We are at dinner, a 7-course tasting menu at a favorite local restaurant, and right around the waffle, fried pork, marmalade first course, JCrew gets distracted by a painting hanging in the corner over my left shoulder.
"Wasn't that painting on an episode of 'The Cosby Show'?" she asks.
"Yeah. And now it's here," I say.
When you put the waffle, the pork, the marmalade on the same fork load there is a burst of grapefruit citrus. It seems like a magic trick. JCrew calls it a "Pork Donut."
"Someone probably sold it," she says, still eyeing the painting. "As seen on 'The Cosby Show.'"
Chuck is a trooper, sitting here at a candle lit table listening to restaurant-volume Flaming Lips, Roxy Music, in the middle of his sleep cycle. This is often how it works for him, what with his work-nights, sleep-days lifestyle. I keep singing "Chicken Liver for Breakfast!" It has an AM radio feel.
The server puts a bowl in front of each of us: Tootsie Roll sized pieces of Beef Marrow, Lemon Cloud, something Green.
"Don't touch it yet," she says. Comes back with a metal soup tureen. Pours pureed Pumpernickel, Cream, Anise around the obstacles. These flicks of the wrist. It's like she's painting the bowl. The soup is the color of chocolate mousse.
"Seriously," JCrew says. "Don't you remember seeing that on 'The Cosby Show'?"
She asks Chuck if she can have his sparkling wine, which comes with the dinner. He says yes. We talk about the certain smell of the boys dorm at St. Thomas. The character names and actor names of every woman on 'The Cosby Show.' The texture of chicken liver. The naming conventions of meat dishes in France in 1066. Billy Ocean. "Paradise Lost" and "The Canterbury Tales."
"At one point I had memorized the first 18 lines of 'The Canterbury Tales,'" I tell the table. "In Middle English."
"Brit lit!" JCrew says. Same college. Same senseless assignment.
"Wan that (mumble) shore as shoot, ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dupe," I say.
"I had a Brit Lit professor who didn't make us memorize the first 18 lines," Chuck says. "He said that when he went to parties and told people he taught Chaucer, someone always wanted to recite the first 18 lines of 'The Canterbury Tales.'"
"Like I just did," I say.
There is a fish course: White Fish, Tangerine, Dill, Rice Noodle Crab Cakes, Umami Mayo. This will be my favorite part; This will also be the part where I hear the seams in my stomach splitting.
I'd made a rookie error earlier in the night in the face of Pizza Man. It tasted so good. And there was an urgency to my pizza consumption: My Former Landlord was sitting next to me, stacking six square slices at a time to make a Pizza Man pizza sandwiches. My survival instinct kicked in and I kept snatching pieces of the pie to make sure it didn't all just disappear into his face.
"I wish they would bring out the Umami Mayo and squirt it all over my plate," JCrew says.
A shooter of Kefir with a drizzle of Blood Orange. Then dessert: Fried Ganache. Crack it open and a lava of Chocolate seeps from it, muddying the plate. There is a Waffle Tuile, crunchy, with a citrus-y fluff of white for dipping.
"I swear. That is from 'The Cosby Show.' I can't believe you don't remember that," JCrew says.
I do, kind of. But it's foggy.
I know how to solve this. I take a photo, send it to Lil Latrell.
"Was this painting on 'The Cosby Show'?"
"Yep," my favorite Bill Cosby fan replies immediately. "It's painted by Claire's uncle Ellis Wilson. She buys it at an auction for $11,000. Her grandma had sold it."
It's all who you know.
* The painting at the restaurant was not the one from 'The Cosby Show.' It was a sort of re-interpretation of it.