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"Look," said David, "both of you mean well. But your neuroses have pushed you to extremes. Mom is obsessed with being a good host and providing for the happiness and well-being of her guests. She knows there are many foods you don't like, but she doesn't know what they are. So for her, the preparation of every meal is like walking through a minefield. Whereas you don't want to eat things that disgust you, but you want to be a low-maintenance houseguest and not put anybody out, so you fend for yourself. I wish that you would both just relax a little and meet somewhere in a happy middle ground."

Now, almost a year later, mushrooms were the issue of the evening. Those spongy fungi I detest so much were threatening what might otherwise be a tasty burger. We arrived at the house on Ency's birthday, shortly after she'd returned from the hospital -- David's father had rushed her there before dawn after she had complained of chest pains. The doctors had found nothing wrong with her, but follow-up appointments were scheduled.

Concerned, but trying to brighten everyone's mood after such a scare, David said, "Mom, I would not have said anything about making burgers without mushrooms for Barb if I had known it was going to give you a heart attack." We all laughed a little harder than the joke warranted; it felt good. A few hours later, everyone had Hungarian-style burgers. Mine was a delicious, well-done, paprika-laden burger with a slice of American cheese melted on top -- and hard to tell apart from the patties overflowing with mushroom slices and sour cream. For dessert, Ency produced two tubs of ice cream: Breyers vanilla to please the masses, and H...agen-Dazs chocolate to please me.

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