No matter what anyone said later about her involvement, Penelope knew the truth: it was Schneider’s fault that things changed.
Maybe the buffet restaurant he’d taken the family to for dinner could be partially implicated, because it inspired him to pose the question...but it was still him who offered it up during the meal.
“What do you think, guys? Is cereal a soup, or a salad?”
They all blinked at him, the silence palpable, before the table erupted into spirited debate.
“Soup. Definitely soup,” Alex declared quickly, slurping his own.
“I don’t know...” Elena mulled it over. “Does it matter how you eat it? Because sometimes Syd likes to mix, like, four kinds together, and eat it dry. That’s definitely more like salad.”
“Salad is made of plants!” Lydia waved a fork at them all. “You cannot call a food that is nothing but sugar a salad.”
“Mami, we call fruit salad ‘salad.’ How is that any different?”
“It is completely different.”
“When I eat sugary cereals, I get hives,” Leslie declared to no one in particular.
Schneider nodded his way sympathetically. “I think I agree with Alex, it’s a soup. It has the basic requirement of being liquid-based.”
“No, you’re so wrong--it’s got to be a salad, because of the different ingredients,” Penelope told him. “To be a soup it would have to be blended together somehow, not just the pieces in milk.”
By the time they ordered dessert, the conversation had moved on, to Alex’s upcoming plans with his girlfriend--a concert headed by an artist Elena had a lot of opinions on, Schneider had seen twice before, and Penelope still wasn’t quite sure she approved of.
But she couldn’t let the discussion go.
Maybe because it was so ridiculous a topic in the first place; maybe because she just hated losing an argument. Whatever the reason, she picked it back up after they got home, surprising Schneider by following him out into the hall.
“You know, at best, it could maybe be considered a stew. That would explain the solid food part, alongside the liquid. But a stew and a soup are not the same thing, Schneider. How can you think cereal is a soup when it’s so obviously a salad?”
He had only made it a few feet down her hallway, backing up a bit in the face of her enthusiasm--and her gesturing. Once he stopped retreating, Schneider grinned at her.
“You know what we need, Pen? Research.”
“Yeah. Have you heard of Gizmo’s? It’s this great cereal bar, they do a whole thing.”
Penelope shook her head. “A cereal bar. What will the hipsters think of next?”
She wasn’t above considering it, though. She did like cereal.
“So you’re thinking, what? We go there, we buy a bunch of cereal, compare and contrast, maybe bring some home for everyone else to weigh in on?”
“Well, actually, I was thinking more like, we’d go, and I’d buy us both cereal, and we’d eat it. Come to a definitive conclusion on the whole soup-or-salad question. You know...like a date.”
“Oh.” It was an endless second, while Penelope caught up to that. “Oh.”
“What do you think?”
She considered it, and him, while he waited. One of the things she enjoyed most about Schneider was how good he was at being patient and quiet when it counted. He just let her decide.
“I think...you’re wrong, and it’s a salad,” Penelope said, watching his face almost-fall before he covered. She reached for his hand.
“But if you want to try and convince me otherwise, then sure, Schneider. Let’s have cereal for dinner.”