Last of the Red Hot Lovers


My husband, Flash, is a Tabasco-holic. If you’re not familiar, it’s a hot sauce that smells like dirty feet. Since he hates when I eat off his plate in any fashion, I’m sure that’s why he started using it. One look at my face when I unsuspectingly stole a Tabascofied bite was worth every drop to that devious man.

Being a spicy lover…wait, that didn’t come out right. Being a lover of spicy food, Flash decided to boil some shrimp at his apartment when we were dating. We bought some Shrimp Boil (clever name) and added it and the delicious, diminutive crustaceans to the bubbling water. After 10 minutes, our eyes were irritated and burning a little. Then came the coughing. Next thing you know, we were running out of the apartment, gasping for air, unable to open our eyes. Your typical romantic dinner. Apparently, you don’t use the whole bag of Shrimp Boil for a pound or two of shrimp. Where was that small print on the package? When the apartment finally aired out enough to go back in without our Hazmat suits, we had to wash off the seasoned shrimp under the faucet before we could eat it.

Experimenting a few months later, when the blisters on my tongue had healed, Flash made a second attempt as an adventurous chef. He sprinkled red pepper flakes on spaghetti he made us one night. Again, I rinsed off my fire-breathing cuisine before partaking.

But my premiere Italian dinner for Flash was quite the opposite experience. It was the first meal I cooked for him. I had it all planned out. A nice, cozy dinner for two by candlelight; picture the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp. Does it get any more romantic than two dogs eating from the same strand of pasta? My friend Leona always mixed her spaghetti and meat sauce together, and it was great. I came from a spoon-on-your-own-sauce-from-a-separate-bowl family, so I decided to try it Leona’s way.

Mmmm. It was perfection on a plate.

Flash arrived. The table looked like a magazine layout, and his eyes looked impressed as they traveled from the savory garlic bread, to the tossed green salad with his favorite dressing, to my soon-to-be-a-favorite spaghetti with meat sauce. I was delighted and beaming with pride. As the candles illuminated the look of love in our eyes, we began to eat. After 2.3 minutes, Flash got up from the table.

He went to the refrigerator.

“What do you need?”


The birds that suddenly appeared every time he was near nose dived to an early death. And there were definitely no feelings of my longing to be close to him.

“Ketchup? Why do you need ketchup?”

“It’s a little dry.”

I was stunned and devastated. You could hear a pin drop; it was like those E. F. Hutton commercials in the 70s. 

“Dry? I put plenty of sauce on it. I put a lot in there.”

“I just like more sauce, that’s all.” And then he squirted the condiment meant for French fries and hamburgers and hot dogs and meat loaf on pasta.

You know those moments when time just seems to slow down? Like when the Bionic Woman is running or when you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair? Yeah, it was like that.

And then, there was nothing else dry about the evening. My night to remember was soaked with tears of disillusionment. I did my best Laura Petry (Dick Van Dyke Show) impersonation without even trying.  “I worked really hard to make this perfect, and I can’t believe you just said that, and who puts ketchup on spaghetti, and I can’t believe you did that, and I am never making spaghetti for you again!”

I don’t remember anything after that. I’m pretty sure I blocked it. So, forgetting my declaration, I did make spaghetti for Flash after we were married. I intended to serve it to the Heinz fanatic by placing one little noodle on a plate covered in a pool of sauce, but I got distracted by the intense pressure of making sure it wasn’t “dry.” Of course, the sauce was kept separate from the pasta.

But I learned to live through the “saucy years,” before I implemented the “you don’t need all that fat” years. Flash’s internal programming demanded that everything had to be smothered in something. Sauce, butter, sour cream, steak sauce, mayo. The important thing was that you couldn’t see what lay beneath the gravies, creams, and condiments. It was a covert operation on the part of every cut of meat, every hot dog, everything he ate.

These days, he’s just happy to have something nuked for him when he comes in from work. Bet he misses that dry spaghetti now.