall apart when you cut it.

*VALENTINE’S LOBSTER SPECIAL ON A BUDGET

I was more excited about Part Two of our Valentine’s Day celebration. It would have the romance that we needed—  We would be celebrating it in the suburbs at his mother’s house.

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Similar to the myriad of books Cosby Sweater’s mother had about raising a genius child, he too liked collecting. He had an abundance of comicbooks. Having a baseball card collection that included early tobacco cards, I respected the effort it takes to build a collection. But, this collection was a little too intense. The floor of his bedroom was devoted to many, MANY, banker boxes of books. They weren’t just willy-nilly organized. No, he had a spreadsheet in FileMaker. I took scrupulous mental notes of what he needed. It was safe bet to give him a comicbook for an event where giving gift is customary, especially if you paid attention. And, I did.

Clearly, collecting was a passion. While I didn’t share his enthusiasm for conventions or have the desire to be in a crowd, when a convention came to Boston my junior year, I went with him.  This was my first and only convention, but I saw this as an important step to learn about my man.

Oh boy, did I learn! When he didn’t want to pay the sticker price on a comic, he’d find a comic (at the same vendor) with a cheaper tag, skillfully remove the sticker and put it on the comic he wanted. I told him he was stealing. He argued the vendor was still getting his money, so he wasn’t. Marvel and DC couldn’t have written a better transformation. Right before my eyes Cosby Sweater assumed the villainous identity of Comicbook Crook. I naively hoped he’d stop stealing, but after each convention he’d gloat and show me what discount he took. I believed I had the power to change him through love.

Yes, I earnestly believed if I loved him enough, I could turn him into the man I needed, one who would be more loving (and who wouldn’t steal).  Love can conquer a lot of things, but it doesn’t conquer all, like rewriting history or changing someone’s moral fabric.

From the time I learned about his unsavory behaviors to Valentine’s Day, with my generous helping of love and affection I was still hoping he would change. He did not. But, my frustration was slightly reduced by one simple fact.

It was Valentine’s Day and I had a boyfriend!

Happy Heart

I put on my favorite jeans, ruby crushed velvet shirt and healed boots for our romantic date. Then, I bundled up to go outside. That year, we had a “wintery mix” of ice and slush on the roads. But, that didn’t stop our romantic walk to dinner. While jaywalking is customary in Boston, he neglected to remember I was navigating ice and slush in heals. We had lost our walk signal, but without hesitation, he hauled me off the curb and I stumbled into the intersection and was forced to race oncoming traffic. Clearly, he wasn’t accustomed to having someone on Valentine’s Day either.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Nearly twisting an ankle while trying to look feminine for an oblivious boyfriend. He couldn’t figure out why I was frustrated. But, we made it to the over-crowed restaurant where we waited half an hour for our reservation.

This was not like the romantic Valentine’s Day dinners you see in movies.

I was more excited about Part Two of our Valentine’s Day celebration. It would have the romance that we needed—  We wold be celebrating it in the suburbs at his mother’s house.

After giving him the wrong Book 2 of one of the many Transformers series for Christmas, I decided on something easier and scrapped together money for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. I purchased a solitary Maine lobster. When we got home from the store, I put the lobster in the kitchen sink. Comicbook Crook peered in and named our dinner Pinchy. I’ve never named my dinner, but I thought it was a very clever name and was happy my boyfriend was so creative. While I poured through recipes, trying to figure out how to expand a lobster for one into a grand dinner for two, Comicbook Crook conversed with our meal, always referring to it by name, Pinchy.

loster in a sink

I brought a giant pot of water to a raging boil and suggested he step away so scalding water didn’t splash him when I put the lobster in. Comicbook Crook insisted he wanted to watch and learn. He said goodbye to the lobster. Then I plunged it head first into the boiling water. No sooner had I covered the pot, from the corner of my eye, I saw Comicbook Crook streak away. I found him in the dark dining room perched on a stool, crying.

A wave of emotions swept over me.

 

 

It was mostly anger.

Comicbook Crook was ruining my very first Valentine’s Day. What the hell!? I was the hatchet man for our lobster, yet I was consoling an innocent bystander. I explained the lobster was killed in the most humane way possible. I smiled and through clenched teeth told him I loved him and wished him a Happy Valentine’s Day.

I served our meal with heart-shaped toast points. Being sure that there wasn’t any crust in sight, I ate all of them for my appetizer.

Dinner Plated

My very first Valentine’s Day being part of a couple wasn’t great, but it was memorable. A few months later, I got to relive the memories while Comicbook Crook and I were watching “The Simpsons.” Homer came into possession of a lobster and named it Pinchy.

My anger was reborn.

Not only was the message of “don’t name your food” lost on Comicbook Crook, my clever boyfriend wasn’t clever at all. He had to steal the name Pinchy, much like he stole my virginity or the way he stole comicbooks.Home Cries - Pinchy in pot

The entitlement Comicbook Crook had of taking things that weren’t his bothered me, but blatant plagiarism offended me to the core. Unsavory attributes were building up. While I was gaining more self awareness, I kept trying to come up with reasons to stay together, which was becoming harder and harder to do. Nonetheless, I had made a large emotional investment and wasn’t ready to let this one go.

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What I made for that dinner landed somewhere between lobster thermidor and lobster bisque. While the original recipe took my favorite ingredients of the two dishes from, The Joy of Cooking, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, the recipe below is modified from a Lobster Thermidor Recipe from AllRecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
1 medium (1 1/2 pound) cooked lobster
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
¼ cup white wine (I prefer something sweet like Moscato)
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (can replace with Guyere)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

ingewiwnra

Alternates:
Add sprig fresh thyme
Or 1 pinch coarsely ground nutmeg… If you’re adding nutmeg, leave out the parsley.

STEP BY STEP DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook your lobster. To do this- Bring a large pot of water to a ranging boil. Add salt (about a table spoon). Put your lobster in head first and cover. Cook 15 minutes. Remove when lobster is bright red. (For more lobster cooking tips go to localfoods.about.com)
    how-to-cook-lobster-1
  2. In a large saucepan over a low heat, melt butter. Caramelize the shallots. This takes will take a long time. (This is when it’s good to have a glass of wine going.) It feels like it’s taking forever, but that’s because it is. Don’t worry about it. You’re pulling out the stops, it’s Valentine’s Day. As the shallots brown, stir more frequently.
    cooking with wine
  3. Mix in the vegetable stock and white wine. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add heavy cream, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper.
  5. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. This is a reduction sauce; again, patience is mandatory.Cream sauce
  6. Remove meat from lobster and cut into pieces slightly bigger than bite-size.
  7. Add lobster meat and Parmesan cheese to mixture. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    simmer cream sauce

*Note: If your cream sauce is not thickening, in a seperate bowl mix 1 teaspoon corn starch with ¼ cup vegetable stock. Slowly add to your to skillet. It will thicken up. Continue cooking without a lid.

TIPS:
Variations on a theme: Serve with toast points, powdered biscuits or wrap in crepes.

Serve the dish with a lemon wedge. (Click here to learn more about the traditions and reasons why lemon and seafood are paired together.)

With all the cream and the richness of the lobster, I prefer to pair this dish with a wilted spinach salad. It complements the cream sauce while giving your eyes something more to look than just a plate of white food. To enhance the flavor, I top the salad with lemon zest.
wilted spinach salad

Budget 3-4 hours for this dish. While relatively easy, all the chopping, boiling and slow cooking makes for a time-consuming meal. Again, it’s Valentine’s Day. Go big or go home.