I grew up in England where it was considered extremely impolite to touch someone else’s food. Food sharing was an emphatic no-no.
Then I moved to the United States, but old habits die hard.
My late husband, Herman and I, almost did not survive one of our early dates. He took me out to what he promised would be a real Jewish deli, and where I ordered a Reuben sandwich. It arrived in all its piled high magnificence! Herman looked rather longingly at my sandwich and asked
“Can I have a bite?”
My plate was untouched so I said, “Sure”, expecting him to cut off a neat, modest piece.
But no! What did this man do, still a virtual stranger, was to open up the entire sandwich, take out half the filling, close up the sandwich and give it back to me. No longer, an overly tall, inviting sandwich, but a rather flat and ordinary looking one.
I was speechless and a bit grossed out.
Catching my rather astonished look, Herman hastily explained, “I am cutting carbs.”
In the years to come after we were married, he would explain to friends when dining out together, much to my embarrassment, “You NEVER touch Mercia’s food!”
You can train husbands, but occasionally they slip the leash and run amok!
We were dining out one night and we ordered our food. A few minutes later, a middle-aged couple sat down at the next door table. Our food arrived, and the next door couple looked up, as people do in restaurants, to see what our dinners looked like.
Finally, the wife, who was seated near Herman, leaned over to him and said, “Oh do please excuse the interruption, but could you tell me the name of the dish that you ordered. It looks rather good.”
“Lemon Chicken”, he replied, and then the food sharing monster reared its ugly head. “Would you like some?” He said, “I have got way too much”.
“Oh no, no” the wife protested. “Very kind of you but I just wanted to know the name of the dish”
“No, I insist”, said the food sharing monster, and with one swift move he took her side plate, put half his dinner on it and returned it to the astonished woman, who by that time, was politely resigned to eating Herman’s dinner.
“Good isn’t it?”, he said to her with a cheeky grin on his face.
As she nodded in reply, I interjected, “Oh, do please excuse my husband. We didn’t mean to intrude”.
I wanted to hide under the dinner table.
By this time the woman’s husband entered the fray and defended my husband.
“Oh, it’s fine, we love it! You seem like nice people! Let me introduce ourselves, Dr. and Mrs. Cohen.”
Another Jewish doctor! Oy vey! Soon both tables were discussing their respective kids and grandchildren. We were becoming fast friends!
Their waitress came around and asked Mrs. Cohen what she wanted for dinner. She explained to the rather surprised waitress that she did not need dinner because this nice man next to her, had given her half of his dinner. And then Mrs. Cohen resumed talking to Herman. I shook my head.
When we left the restaurant that night, Herman turned to me and mischievously said,”Tell me, Honey, am I too friendly with strangers?”
To which I replied, “Yes you are, but everyone including me loves you for it”.
And he taught me something. When you let down your walls, and cross taboo boundaries, some wonderful surprises, and new friends can enter your life. And BTW I am no longer so prim and proper.