I always love to read those "man-on-the-street" columns in my local newspaper. It seems that frivolous questions rather than weighty ones inspire far livelier and intriguing responses. In the same spirit, I collar friends, relatives, and total strangers to ask them inconsequential questions on culinary matters.

Q: If you were sitting in an outdoor cafe in Rome on a sultry summer night, who would your dinner partner be? What would you be eating? What would you be talking about?

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Janice: I'd be with my husband eating cannoli and Italian bottled water. We'd be planning the next day's trip to Pompei.

Richard: I'd be with my love*. The setting sun would make the highlights in her hair shimmer. And she'd have this look in her eyes that she has when she feels really loved. We'd be having risotto and a bottle of Sassacia. I'd be telling her how happy I am to be with her.

*who happens to be his wife.