Monday, October 4, 2010


(Carl Bloch, In a Roman Osteria, 1866, Statens Museum For Kunst, Copenhagen)

Bob and I pass the gallery gift shop on the way to the museum's cafe.

He purposefully looks the other way.

But I crane my neck to the left as far as it will go in order to scan the shop's merchandise as we whizz by.

I can easily see that I am going to have to get away from Bob long enough to buy a boatload of stuff in this artsy store.

But first things first.

I look at Bob hopefully and say, "Honey, are you hungry?"

You would think that I would know better, wouldn't you?

I've probably asked this man that very same question at least 60 gazillion times in the 40 plus years I've known him.

The answer has always been, "No, not really."

And it never matters how long it's been since the last morsel of food has passed his lips - it could be 6 hours, 17 days, or 3 years - Bob is never, ever hungry.


I'm always hungry - even if I just ate three seconds ago.

We walk into the small cafe and I am immediately stunned.

My eyes feast on the magnificent sight before me.

The walls of the cafe are covered top to bottom in emerald green marble.

White Greek columns stand like heavenly sentinels throughout the room.

Bas relief angels drape themselves in all of their beige-y loveliness on the ceiling of the cafe.

Catching my breath I exclaim to Bob, "Who designed this room and can I please live in it forever?"

All of this artistic gorgeousness means only one thing to Bob.


He knows that it took a lot of money to create this room.

And he knows that it is requiring a lot of money to maintain it.

Within 45 minutes a chunk of our money will be donated to the cause.

Our lovely Norwegian server, Ingrid, smiles at us as she approaches our table.

She speaks perfect English.

I waste no time explaining our situation to Ingrid.

"This is going to be our one and only Norwegian meal. We - excuse me - I - would like to eat something that is authentically Norwegian. What do you suggest?"

She quickly replies, "Well, we do have a limited menu. But the herring plate would certainly fill your request for authentic Norwegian food."

I smile sweetly at her and say, "Gee, maybe something not quite that authentic! My dad's parents were from Norway and he used to buy pickled herring for us when we were little kids. I actually ate it because I didn't know any better - whoops! - I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to offend you!"

Ingrid laughs and says, "I know what you mean. I can't stand it either."

She continued: "The asparagus soup is lovely. And it comes with dark, crusty bread. Soup and bread are staples of the Norwegian cuisine."

I said, 'That sounds fabulous! And I'll take the open-faced blue cheese sandwich drizzled with honey, as well."

I know exactly what Bob is thinking:

"I can't believe she is going to eat that nasty cheese and then breathe all over me. On a scale of 1 to 10, that stuff has an "ick" factor of at least 189."

Pleased as punch with my selections I glance at Bob who is, by now, deep into the menu zone.

That means he is studying the menu selections as if this meal is going to be his last.

Here's the thing about Bob: He would much rather eat his own home-cooked meals than any of the fancier stuff that most restaurants offer.

If he has to eat out, his first choice is almost always Cracker Barrel because the menu there is very similar to what he cooks at home for himself and the family.

The truth is: Bob's cuisine is always healthier and tastier.

Personally, I would rather be shot at dawn than walk into the kitchen to do anything but eat.

Bob finally settles on that old Norwegian classic - mixed veggie salad with grilled chicken.

He likes to live dangerously.

Ingrid flies off to the kitchen, relieved to be rid of us for a few minutes.

Then she returns with sparkling crystal goblets filled with ice ( a bit of a rarity in Europe) and gobs of refreshing water.

Lemon wedges sit sturdily on the rims of the goblets.

However, one lonely lemon wedge is never enough for me.

Ingrid remembers that I asked for a plate of sliced lemon wedges and they appear within seconds.

I gaze admiringly at the freshly cut rose sitting in its watery crystal vase in the middle of our table.

White linen napkins and simple porcelain plates - white again, of course - lighten the table in a visually.

The presentation is superb - everything speaks of elegance, romance, and good taste.

I allow myself to be wrapped in the ambiance of this lovely cafe.

Bob isn't nearly as impressed.

He looks at me and says, "Do you realize that my salad is going to cost the equivalent of $30 in American money?"

"No, honey, that really hasn't even crossed my mind," I reply. "It doesn't matter to me because this is our one and only meal in the country of my grandparents. Chances are, this experience will never happen again."

I can tell by the look on Bob's face that he is counting on that.

Just then Ingrid arrives with our entrees.

I lift the first spoonful of asparagus soup to my lips.

Its delicate flavor and silk-like texture send me into spasms of delight.

Slices of crusty brown bread, rich with everything grainy, sit at the side of the soup, accompanied by creamy butter sticks.

I say to Bob, "This stuff tastes divine!"

Next, I lift the sandwich to my mouth and sink my teeth into the cheesy, sweet honey goodness.

Bob whimpers in utter disgust as the moldy mixture passes my lips.

I notice his reaction, of course, but I can't swallow the blue cheese fast enough.

I feel as if I am stuffing my mouth with tiny bits of heaven.

Bob's chicken salad looks equally gorgeous.

The large white bowl is filled to overflowing with crisp, colorful veggies.

The roasted chicken has been perfectly sliced and scattered in a circular pattern across the top of the mixed lettuce greens.

The same grainy bread and butter sticks appear on the side of his monstrous white plate.

Bob takes a few bites of his salad and says, "This food looks good but it isn't anything special."

"I know that's disappointing," I say to Bob as I shove more cheese and honey into my mouth.

I smile sweetly and say, "Every single bite of my meal is absolutely scrumptious!"

I add, "You are having a really tough day.  But look at it this way - we'll be back on the Star Princess before you can say "I hate Oslo."

Polishing off my last bite of sandwich, I plant a cheese-laced kiss on his lips and say, "I've got to run into the gift shop and pick up a few thousand postcards."

Bob breathes a sigh of acceptance as he thinks to himself,   "Why prolong the agony?  I'll tell the Post Office to forward my mail to the Seventh Circle - effective immediately.  Please tell me they've never heard of blue cheese."

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