Earlier this year I posted the following in a thread about one person trying to control another person’s eating: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=352034
So this is another Ulrich and Bettina (Mrs. Mercotan’s brother and his wife) story!
We recently were at a gathering of Mrs. Mercotan’s family, which included her parents, her two sibs, their spouses, and assorted kids. It was held at a lovely restaurant where much fine food was enjoyed. It was also served family-style, with multiple multiple dishes being passed around, for each person to sample and enjoy if they chose.
Ulrich sat across from me, next to his wife Bettina. During the course of the conversation, Bettina reported quite loudly and triumphantly that thanks to her interventions and nutritional counselling, Ulrich was healthier than ever.
I saw Bettina’s nutritional counselling come into active play during the meal, as the dishes were passed. She made sure that she kept an eye on which dishes got to Ulrich, how much he took and whether or not she felt his choices of food and serving size were appropriate (these last educational comments were always delivered in a loud enough voice for everyone at the table to benefit from her knowledge.) She also intercepted a number of dishes before they got to Ulrich, on the basis that they were NOT suitable for him.
Meanwhile, Ulrich did a lot of eye-rolling, sighing, and surreptitious obtaining of food while Bettina was distracted. I admit I played some small role here by placing the table floral arrangement in such a way as to hinder some of Bettina’s surveillance. And intercepting some passing plates, and offering them to Ulrich, saying “You might want to try this, it’s wonderful!” while Bettina was distracted.
As such, it was a fine little domestic scenario, played out between them hundreds, if not thousands of times in the past two and a half decades of their lives together. Amusing, pitiable, but not particularly worthy of its own thread.
The dessert menu at this fine establishment was complex and varied. My mother and father-in-law encouraged us all to partake, if we so chose. Which was when Bettina declared that while the desserts looked wonderful, she would be skipping them, save to sample a little of someone else’s. “Oh, by the way, Ulrich. You’re not to have any.”
A flame suddenly flared in Ulrich’s eyes. Sitting across from him, I believe I was the only one who noted it. Yet he sat quietly, as multiple desserts were served around him. While Bettina sampled multiple other diners’ dessert selection, I surreptitiously offered Ulrich a bite of my lemon, ginger, and coconut confection. Which he took, under cover of the floral arrangement.
Partway thru the dessert course, Giovanni (married to Mrs. Mercotan’s sister) averred that his poached, brandied, and seared pear and iced cream combo was magnificent, and that Ulrich must try a taste.
The initial refusal by Bettina to consider such a proposition was met with intense negotiation pressures from Ulrich’s sibs and BIL, until finally a concession was extracted that Ulrich could have a taste of the pear as long as Bettina selected the serving size. Said operation was speedily performed, the partial pear piece presented to Ulrich, who consumed it with gusto, and pronounced it magnificent indeed.
As the dessert course wound down, Bettina became more and more distracted by side-conversations, and paid less and less attention to which food might present a threat to Ulrich. It was at this point that Giovanni, stating that he had had a surfeit of fine dessert, and was replete with satisfaction, passed the remainder of his pear and iced cream to Ulrich.
This initial comment, and even the move of the plate to Ulrich, passed unnoticed by Bettina. But unfortunately, before the aforementioned tidbits could be consumed, Bettina saw what was in front of her husband. Her spine visibly stiffened. She stared at his face. She spoke, in a steely voice that was part elementary school nun on a mission to drive Satan from her charges, and part SS officer savagely trying to retain command and control at the Battle of Stalingrad:
“Ulrich! You are not going to eat that! You’ve had too much already!”
But the fire of desire has already been kindled in Ulrich. He replied in a quiet, yet firm voice: “I’m eating it, Bettina.” A piece of pear began to move towards his mouth.
Seeing his defiance, Bettina’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Ulrich! No! I will not allow it!” And having said this, Bettina reached onto his plate, and with here bare hand grabbed the remaining half-cup of softened, melting iced cream. Holding it up a moment in triumph, she quickly deposited the drippy, liquifying dessert into a napkin. Then she fixed her steely glare back on her husband.
Ulrich didn’t even blink. He quickly, yet with great dignity, consumed the pear that he had been left behind by the clutching hand of his spouse. Having done so, he sat back, sighed, and looked at the crowd made up by his family, who were all watching in various states of consternation, awe, and horror.
Then he spoke.
“I only really wanted the pear, anyway.”
(I can’t make this stuff up, people)