Book: The title of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story deftly captures both the humor and the hostility of this marriage memoir. Written by actor Annabelle Gurwitch and her husband, writer Jeff Kahn, the book covers their friendship, courtship, marriage (with child) and various crises. Shortly after their honeymoon, for example, Gurwitch, who grew up in Florida and graduated from Miami Beach High School, has to go into the hospital to have a tumor the size of a grapefruit removed. Then shortly after his birth, their son Ezra requires multiple surgeries to correct a birth defect. The various things these two beleaguered spouses find irritating and annoying about each other actually cause them to ponder what life might have been like if they had never said "I do." But Kahn is a comedy writer, and Gurwitch certainly knows how to turn lemons into lemonade. After Woody Allen fired her from a play he was directing (she claims he told her one of her facial expressions made her look "retarded") she worked the experience into an off-Broadway play, a book and a documentary called Fired. So no surprise, You Say Tomato includes rancor and complications, but also plenty of laugh lines, just like a good sit-com. In fact, they have adapted the book as a play that will be at the Jaeb Theater at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa from Sept. 13 through Oct. 14.
Why read? In real-life marriage, no one lives happily ever after. Couples squabble and disagree. They get on each other's nerves. They struggle for power and try to get their own way whenever possible. And then there are the potential deal-breakers: alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, etc. So when two people decide to go public with their marriage, their account will include plenty of dramatic tension. Gurwitch and Kahn are no exception. They have their troubles. They even confess, "We're just not that into us." But they keep it together using their own off-beat techniques.
Make it: Salsa makes an appropriate accompaniment to any book with the word "tomato" in the title, but considering the content of this book a recipe for salsa that's slightly painful would be even better. Just take this all-purpose salsa recipe and keep adding jalapenos until you see tears forming in the eyes of your spouse — your taste tester. Then you'll have a salsa that hurts so good — just like a better-than-average marriage.
Drink it: Salsa and margaritas make a classic combo, of course, but any discussion of marriage deserves something stronger, such as vodka. Try a variation on the traditionally non-alcoholic Arnold Palmer, which offers tea (as in tea and sympathy), and lemonade. (Gurwitch, like I've already said, knows how to make lemons into lemonade.) Just mix equal parts of iced tea and lemonade, and add vodka as you please. Garnish with a slice of lemon.
Tom Valeo, special to the Times
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