by the Observer
[Compatible weight and eating habits are fair enough criteria for a relationship, but there must be more than that. Ron Barrows was wise enough to know this, and parlayed his initial attraction into much more than merely sharing a love of food. This is his story.]
"Why," thought Ron Barrows, parodying an old movie line, "of all the cafes, restaurants, and fast food joints in town, would this girl choose to make this place her hangout?"
Not that Rubio's was a bad place. He had been downsized out his job with plenty of savings but little to do with his time when the cold war ended. It had been a hiatus of about nine months when his friend Jack Michaels asked him to come aboard.
"Its not rocket science, but you're a good cook and you'll enjoy a job with regular hours free of all the stress you've lived with for twenty years. Besides, if you find you like it I'll sell you a part interest."
It sounded good. For two decades he had worked seventy hour weeks all around the world, one of the countless engineers who made the machines of the cold war function. There had been no time for marriage, much less relationships or a family. Now he was in his late forties and "retired."
He had been friends with Jack since college. Jack was now a successful businessman with a wife and three kids. So he took Jack's advice and tried it out. Within a month he was tinkering with the menu and serving as both head chef and manager in the late evening. Everything was proceeding nicely until the third Tuesday in June. So far as he remembers that is when she first came in.
It was shortly before 10:00 when she took a table immediately opposite the Chef's window. After perusing the menu she took out a book and read until it came time to place her order --- an appetizer followed by a main course. Then she stuck her nose in the book while Ron watched. She was large, probably pushing 200 lbs, but tall enough not to appear obviously heavy. She had an aura of intelligence about her, but Ron also detected a note of melancholy which seemed to lift only when the food was served. She took her time savoring her meal and reading her book, then ordered dessert. The first time Ron noted this with passing interest, but thought little more of it. He had always liked larger gals, especially those not infatuated with the need to diet, but hadn't had time to act on his preferences.
The next Tuesday she came again. And the next. Ron deliberately put a little extra effort into her orders and made the portions a little more generous. He enjoyed seeing her eat every morsel. About the fifth week she complimented the waitress on the talents of the chef --- then came back on Thursday. Ron wasn't sure if it was his imagin-ation but it seemed that her business suit was becoming just a little more snug than at first.
He decided to take a chance. The evening was slow, so he came out from the kitchen, thanked her for the compliment and for being a regular. He asked her what her favorite dish was --- it turned out to be the pasta. Then he asked if she would be willing to serve as his critic for some new menu items he was considering.
"I would love to," was the reply, "Your cooking is outstanding. But right now I can't afford more than two nights!"
"If it were on the house, would you like to come on Mondays and Wednesdays?" Ron replied. She paused a moment, then accepted the offer.
For the next four months Ron served a different item to her each week --- and several of the ones she praised and enjoyed the most were featured as "Chef's specials" for the regular clientele. Business began to pick up as people dropped in to see what was new. By then he was certain that she was adding a few pounds. He thought it was wonder-ful and found himself filled with desire for a closer relationship with his best customer.
For her part, Barbara Simmons, for that was the girl's name, was enjoying the experience as well. She was well aware that her clothes were getting tighter and knew the reason why --- instead of dinner and dessert out once a week she had been doing it four times. And the meals themselves were giving her a couple of thousand extra calories. It was no surprise to her when she finally mounted a scale after six months and discovered that she had gained fifteen pounds.
What surprised her was that she had no desire to stop. In a reversal of traditional roles, Ron's cooking had gotten to her. She went out and purchased some new outfits, deliberately a size or two larger than she needed.
Ron noticed the change and complimented her on her taste. Then he inquired if she would be interested in sharing with him a Saturday evening at a place where they could just relax. She accepted with a warmth that made him glow inside.
That Saturday he shared his background and she reciprocated. It quickly became apparent that both had had fine careers but were now at a crossroads. In his case this was because of the end of the cold war; for her, the cause was what amounted to a glass ceiling.
She had been with the city library for twenty three years, having started there when she was 18. But lacking a formal degree in library science she was blocked from any further advancement. So she had become a perpetual student in the evening, learning about all sorts of things but never for some reason encouraging romantic relationships.Yet for some reason she felt close to Ron and trusted him. Ron's analytical mind began to generate a scenario, but he decided not to tell her immediately. Instead he told her that, in his opinion, they both needed to have some variety in their lives and asked if he might squire her about and let them both experience what they had been missing. This he did, at the same time joining the restaurant association and learning the business from professionals from the inside out. He shared everything as he learned it with Barbara, being careful not to talk just about business, but rather soliciting her comments and suggestions.
In little more than a year both were knowledgeable restaurateurs and she was a strapping 235 pounds. He took her out to the nicest restaurant he could find and presented her with a ring. Two months later they were married and Barb gave the library notice that she would be retiring.
Ron's and Barb's menu specials continued to be a hit --- so much so that business was up over 80%. Jack began to be concerned that his Chef and Night Manager might become the competition. He began to lean on Ron to go through with his offer to actually buy part of the restaurant.
He discussed the idea with Barbara, who had funds of her own. It was she that had the idea that was adopted --- they would both buy in, but not to give cash to Jack. Rather the funds would go to underwrite purchase and conversion of a second location. Which is why the manager of Rubio's #2 today is a very large and friendly lady --- who just happens to be the wife of one of the owners (in fact, is rumored to be a part owner herself).
Incidentally, both restaurants have a reputation for such delicious food that they are "off limits" to dieters --- especially on Thursday nights when anyone ordering the "Chef's Special" gets free dessert. Its always crowded.