A married couple’s conversation overheard while dining at Bloomsbury Bistro
by Angela Perez
After a late afternoon meeting yesterday, I found myself in the aspiring-to-be-well-heeled neighborhood of Five Points in Raleigh. The poor denizens of this neighborhood actually are only playing at being well-heeled and dream of power. The actual truly well-heeled old-school money part of Raleigh is further west, past Oberlin Road. Over there in that pristine and quiet neighborhood are massive old homes that look stately but not in that cloying drafty Southern mansion kind of way. And the homes don’t look expensive in that depressing pre-fab, recently built, 5,000-square foot cookie-cutter bullshit kind of way (people who came from nothing tend to think the new development homes near new golf courses are the pinnacle of class. But the middle-class is not known for their sense of aesthetics, are they? That class tends to spawn unimaginative women who think Dooney & Bourke, Coach, and Michael Kors pocketbooks are the epitome of style. These women like to go to outlet malls so they can live a little fancier than their pocketbook actually allows.)
A lot of the still-active elderly men of power in Raleigh live in these homes with their wives, women who have never had to work but who have expended a lot of effort in book clubs, cooking for the Episcopal Church bake sales, and on near-by tennis courts. Many of these women enrolled in the English department at the private all-women Meredith College in the 1960s and 1970s, not really to study Hemingway but mostly to land a soon-to-be wealthy husband from across the street at N.C. State or maybe as far afield as Carolina. Even into the 90s, many of these Meredith women would quit school once they had achieved their ultimate dream, to be engaged.
These clever gray-haired Southern couples often entertain their visiting adult sons who arrive from northern Virginia or Maryland each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas in shiny Lexus SUVs with shiny wives who inevitably sport J. Crew puffy vests and Ralph Lauren riding boots. The grandchildren are usually enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill, Georgetown, or the University of Virginia (but not Duke University since no Southerners actually go there).
Ah, but enough about the fine neighborhood near my afternoon meeting!
It was after 5 o’clock and I didn’t want to brave the mind-numbing traffic crawl up Capital Boulevard to go home so I decided to have dinner at a restaurant that is a favorite among the well-heeled elderly crowd – Bloomsbury Bistro. A lot of my hip foodie friends in Raleigh call this a fancy restaurant for old geezers. And, yes, there is some truth to that. I arrived just as the restaurant opened at 5:30 and already there were nicely dressed couples and groups of 4 arriving, the majority somewhere in the vicinity of 70 years of age.
These people were happy when they arrived, laughing and smiling and joking with the waiters, bar tenders and host staff. Because they all know one another well. They and their friends eat here regularly and the food is good, fairly expensive, and comfortable. This is the kind of restaurant where elderly regulars think nothing of coming in two or three times during the week to have salmon or a N.Y. Strip and a good bottle of wine and a drop of whisky and dropping around $120 per meal.
Here’s the thing though. A restaurant like this will never go out of business. These people are fiercly loyal and the food is solid. These people will never defect to the zillions of hip, foodie-culture restaurants opening up downtown (and trust me, the competition in Raleigh is stiff – this town is home to an incredible and varied food scene that’s evolving every day).
But enough about food and old people. Let’s get to what you came here for: what I overheard some younger married couples discussing while I ate my own dinner. Yes, there were some younger couples in their 30s and 40s also in attendance. And, lucky for me, they were nearby.
There is nothing more depressing than the conversation between a married couple as they decide what they want for dinner.
Scene: Couple is seated in front of me. I am majorly eavesdropping, pretending to be deeply engrossed in my New York Review of Books which I actually can’t even read because the light is too dim.
30-something husband: Oh, man, wow. Look at this for an appetizer. (he reads aloud slowly): “Damascus style spiced lamb confit pie in puff pastry with hummus coulis, crispy chick peas, Greek yogurt and mint tabbouleh.” God, that sounds good, don’t you think?
30-something wife: No, it sounds heavy. Puff pastry and lamb. That’s a meal. That’s not an appetizer.
Husband: Yeah, but it sound delicious.
Wife: Yes, but not as an appetizer. If you get that, you don’t need an entrée.
Husband. Why don’t I get that as my entrée then?
Wife: Because I don’t want the lamb and I wanted to try whatever you got for an entrée.
[Waiter arrives and asks if they’d had time to look at the wine menu. They had not. So they open up the wine menu. Waiter leaves.]
Husband: Do I want wine or whisky?
Wife: Let’s get wine. Something red.
Husband: Oh, this looks good. This one from Chile.
Wife: No, I’ve had that one. I want to try something new.
Husband: But did you like the one from Chile?
Wife: Yes, but I want something new.
Husband: Buy why not get something you know you’ll like?
Wife: [Wife sighs VERY deeply. Within that sigh was contained all of her disappointment in the man sitting across from her. The sigh was deepened because he probably failed to get her off last night so she had to fake an orgasm or at least fake how much she enjoyed their 20 minutes of love making. She also may be sighing over the fact that his penis is only about 5 inches long and she once had a one-night stand with a guy in a shitty band who had a 10-inch dick and she knows she’ll never get to see or feel anything like that ever again. No, she is stuck with this 5-inch penis forever.]
Husband: Never mind. Get what you want. I’ll drink anything.
Wife: Let’s get this Lang & Reed.
Husband: That’s $59!
Wife: So? If it’s good, it’s worth it.
Husband: Why get a wine we don’t know if we’ll like that costs so much? Let’s just do it by the glass.
Wife: Why don’t we just get a bottle? I really need it. I’ve had long day today.
Husband: Okay. But it better be good.
Wife: I still don’t know what I want for my entrée. I wonder what’s gluten-free.
Husband: Don’t ask the waiter that.
Wife: Why? Why not?
Husband: Because this is a nice restaurant. They don’t do gluten-free. Do you see that adjective anywhere on the menu?
Wife: He won’t care. Lots of people eat gluten-free. I’m sure he’s used to being asked.
Husband: Oh, man, listen to this. (he reads from the menu) “Chicken and dumplings: Skillet roasted breast of organic chicken over Southern style pastry noodles with pulled thigh meat gravy, grilled asparagus and Cherrywood smoked bacon.” Sounds good for $24.95.
Wife: Ugh. It sounds heavy. Why don’t you try the pork tenderloin? That sounds delicious.
Husband: I don’t want that. I’m not in the mood for pork.
Wife: But you’re in the mood for lamb?
Husband: They aren’t the same meat.
Wife: How about this, the Scottish salmon?
Husband: I don’t want fish.
[Waiter comes back to take the wine order. They get the Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc 2010, a delightful wine from Napa Valley, California. Wife is happy. Husband is irritated by price tag and lack of knowledge of how much joy it actually brings. Also, he is still plagued by a vague suspicion that his wife was faking it last night. But then again, who cares? He got off and slept soundly. A good night, all in all.]
Husband: What about the calves liver?
Wife: It comes with bitter greens. You hate greens.
Husband: I do? Yeah, I guess I do.
Wife: I feel like such an adult. We made reservations tonight. We never make reservations at a restaurant.
Husband: We didn’t need to make reservations. Nobody is here. It’s not even 6 o’clock on a Thursday night.
Wife: Yeah, but don’t you think it makes eating out more exciting when you make reservations?
Husband: I guess. So I’ve decided. I’m definitely getting the chicken and pastry.
Wife: Well, I ‘m not trying it then. THAT is definitely NOT gluten-free.
Husband: Good. More for me. I’ll get a dessert you like.
Wife: Oooo…I wonder what’s on the dessert menu? Should we go ahead and look?
Husband: You do know that nothing on the dessert menu is gluten-free, don’t you?
Wife: Who cares? I need something sweet. I told you. I had a bad day at work.
Husband: Seems like a bad day at work makes it convenient for you to not be gluten-free.
Wife: [wife sighs deeply again]
[Waiter comes. Husband orders chicken and pastry and wife orders the pork tenderloin. They then spend the rest of the meal each regaling the other with tales about their jobs and the people at those jobs who are annoying. The annoying people from their jobs were infinitely more interesting than this couple.]
I think to myself at the moment they order that right now, everywhere across Raleigh, across America in fact, husbands are reading aloud menu items and then unnecessarily reading aloud the full descriptions and wives are telling them why that’s not a good choice. And these conversations all occur in monotone voices, though the wives’ responses are oft tinged with minor irritation. I still think some of that irritation is directly related to the husband’s penis size, though even large penises get old when attached to the same man year in and year out.
Ah! But all was not lost…something wonderful happened as I started in on my [Angela is reading aloud to you]: “Short rib Les Halles: Boneless Black Angus beef ribs over caramelized French onion broth with asparagus, cave-aged Gruyere cheese, buttered croutons and a splash of Oloroso Sherry $26.95.”