Entries: Round 24
Posted 16 January 2005 - 05:17 PM
Cindy had know Roberto for a while now. She met him through a friend. She'd already eaten at his restaurant many times and from there her passion for food and wine grew. This all out of a new found respect for her new chef friend... or more? She knew when she looked in those eyes She bought wine book after wine book, pulled out her untouched cookbooks and started to learn.
One Night at Roberto's restaurant Cindy and a frined thought they'd splurge a bit. After all being a foodie calls for a bit of extravagence on their part once in a while. So she decided to order the special. "Poached Langouste, with a Black Truffle Risotto, Caviar Beurre Blanc, Suateed Foie Gras and Braised Fennel". Her jaw dropped at the notion. All three of the worlds delicasies on one plate? She couldn't resist. Did she have a choice? The plate came out. For foodies. moments don't get much more memorable as this, for this was Cindy's first tast of truffles, caviar, foie gras and langouste. The moment the steam hit her nose she was in awe at the savory aroma of the truffles. She smply stared at the dish for a few moments. She then nervously tasted the risotto. Her eye closed to concentrate on teh flavor. "amazing" she thought to her self. She then tried a bit of the foie gras. She enjoyed every moment of it from the time the velvety foie gras was put into her mouth to the point it finished cascading down her throat. The saltiness of the caviar was so profound. And the langouste was perfectly poached.
Roberto came out of the kitchen to say hello. Cindy couldn't hide her gidiness at tasting that dish and told Roberto how amazing it was.
"Well if you would like, why don't you come over to my place and i'll show you how to make it?" Roberto asked.
Her blushing was not a result of the wine she's been drinking. "A chef just asked me out! I get to see a chef's house!!! I get to see a chefs kitchen!!! And i get to see ROberto!!!". she couldn't resist, but then again, did she have a choice? "I'd love to" Cindy responded with a huge smile on her face.
"Great. Well i'm off this thursday. 6 o'clock? My place?"
"I'll see you there"
Cindy went home and called all her foodie friends to tell them of the recent promotion from food to "Foodie Godess".
Thursday night came quickly. She Arrived at Robertos place and sat down on a couch. Robert offered her a glass of wine. She took the glass, sniffed it and responded "Tokay?"
Rpberto's eye's lit up "You know your wines eh?"
"Well i've tasted a wine or two in my day" she said with her head cocked slightly upward.
"Well how about we get to it then shall we?"
"Yes. I can hardly wait"
Roberto explained how to make the black truffle risotto and she went on to stir the rice and add the stock. As this happened the phone rang. "Excuse me my dear". "Of course" Cindy responded.
A minute has passed and Cindy realized that had forgotten to add the parmesean to the risotto. She looked around and couldn't find it. She decided to be bold and to look in his fridge for it. She Often had this idea that you never ess with a Chefs' cooking area. She opened the fridge and looked inside. Imagine you're on a roller coaster about to take that initial dive. that stomach feeling is what Cindy was expiriencing. Her heart sank like a rock. In the sparcely inhabitied fridge she saw a half bottle of tokay wine, a rotting onion and tomato, a jar of expired store bought mayonaise, a bottle of kahlua and vodka, a jug of expired 1% milk, and frozen microwaveable pizza. with the fridge still open she stummbled back wither her hand conering her mouth. She looked up at the cupboard and opend it as well. She forced her self not to gasp to loudly. There she saw a box of childrens cereal, a bag of animal crackers, and about 3 flavors of juice flavor crystals. Cindy heard footsteps coming towards the kitchen. She quickly shut the fridge and cupboard. When Roberto came into the room he inquired about the pale look on her face. "Yah i'm really sorry Roberto but i think I've come down with soething. I really have to go". Roberto leaned for a hug but was denied as she was pacing too quickly towards the door. She didn't look back. She got into her car, Still shocked at what she had seen.
And that's when she knew, you can tell more about a man by looking into his fridge than looking into his eyes. Cindy convinced herself of this after her dreams of being the head foodies within her friends were crushed that particular educational evening.
Posted 18 January 2005 - 06:01 PM
"You can tell more about a man by looking into his fridge than looking into his eyes."
That was her line; the ones that you'd remember to recycle, they were hers, always. Well, that and the used-to-be-innocent-but-jesus-it-was-boring smirk, twisting under her twinkling green eyes...just a simple non-verbal unmisinterpretable broadcast: she was officially Up To Something. That was hers, too.
That bit about the fridge and the fella? She'd dropped that and the look just before she ransacked my closet, found an old pair of Thai boxing trunks and sauntered off, leaving me to fight the heap of twisted sheets and misplaced pillows.
The kitchen was tight, mostly dark; the only light was from the overworked bulb in the back of the fridge. She luxuriated in the hard yellow tunnel, forcing my eyes from her high cheekbones and shellfish-allergy lips to the spikes of tousled red bedhead, down her naked back to where my old trunks were barely hanging off the top of her ass...each and everything cut in sharp relief against a wall of mustards, salad dressings, overmarketed party orphans, and other things you hoped your stuck-up gourmand friends would ignore.
(Of course, if Sera was still there, I bet they wouldn't say shit if they had a mouthful.)
"I'm actually impressed," she said as I came in. "You could eat most of this. All of it."
"I even want to know what you were expecting?" I asked, snagging a Coors Light off the top shelf.
"Beer and take out containers. Maybe something in the back that could hold a rudimentary conversation," she said, glancing over with a grin.
"Mmm. Do me a favor and stay outa the garbage," I said, backing against the counter and killing the neck.
She giggled, rummaged some more. "One for three, anyway. Oh, and you definitely need more hot sauces. There's only what, six in here?"
I chuckled, paused. "And?"
"And what?" she said, punctuating it with the plasticky chunk of a crisper.
"And...well, you figure anything else out?"
She closed the crisper, straightened up, swung the door shut and stretched, leaving me with a glimpse of two long, lean ab columns disappearing into the oversized elastic band on the trunks before the light went out...and before I had my night vision back, she'd wiggled herself into my arms and liberated my beer.
"Clean. Full of food...good food, too. Fresh stuff..." she said, her voice trailing off.
She was quiet for a minute, then. Two, maybe. I didn't count. Bit of an effort to not glance at the microwave, mind you. Instead I just felt her shoulders rising and falling against my chest, tried to lose myself in the rhythm.
"I think I figured out that I love you," she said, finally.
I asked, later; back in bed, limbs knotted into a tagliatelle tangle.
"...wasn't in the eyes, huh?" I said softly, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
"Just making sure," she murmured through a sleepy giggle.
"I still throw a few back, talk a little smack, when I'm feelin' bulletproof..."
Posted 02 February 2005 - 09:20 AM
I try not to let my passion for cooking and diverse food show too much. Really, it can intimidate someone, especially when you are just starting to date. I found this out the hard way when I went to my date’s favorite chain Italian place. Telling him that I not only have had authentic carbonara, but I could make a better one than this place at home was not a good idea. No call back from that guy.
I am not sure why my mom told me this, except perhaps that I had complained that the last loser I had dated never seemed to have anything but pizza and beer in his fridge. His puppy eyes that would talk you into going out get more pizza for dinner. I spent a lot of my money while I was with him but I found one of the best tomato pie places on earth. I think of it as money well spent for that reason alone.
And, I wasn’t sure it was always true. For instance shortly after beer and pizza guy, and thus shortly after I moved out, there was the organic fruits, veggies and chocolate syrup guy with the dreamers eyes. He drank smoothies for breakfast and lunch and ate fish for dinner every day. He was way into the health thing, and got into great shape while I was with him. We had great sex too, he sure had fun uses for that chocolate syrup. However, he hated any change in routine, say having a pizza pie once in while. So even tough the inside of his fridge looked appealing, you know with all those fruits and veggies, there was never quite a full meal and no room for diversity. Since then there have been other guys like him and puppy eyes. I had long since stopped believing my mother’s adage.
But now I am standing here in front of Mike’s fridge. He seems like a nice guy, and I enjoy being with him a lot more than I thought I would. I knew him through friends for a while. Although is only our third official “date”, it is the first time he has brought me back to his place. Now, I am psyching myself up to look into his fridge, hanging onto my mothers adage even though I thought I had long since discarded it.
At least I do have a reasonable excuse to look, but I can’t help but wonder. I am a little worried because I am finding myself wanting for this to be right. What will I find inside his fridge besides the white wine I came in for? I laugh at myself. He’s probably wondering why I am taking so long to get our drinks. Get it over with, I think as I open the door.
Okay, there is milk, juice and the aforementioned bottle of wine on the top shelf. And yes, the veggie drawer actually has fruits and veggies in it, including a couple of pears. I don’t know that many guys who eat pears much less keep them in the fridge. Along with a couple of boxes of carry out food, there are some wrapped packages on one of the shelves. Meat from a butcher shop I guess. There are even condiments that are not ketchup and mustard in the door. This is looking good. I sneak a peek in the deli drawer.
At first I cannot open it. It is crammed full of cheese. All kinds of cheese and I am not talking about Kraft here. There is a beautifully aged blue, a wedge of what looks like to be a goat cheese with ash running through it. And a small pot that I recognize from my own fridge of an artesinal sheep’s milk cheese that is sinfully good. My mouth waters thinking of how good it would be with those pears.
Without thinking, I open the drawer to check on the pears. On most of them, the area around the stem is still a bit firm. One is definitely starting to soften, but it is still not quite ripe. Mike walks into the kitchen as I put the pears into the paper bag that the Chinese leftovers had been in. I set it on the counter, a day or two and they will be just right. He gives me a smile as he fetches the wine I had been sent to get.
“For tomorrow?” he asks reaching over the pears to get put two glasses for us.
“More likely Sunday.”
I am guessing the huge smile he has on his face is matched by mine. We stare at each other grinning sillily.
“You know,” he says, handing me a glass, “My mother told me you can tell more about a woman by how she looks in your fridge than by how she looks on your arm.”
“Well, I think I do well at both, thank you.”
He leans in close and kisses me.
“Better than I had ever hoped.”
Maybe my mother was right.
Edited by AlisonA, 02 February 2005 - 09:34 AM.
Posted 02 February 2005 - 09:28 AM
Good luck everyone.
Edited by AlisonA, 02 February 2005 - 12:17 PM.
Posted 05 February 2005 - 01:12 PM
Posted 05 February 2005 - 01:17 PM
I had to marry Zack, just to have those beautiful eyes forever envelop me like home. Cardiologist's command, moves that made women stop on the street, congenitally rich, and my best sexual surprise ever? Why look inside his expensive Sub-Zero?
Channel your inner Alice Munro or William Trevor or Ian Frazier right here.
And I was still okay after, drunk one night with Zack away, I was familiarized into an old boyfriend's bed; Zack found out a few weeks later, and I thought he was going to acro-disintegrate. Instead he got one of his professional friends (a hot young lady psychiatrist with a special interest in marital infidelity) to mediate between us. She never breached (was) political correctness, but I got her message: you did the deed, bitch, now skulk up for your punishment. No subtle psychodynamics for Zack: you take control of causes and effects, or get blown away. Getting his work on diet and heart disease in major journals helped lock it in his mind: healthy eating equals long life. Finally I did take a look into his fridge. Lord Jesus: tofu, carrots, brown rice, multigrain bread, skim milk…
I’m in deep trouble. Problem being I came from this mother who has lived her life by feeding the universe. Breakfast announced a standard to which the day never measured up: pork sausage oozes melted fat and faint nutmeg, pancakes of sour cream drink soft butter with maple syrup, hot oatmeal with brown sugar cools in thick cream in my memory. Friends at school couldn't believe the amount of smoked meat in my sandwiches or me dipping them in mustard or aioli in a paper cup. The injuries of the day eclipsed by crackling roast pork beside potatoes crisp-fried in duck fat for dinner.
"Christ", said my heart-throb, "Does she have any idea what that food is doing to your arteries?” I didn't argue. Like my artsy background could support, against a national-hero scientist, the intuition I could never shake: How does anyone who eats for pleasure ever KNOW that they would have had their heart attack any later, if they had spent their life eating food they hate? It’s like you’re dead before they bury you. The effect of Häagen-Dazs is beneficial right now; the effect of its cholesterol is theoretical and impossible ever to confirm. You only live once. My choice was no choice at all: I always cooked one dinner for Zack’s eyes and another for my stomach.
The oculo-gastric schizophrenia continued on his sabbatical in Lyon. The daily parade of suckholes celebrating his academic career didn't change reality: I was in heaven; Zack was in hell (or so it seemed…). All the food was rich (and delicious). "Why aren't all these fucking people dead?" He was on the defensive. OK for him to talk like that, until I got home early from the Saturday market with andouilette, Langres, and foie gras, to glimpse the impossible-to-ignore ass of the ballet student from upstairs disappearing around the corner, and Zack, hopping, pulling on his pants. After that, his idea that great food is poison wasn't aired much, but still he never touched anything he considered unhealthy.
Back home; the marriage is in armed truce. My feelings as I drive to the hospital after the always-feared phone call don’t seem to belong to me. "45 is young for an infarct this big.” says Zack's resident, importantly clerking his boss into intensive care. “He's always been incredible about lifestyle…" Later I found out the heart attack had been the unexpected climax of an afternoon with a nurse. I went home in the rain.
Zack's attending cardiology colleague calls at 3 AM, balls in his throat: they’ve done everything to save him, but all his arteries were blocked. Feeling unreal, I gently slide a big slice of custard pie founded in jam from the fridge (now my fridge) onto a plate, press its soft sweet egg and firm butter crust between my teeth, and suck the icy sugar and acid balance of a glass of last night's beautiful old Sauternes.
Posted 06 February 2005 - 07:29 PM
I keep thinking about what the cleaning lady sees.
Posted 08 February 2005 - 10:15 PM
A short while later, after trying to cajole the kids – midway through the summer vacation – into doing something (to responses of “we’re tired of riding our bikes. Tired of going to the park. Tired of playing with our friends.”). She’s tired of coffee from pre-ground beans. She calls Him. “I’ve Had It. I’m leaving.” So, she leaves, and heads to the grocery and farmer’s market, loads the vehicle with essentials, after promising the kids tons of fun if they can manage to stuff a couple of pair of shorts and some t-shirts into a few duffles. She detours on the way home to pick up a couple of other kids and stuffs all of the kids, supplies, food, beverages and a dog into her aging Ford Bronco. She gets a block from home and returns for the cell phone and the charger thing that plugs into the cigarette lighter. She heads North to The Cabin. The few days turn into almost two weeks.
She calls him periodically. She has parked the Bronco in the right spot, and at the right time of night, standing on the hood, she can get a signal. “No, I’m not coming home. It is divine up here. The weather is perfect.” The food, at first, is good. Really good. Seared scallops the first night. Larp. Potato salads (several types). Green salads. Salsa from fresh tomatoes. Hummus. There are fireflies at night. There are picnic adventures on the point. There are blueberries.
One week turns into the next. As time goes by, supplies dwindle, as does the novelty of adventures with all of these children. There are a couple of trips to the market in the nearest town (small, at best) where the meager selection all looks limp. The food becomes sort of pedestrian; the selection very limited. Tired of eating cold cereal, ramen noodles, vegetables that were tired when purchased. She is tired of playing charades. She has finished all of the crossword puzzles in the New York Times Sunday Magazines. Wishing late at night for something other than the cheap vodka available at the local muni. Tired of being the lone adult with 5 kids. Tired of being without him. Tired of just about everything except being at The Cabin.
Close to the end of the second week, regretting her annoyance at an alarm that rang too early for her, regretting annoyance at coffee ground the night before, She calls Him. “I need to see another adult. “I am hungry for you, and for good food.” He says “it is quiet here, and I am hungry. I will come tomorrow.” She reminds him “don’t forget the cilantro.” But, She gives no other food instructions.
On that Friday afternoon, she keeps the radio low, listening for the sound of that DOHC. She and the kids are in the lake. Languishing. Waiting. She cocks her head; she has heard the rumble. She knows it is the sound of the car that will bring those baby blues where they should be.
The Car and He appear. She isn’t sure if she wants to explore those Baby Blues or the contents of the cooler first. But, the eyes win. But, then to the cooler.
Lid off. On top. Smoked salmon – that sugar smoked salmon from Russ Kendall’s at Knife River. He has clearly added over 2 hours to his trip to make Her happy. There is ground chuck. There are chuck eye steaks. There are a couple of Amish-raised chickens. There are eggs. There are a few hunks of cheese. There is a box of assorted Spanish wines, and a bottle of Shaker’s vodka. There is the basil from the garden. There is a bag of heirloom tomatoes from the garden. There is granola from Trotters, with the appropriate bottle of organic cream from Cedar Summit Farms. Good olive oil and vinegars. He remembered chopped pork, and to grab some kaffir lime leaves from the tree, and to get to the Asian market to get that extra bottle of fish sauce and a packet of bird chilies. He brings beautiful baby greens from the farmer’s market. Wait, there’s more. Broccoli. Green beans. Hardneck garlic. There is an abundance of things. And, there is sweet corn, picked not hours from arrival. Hope butter.
We feast. All of us. On fish the kids have caught. On the corn, not hours old. We tell stories to the kids. We listen to the radio.
And, after the kids are in bed, She and He head outside. They are still hungry, for each other and the food that He has brought. The Northern Lights are in their full glory. She states “I needs a swim.” He says “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” She heads to the dock, disrobes, and lays on her back in the water, admiring the splendor. He strolls down a few minutes later, a platter of smoked salmon and Shakers in hand. She says “what took you so long?” He “well, I had to prepare this platter of food. I also had to make brine for that butt I brought. I’ve been missing that smokey smell you carry with you to bed when you do it to a butt. Don’t worry, hon, I brought plenty of charcoal and a mess of wood chunks.” She stands, dripping wet, and wades to the dock and accepts the hunk of smoked salmon offered, thinking that “old love is good.” And, it’s not just the eyes and the fridge. The cooler can reveal many things.” Once again, He has stolen her heart.
Posted 14 February 2005 - 03:05 PM
This was before I met my husband.
I fell in love with a man who was five feet, four inches tall—just an inch or so shorter than me, not a difference you'd have noticed, necessarily, if you'd seen us standing beside one another.
Some years before I met him, this man told me, he'd spent all his free afternoons at a gym downtown and worked as a bouncer in various bars. In the photographs he showed me, the muscles of his shoulders bloomed beneath the fabric of his shirts like bread dough rising under a kitchen towel.
"I like you this way," I said, touching his now slender arm, meaning his arms and other things.
Those muscles had required a certain quality of attention he now gave to other endeavors. Sometimes I stopped by his house in the late afternoons and he made me dinner—Rock Cornish game hens rubbed with lemon and flecked with rosemary, spinach salad, chocolate mousse in a rosy puddle of raspberry sauce. I sat in a chair at his kitchen table, drinking tea from a china cup that had once belonged to his grandmother; I watched his fingers slip a clove of garlic under the skin of a bird no larger than my clasped hands, or pry apart the two halves of a blood orange. A fine, sour mist settled over the backs of his hands, sparkled briefly in the dim kitchen light and evaporated on his skin.
It was our habit to sit on the living room floor after these dinners and read aloud to each other, but one night he proposed that we go for a drive instead. We drove with the windows down, and we followed the highway for some distance before he turned off on a gravel road. We stopped when we came to a chain stretched across it, anchored to poles on either side. He got out of the truck, and I followed him.
"This is my favorite place," he said, stepping over the chain before he offered his hand to help me across, though of course that chain posed no greater problem for either of us. He didn't let go of my hand as we walked to where the road finally ended, near the west shore of a lake outside of town. We picked our way through long grass and marshy land until we had come to the water's edge. "I come here whenever I need to think," he said.
"What do you think about?" I asked, knowing he wouldn't say what I hoped.
He shrugged. "I think about all the people I used to know, where they are, what they're doing. I think about all the people I know right now, and I think about how I'm going to wind up losing touch with all of them, too."
We sat near the water until the falling darkness made it impossible to distinguish the lake from its opposite bank. We made a careful trip back to the gravel road and his truck. Closer to town, cresting the final rise that would drop us back into the valley where we lived, the full moon appeared directly in front of us: if the road had continued its upward climb, we would have had to wait until it rose higher and left a space for our safe passage underneath. Or so it seemed.
“There should be a word for this,” he said, taking his foot off the gas, slowing down. “A French word, I think.”
In French, the word for love can be used to signify passion as well as affection. One word embodies the uncertainty that is, I understand now, unavoidable in even the most sincere of human interactions.
One week later I went to visit friends in a nearby city. When I got home Sunday night, the man I loved baked a bread pudding in a blue bowl he meant for me to keep. He brought it to my house, still warm, along with a small jar of whiskey sauce. This was, at the time, my favorite dessert.
We sat at my dining room table, and he told me about a woman he’d met at a party the night before. What he said was this: "She's very pretty. And incredibly smart. And really funny. She reminds me a lot of you, actually."
When I saw them on the street together, some months after this, I noticed the top of her head at a level with his chin. I ducked into a store and watched from behind a sale rack of winter coats as he helped her climb into his truck. Both hands around her waist, even his slender arms were enough to keep her from falling.
I don't think of him often now, but recently it happened that my husband and I were driving together at night and I noticed the moon, rising just at the end of the road we were traveling.
Our daughter is four years old; that night, she'd fallen asleep in the back seat and the moon looked like nothing more than a circle of yellow construction paper she would have cut out and pasted against an expanse of dark paper meant to represent the sky. It seemed entirely possible that I could just roll down my window and, with one finger, nudge the moon before the glue behind it dried—position it somewhere other than where it was now, precisely in our way.
But of course, that wasn't necessary.
In the morning, the three of us stopped at a diner and ate a ridiculous breakfast. The waitress filled our thermos with fresh coffee. Before noon, we were home.
Posted 14 February 2005 - 07:57 PM
I suppose there is truth in that statement, but the man in my dreams didn't own a fridge, at least not that I ever saw. Oh, he cooked for me. All the time. He fed me morsels while looking soulfully into my eyes. He always seemed to have the right food for the right occassion. A warm summer's eve picnic in the park would include chilled champagne in frosted tulip champagne glasses, soft french cheeses, and other assorted delicacies. A frosty winter night would find us in front of the fire, watching the snow gently fall, a hunter's stew gently bubbling. Bubbling? Bubbling where? I could never really saw him cook, I just knew it was there. Just as I knew he loved me, and I him.
He won my heart. Not with flowers or baubles. Those are easily gained and lost and as long as one has money, require no thought. No, he won my heart through the language and love of food. We spent hours together. Hours that seemed to fly faster than a New York minute. Hours that mostly seemed to involve food. He always knew what I needed, craved. Oysters Rockefeller, chilled crab, a little carpaccio in a pinch.
The day before Valentine's I put him on a plane and waved him tearfully goodbye. We would spend the most romantic day of the year apart. He called me though. "I know what you need" he whispered softly down the telephone line.
"What?" I waited breathlessly for his answer.
"My lady needs beef. Rich deep red beef, ruby red wine, and perhaps, if my lady is very good, a molten chocolate souffle".
Oooh. I sighed with pleasure, and then a thought struck me. "Tell me what's in your fridge". What would you make me right now with what you have?
"Fridge?" he replied, baffled. I don't have a fridge.
"Well I did wonder about that", I said. So where do you keep all this wonderful food you make me?"
"Me, cook?" the love of my life sounded appalled. Oh no. Did you really think I cooked for you? I haven't a clue I'm afraid. Why would I when I have the world's best restaurant down the street?"
My world shattered around me. It wasn't real. Our love had been built on the foundations of deception. I could feel the shards of my dreams slicing through my skin. "Bye Baby" I sadly whispered as softly, I replaced the receiver.
I lay back with my eyes closed, tears leaking through my lids. Somewhere, I thought, a pain so fierce, knifing through me, I could almost feel myself bleed. Somewhere, my man is out there. The man of my dreams. A man with a fridge.
Practice. Do it over. Get it right.
Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.
Posted 15 February 2005 - 02:31 PM
You can tell more about a man by looking into his fridge than looking into his eyes. Assuming, of course, he's not one of those fellows who doesn't own a fridge -- but even that should tell you something. And this fellow had a fridge, all right -- a beaut. An open book.
I'd been on this case for too long. Months too long. It's not my customary style to let things drag on so -- I'm normally a cut-bait-and-move-on kind of guy -- but there was something about her -- her, the dame -- that I couldn't shake from the moment I layed eyes on her. Something about the way she was standing by my office door that morning, her hip cocked just so, eyeing me through the thin silvery cigarette smoke curling up from her expensive-looking coffin nail. She got right under my skin, she did. I'm not saying she had me from "hello". I'm saying she had me from "h".
"Hello," she smiled. "Is this your office?"
"Depends on who's asking." I don't like pushy dames. But I was willing to make exceptions.
"You might want to be nice to me." She blew smoke in my face. "I might be a client."
I unlocked the door with my name on it and walked in. Normally I wouldn't turn my back on a stranger like that, but something told me she wasn't here to jump me. I got behind my desk and pulled a bottle of rye out of a drawer. It's all I ever keep in my drawers -- rye.
"Want a belt?" I offered.
"Sure, why not?" she accepted.
I stood and walked toward where I keep some extra glasses, but never made it. Maybe I was clumsy, or maybe I was clever -- I don't know. All I know is I walked smack into her. Just like that. And before either of us realized what was happening, we were in each other's arms, finishing up the most unbelievable kiss I've ever had -- the kind that makes fireworks, the kind that knocks the wind out of your lungs, the kind that punches you in the gut like a pile driver and leaves you for dead.
"That was nice," I said, pulling my face back about a quarter of an inch.
"Again," she whispered. I obliged.
It was some time before she got around to spilling her guts. And boy, did she spill them. She was -- is -- Fiona Wiggums. She was in trouble. She was being followed. Her apartment's been broken into. She was getting postcards with death threats in the mail. She'd been shot at. Knives have whizzed by her ear sticking into nearby telephone poles with a "THWONG!" sound.
That's how she pronounced it: "THWONG!"
So far it was a story old as the hills. Girl gets in trouble. Girl gets followed. Girl's apartment gets broken into. You know the rest. I gently touched her lips to stop the flow of words. I had some questions.
"What's wrong with the police?"
"I thought I'd try you first."
"Fair enough. Any idea what they want from you?"
"It's not a they. It's a he. I've seen him."
I raised my eyebrows. "Can you describe him?"
"Sure, but it won't help. Average height, average build. No distinguishing features. Keeps his hat pulled down. Gloves."
She was right. It didn't help.
"Nothing at all unusual about him? His shoes? A cane?"
She thought for a moment. "There is one thing. I've only seen him a few times... but he always has a sandwich."
"What kind of sandwich?"
"Just your ordinary sandwich. Home-made, not commercial. White bread. A little lettuce sticking out. Could be anything inside."
"Crusts on or off?"
"I... don't know..." She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "No. Sorry."
"I charge thirty-five an hour plus expenses."
"Does that mean you'll take the job?"
"Yeah, sure. No guarantees."
"Wonderful!" she beamed. "I can't wait to tell my fiance!"
Fiance. Great. Now she tells me.
I should've charged her forty.
We left the building where I hang my shingle and headed north along 6th Avenue -- she walking briskly and confidently, me half a block behind hugging the shadows. The plan was simple. She was to go about her business as usual. The only difference was that now she had a shadow. With any luck, if you want to call it that, Mr. X would take another shot at depriving me of a client. The idea was to spot him before he made his move. As far as ideas go, it wasn't the brightest. But it was all I had.
You play this game long enough, you develop a sort of sixth sense. I can tell when my target is about to turn, or hail a cab, or duck into a doorway. But I didn't need my sixth sense for this one. I knew where she was going: to meet up with her fiance at the Times Warner Center near Central Park. All I had to do was keep a careful eye on her. Just a routine tailing job. Except this time the view was better.
When we got to Columbus Circle, she ran up to a palooka in a pricey-looking overcoat and started talking. For a fiance, he wasn't showing a lot of spark. I saw him nod a few times before he turned and steered her by the elbow through the Center's glass doors. She had told me where they were going -- lunch at a place called Per Se, a fancy joint, much too rich for my blood. Word on the street was you could easily drop a couple of Cs per person just for what they called a tasting menu. At those prices, at least one of our lovebirds had to be loaded. I should've charged forty-five.
It was cold, for Spring, and I was glad of three things as I settled in against a nearby wall for a long wait: my pack of Shermans, my snub-nosed .38, and my silver-lined flask of rye. Three things I was never without, if I could help it.
This routine continued for months. Fiona divided her time between sleeping, lounging in her Manhattan penthouse apartment, and eating lunch and dinner with Jacob Snodberry, her beloved fiance. They almost always ate in one of the Time Warner Center joints, with occasional excursions to other pricey restaurants run by the kind of world-famous overpaid hashslingers you might catch on Food TV, if you were into that sort of thing. And I was her constant companion -- at 20 paces.
Mr. X made several more attempts in that time, usually late at night as she was returning home after a night on the town with Snodberry. Some shots would ring out from a dark alley, bullets whizzing by our ears, Fiona screaming, me pushing her around a corner out of harm's way. Sometimes I'd catch sight of him, and sometimes I'd run after him, but I could never get close enough to get a good shot. The few times I saw him, he had a sandwich clutched in his left hand, just like Fiona described. Other times, I'd run after him and find nothing but a small pile of bread crumbs where he'd been standing, waiting for Fiona. And one time I found a half-eaten sandwich, white bread, lettuce, cold cuts, mayo, mustard, pickles. Crusts on. I dropped my handkerchief over it, carefully picked it up and dropped it into a plastic zip-lock baggie.
But aside from these brief moments of excitement, it was a monotonous routine. I suppose Fiona felt sorry for me, standing out in the cold while she and her beau swilled $35 martinis at bars where you either had to know someone or kill someone to get in. She must've put the pressure on Jacob, because one day, out of the blue, she waved me over to where they were standing in front of the Time Warner Center's glass doors. "Come on," Fiona said, smiling sweetly. "Jacob's buying you lunch today."
I followed them inside, and up four flights of escalators past fancy shops and restaurants. As we approached our destination -- a place I had vaguely heard of called Masa -- Jacob explained that it had taken him months of hard work and staggering amounts of cash to establish himself as a regular. We had to pass through a few security checkpoints to get in, with Jacob showing his picture ID a few times, and, finally, undergoing a retinal scan. The three of us were then fingerprinted, photographed, and ushered into a smallish room with some tables, plants, waterfalls, and a big bar behind which I saw several knife-wielding bald guys in pajamas.
As we sat down at the bar, Fiona was whispering to me excitedly. "That's Masa over there -- he's the owner, and the best sushi chef in the world. But these other guys are great, too. The main thing is to get them to respect you. That's how you get the best sushi. Also, you don't want your fellow diners to think you're a slob. Start out by asking for fresh wasabi, that's a sure sign that you are an advanced sushi aficionado. And use the Japanese names for everything you order. After a few orders, buy the chef a beer. Don't do that with your chopsticks -- here, let me show you. Lay them down pointing this way. That towel is for your fingers. Don't call it soy sauce -- call it shoyu. Now, pay attention and do what me and Jacob do. Don't you dare embarrass me, or I'll never speak to you again!"
Well, I tried, but I'm not cut out for this kind of thing. I'm sure I breached protocol in hundreds of ways. I asked the chef if the wasabi was stale, thinking there was no need to ask for fresh if it already was, but that turned out to be the wrong approach. I couldn't get a good grip on some of the more slippery offerings with my chopsticks, so I dropped a few things in my lap. The sushi chef who kept handing me things could barely disguise his disdain, even after I bought him a beer. At one point, he handed me a plate of raw fish slices arranged like a big flower. I just couldn't do it. I got the chef's attention and handed back the plate, saying, in a low tone so as not to embarrass Fiona, "Be a good man and take this over to yonder hibachi and lay a few stripes on this sardine. There's another beer in it for you if you do. And if you don't..." I pulled open my jacket a tad -- just enough to expose the butt of my snubnose .38. The chef's eyes widened with understanding, and he did what I asked. Fiona was right -- you have to gain their respect before they give you the good stuff.
All in all, it wasn't the worst meal I've ever had, even if the fish was undercooked. But I got a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach when Jacob let it slip that the bill for our little lunch was well over a grand. That just didn't make sense to me. There is a lot you can do with a grand that would have a lasting effect and maybe even change someone's life. What were people really buying here? I still can't work it out. Self-esteem? Hardly. Prestige? Maybe, but at best it's fleeting. A unique epicurean experience? Perhaps for some. But if you ask me, there wasn't a thing I ate that afternoon that couldn't have been improved by a bottle of ketchup and a fork.
It was a gloomy fall afternoon. Fiona and I walked slowly toward her apartment building. I didn't bother with the shadow routine. I was through with that. I was sick of the routine. I was having a bad day.
"Fiona," I said, stopping. "I gotta get out of here. Out of the city. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the bums and the fancy restaurants, I'm sick of the flop-houses and the overpriced hotels, the people, the dogs, the pigeons... I'm sick of it all. I want to go somewhere else."
Fiona's eyes lit up. "Maybe you can take me with you! We can leave this two-bit town for good, and make a life together, just you and me -- the two of us! We can have kids, start a family..." She broke off, her voice cracking. "Aw, who am I kidding... It would never work. We're from different worlds. I'm Park Avenue, you're the Bronx. I'm champagne cocktails, you're a fifth of rye. I'm hamachi handrolls, you're frozen fish sticks. I'm croissants, you're Italian subs. I'm..."
"Ok!" I broke in. "I get the picture. You think we're too different. And I say, opposites attract. We compliment each other. We make each other whole..."
"No." She smiled sadly. "No. It just won't work. Besides, I already promised Jacob... I know he's not exciting and virile, like you, but we come from the same background. And say what you will about Jacob, the man loves me. I can't turn my back on that. This is goodby, Ivan."
She kissed me on a cheek, turned and walked away without looking back.
My bad day had just gotten a whole lot worse.
My client may have walked out on me, but she didn't exactly fire me. I felt I owed her one more shot before sending her my bill. So, that night, I followed up on the only lead I hadn't covered.
I knew generally where the house was, and it didn't take me long to spot it. Breaking in was a cinch. A quick look around told me I had the place to myself. I found the office on the second floor, a tidy mahogany-paneled room with a big desk and some filing cabinets. I rifled through the drawers and files, but didn't turn anything up. I started tapping the walls, looking for a safe, when something caught my eye at the far end of the room. A wet bar, complete with hot and cold running water, some cabinets, and a refrigerator. I walked over and pulled the refrigerator door open.
You can tell more about a man by looking into his 'fridge than looking into his eyes. I had looked in the man's eyes a hundred times, maybe, and never once saw a hint of malice. But what I saw in the little 'fridge told me as sure as day that evil intentions filled the bastard's heart to overflowing. It was all there. Hellman's Mayonnaise. French's Mustard. Underwood Deviled Ham. Oscar Meyer Bologna. Iceberg lettuce. Sweet bread and butter pickles. Wonder Bread.
A voice, icy with suppressed rage, came from behind me. "What the hell are you doing in my house?" I whirled and found myself staring down the business end of a Browning 9mm.
"Well, Jacob," I sneered. "So this is your dirty little secret. I should have known. So tell me, is Fiona the first, or just the latest in a series of impressionable starry-eyed dames? Very clever. First you make a few threatening moves, make them think their life's in danger, then... what? Drop a few hints? Plant a suggestion or two about taking out some life insurance? And then you follow through, don't you. Tell me, Jacob, how many times have you collected on the policies of the dames who fell in love with you?"
Jacob was breathing heavily. Sweat glistened on his forehead. "You can't prove a thing," he hissed.
"Can't I? Take a look in that refrigerator. All the makings of the exact kind of sandwich you dropped the last time you took a shot at Fiona. The exact kind of sandwich you've been seen holding every time you've been spotted. What do you think will happen when the CSI boys get hold of this stuff? It's like you left your fingerprints all over town!" I was yelling now. "Tell, me, Jacob: what's with the sandwiches, anyway? All those tasting menus and exquisite canapes and perfectly crafted tidbits just don't stick to your ribs like honest grub, do they? Do they?"
Jacob made a sound between a growl and a gurgle. He was looking green around the gills. His mouth contorted as he spat, "You sonofabitch! You think you have it all figured out! Well, let me tell you..."
He never finished. With a yelp, he doubled over, clutching his stomach with one hand, and his throat with the other. The Browning dropped to the floor, and I kicked it across the room. Jacob, eyes bugging impossibly outward, crumpled, his legs jerking, foam bubbling up from his purple lips. A moment later, he was still. I felt for a pulse and couldn't find one. Leaning over, I sniffed the foam on his lips. I recognized the smell from a case I worked a couple of years ago for the Tokyo cops. It was fugu.
Talk about your bad sushi.
As I expected, the boys in blue made quick work of it. Jacob Snodberry of Long Island was actually Sammy "Killer" Cahill of Philadelphia. The snake was guilty, all right, and Fiona wasn't his first mark. A long list of dead girls had kept Sammy in the black, living the life of the privileged. And through it all, he was a phony. He never stopped being the pissant con artist from South Philly. He had the glitz and polish of a man born to the manor, yet all a girl had to do was look in the man's refrigerator to see the true story.
In the end, Jacob's relentless pursuit of epicurean wonders and foody brownie points did him in. They never found where he ate the deadly blowfish -- probably some shady back-alley operation with unsterilized knives and plastic chopsticks. It bothered me that Jacob cheated the hangman, but I had to admit that whatever criminally inept sushi chef gave Jacob his last thrill also probably saved my life.
Seven hours after I had called the cops, they were finally done asking me questions, and I was told I could go home. But home wasn't where I intended to go. There was a certain dame with whom I needed to discuss a thing or two. This time, I was determined the conversation would end differently.
I made my way up Seventh Avenue as dawn broke over Manhattan. I breathed in the city air. It smelled sweet. It would be an hour or two before she'd be waking up. I was passing by Joe's 24-Hour Subs, a place where I was a regular -- and I didn't have to bribe or threaten anyone to get that way. I realized I hadn't eaten anything in what seemed like days. I went in and took my usual seat at the counter.
"Coffee, Joe." I said.
Joe poured. "Rough night?"
"Glad it's over," I nodded.
"Usual?" asked Joe.
"Sure," I replied. Then, on impulse, I raised a palm. "Wait. I'll have one of them croissant sandwiches."
Joe raised his brows. I knew what he was thinking, but it didn't matter. Sometimes a man needs to take things in hand and better himself. I've tried it before, so I knew it wasn't going to be easy.
But this time, I was motivated.
Posted 15 February 2005 - 06:59 PM
A full carafe of cold coffee lay in one dark corner, next to the empty jar of mayonnaise. Yesterday, the light flickered and burned out. One week ago, a full carton of eggs fell onto the floor, shattering four of them. Two weeks ago, the oranges turned sour and foul. Three weeks ago, the milk, what was left of it, became rancid and lumpy.
Four weeks ago, she was still alive.
Since Alice’s death, the contents of this refrigerator mirrored Ben’s life – cold, dark, quietly diminishing to emptiness.
When Alice was alive, Ben had, in her, an audience for his passion in the kitchen. The refrigerator and pantry were deep and rich with all manner of culinary treasure. Every Saturday morning, they would walk together, hand in hand, through the farmers’ markets, and she would always have the final say on what was the freshest or best, often engaging in fierce but playful argument with the vendors for the best price.
Ben was in the middle of preparing a surprise birthday dinner for Alice when the phone rang at 5:34pm on January 16. Ring. Ring.
That morning, before she left for work, she had asked him. “Where are you taking me for my birthday?” she said. “You know I don’t like surprises.”
“Maybe nowhere,” he smiled. “Just don’t look in the drawer in the refrigerator on your way out.” He had spent days hunting for the perfect ingredients and had managed to slip them into the crisper, hidden in a large paper bag, before she came home each evening.
Ring. Ring. His brow furrowed in concentration, the shrill sound of the phone barely registered with his ears. He had just finished slicing a large black truffle, and the tip of his knife had just punctured the vacuum seal of a lobe of foie gras, and, listening for the sound of her keys in the door, he let the phone ring. Ring, ring, ring. Ring. Ring.
Bent over the kitchen island, and working over a large rectangle of pastry, Ben layered the slices of foie gras across the disks of truffle, carefully assembling the pastry and sealing it with the intense focus of a man both obsessed and inspired. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. He stood up straight and washed his hands. Ring. Ring. Ring. Wiping his hands dry, and with a quick glance at the clock, he answered the phone.
It was Alice’s sister. “Ben? Where’ve you been? Do you have the television on?” She was crying, then she was angry, then she was both at once. Then she was very quiet, and the mutual thought came to them at the same instant.
“Have you heard from Alice?”
Four weeks. In what the news organizations would later call “The January Incident”, Alice would officially be listed as “presumed dead”. The threat level would remain elevated for months to come. A ten square block area surrounding the building where Alice worked would be uninhabitable for years, if not decades.
Ben left the pastry sitting in the kitchen. After a week, Ben swept the moldy, rotting pastry off of the cutting board into the trash. In four weeks, he had not left the apartment once, and had slowly eaten through the contents of the refrigerator and pantry. Stock items were the first to go, and by the fourth week, only a few stale eggs remained as edible alternatives. At first, he prepared simple omelets, then, as his will faded even further, simply boiled the hell out of everything.
And so it had come to this. Ben took the last three eggs and placed them into a pot of water set over high heat. He stared at the surface of the water in the pot, watching for the slightest bubble to disturb the surface, and silently cursing the hands of time. He caught his reflection in the water, his once bright eyes now dim and soulless. Ring. His heart ached.
His head hurt. Ring. Ring.
Ring. Ring. Click. “Hi, this is Ben and Alice’s machine, you know what to do…”
Beep. Why won’t these goddamn eggs boil already?
“Ben? It’s me.” He thought he could hear her voice even now. He must be going insane.
“…long story….trapped….unconscious….loss of memory….”
“….at the hospital in Westchester…I hope you get this message soon. Love you.”
Posted 15 February 2005 - 09:27 PM
Or so goes the prayer that I mutter to myself as I eyeball the cracked faux-wood refrigerator handle. Amana side-by-side, Harvest Gold, circa 1974.
The rubber seal puckers open with a loud fwak. In the next room, I hear my husband’s voice swing up a notch. Poor thing. Andy is trapped in a conversation with our host about titanium drivers. His heroic enthusiasm is to keep the man from thinking about my whereabouts. From discovering that I’m rummaging through his kitchen like some fridge burglar.
“Why don’t you look through medicine cabinets like normal people?” Andy asks, smiling at me across the dark of our rental car. While he guides us back to the highway, I tell him what I found: Slices of ham, half-heartedly wrapped in plastic, turning to paper. Fluorescent yellow mustard, mayonnaise (fat-free) and vintage barbecue sauce, all in squeeze bottles crusted over at the top. No produce to speak of, save a dying bunch of carrots huddled like refugees in the crisper. And for no good reason, next to the Spicy V-8, an upright bottle of Rosenblum Zinfandel.
Mr. Golf is not who I am looking for.
I spot trends for a living, connecting the details, textures, shapes and tastes of our daily lives, looking for clues about the Next Big Thing. What music is playing at the Gap in Long Beach, the latest in Japanese cartoons, what colors folks wear to their hot yoga classes and what kind of special water they drink when they’re done – stuff like that. I’m the kind of person who knew pink was the new black and, though unreported anywhere, I saw pomegranates coming. (By the way, it looks like figs are next.)
In my line of work, you spend a lot of time lurking in peoples’ kitchens and in their lives figuring out who is eating what, how. So I guess it’s only natural that when I started my current hunt – the one for my father – I would fall back on what I know best. Somewhere along the way, I became convinced that when I found him, I’d know by the contents of the fridge. Sure, it’s crazy. But that’s always worked for me before.
My mother died two years ago, taking all of her secrets with her, including my father’s identity. The only remaining clue is me: a mirror of their combined effect. My ankles, humor and curiosity, they all came from her. I also came into this world hardwired for food. Mom could have eaten the same bad takeout day in and day out (in fact, she did, just so she wouldn’t have to cook). Clearly, another set of genes was at work. Several fine Brunellos and one long afternoon netted a list of likely candidates from Mom’s closest girlfriend. The hunt began.
Candidate #2 lived in Savannah. Talking my way into the kitchen to get a glass of water, I discovered a tidy green room, glowing with the afternoon and thick with trinkets and dust. A menagerie of cat magnets herded lazily on the door of the basic black Frigidaire. Inside, saucers and foil pie plates held valuable offerings of gold: fried chicken, perfectly crisped disks of green tomato, knots of fried okra, cornbread and cobbler. The top shelf sagged under the weight of several liter bottles of soda. I feared at any minute, a picnic was going to break out.
Later, he told me that since his wife died, the church ladies were always ringing his bell dropping off a little something to eat. “They’re just trying to make sure I don’t starve,” he said. I’m thinking they are either trying to court him or kill him. Either way, he’s not my man. Though he has his charms…he doesn’t cook.
In Chicago, I met a man who has everything. The architectural digest kitchen, Sub Zero fridge and wine cellar drawers, and everything that could ever be labeled “artisanal” (can you believe - artisanal peanut butter). It all seemed rather curated – a well put together collection, for admiring purposes only.
Number four has sent instructions to his house in Ojai and I easily find the driveway marked on either side with wine casks. The house smells like browned garlic and bread. He was cooking us dinner.
Ruby colored glasses orbited a decanter on the table. A fennel and carrot salad, drizzled with olive oil and then, tomato risotto. Later, he brought out a bronzed guinea hen surrounded by fresh figs and a hint of lemon rind, both picked earlier just beyond the house.
Over dinner, he told us about his garden and his 97 cookbooks. He was fighting the urge to make it an even 100.
“This,” he says, nodding his head towards the fig barely hanging on his fork, “is about as good as it gets.”
I never went near the kitchen. He’d just told me all I needed to know.
"You ate what?"
Posted 16 February 2005 - 12:58 PM
“You must be joking.”
“No, Polly. We take it very seriously. And ever since we started eRefrigerators.com, we have lived by that motto.”
“It is a mouthful. Is that how I have to answer the phone?”
“No, silly. ‘eFridge.com’ will suffice. However, I want you starting on the floor – selling. We have a receptionist who handles phones, except when she’s at lunch. Listen, I have a meeting with my attorney about opening another brick and mortar. We’re thinking about Kenosha. I’ll be back this afternoon. Until then, watch the floor. Okay?”
Polly wondered what she had gotten herself into. She never had a sales job before. When she answered this Craigslist ad, she thought she would be doing computer science stuff. That’s why she spent the last 4 years of evenings going to DeVry, getting a certificate in information technology. Tired of slinging hash at Carl’s, she wanted something better. Now she’s apparently slinging ice chests. Her bills won’t wait for the perfect job, though.
“Hello? Are you open?”
“Hi. Come on in. Looking for a ‘fridge?”
“Um, yes. This is a refrigerator store, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Sorry. We just opened a few days ago. See the banner? Our models are over here.”
You can tell more about a man by looking into his fridge than looking into his eyes.
“Nice. Do you have to say that when you answer the phone?”
“God no. I would have quit if that’s the case. I’m Polly.”
“Okay Polly. I’m Robert, and I’m looking for something cheap. I just moved into an apartment in Logan Square that has no fridge and I need something to hold my experiments.”
“Assignments, actually. I’m a culinary student at Kendall College.”
Handsome guy. Pursuing the culinary arts. Interesting. Living in Logan Square as a student. Very bohemian. Appropriate student-like attire. Dark, rigid blue jeans, flannel shirt, scruffy hair and a worn messenger bag slung across his body.
“This is pretty much the basic model. The XP-300, and yes that IS its name, only comes in white. No water dispenser in the front, no automatic ice maker. But it’s reliable and it has a three year warranty.”
“For you? $475.00.”
“For me? Awww, that’s sweet. But seriously, do you have anything cheaper?”
“There are some dorm room refrigerators over there in the corner, but they’re not what you’re looking for.”
“Come on, your experiments are important to you, yes? Although you don’t need bells and whistles, you do need consistent and reliable temperature settings. And you need space – lots of it. Not only for your work, but also for leftovers from Abril.”
“Right on. I love that place and I can walk there. They have the best queso fundido in town.”
“Heart attack in a bowl I call it, but yes, they do.”
Robert couldn't ignore her coy smile. Dimples don’t hurt a bit. I do so like brunettes. And pigtails. Yummy. And she apparently knows her cheese.
“Alright. I’ll take that one you showed me. What was its name again?”
“The XP-300. A fine choice, sir.”
“Why thank you. Do you take checks?”
“With a drivers license, yes.”
As he dove into his bag searching for his checkbook, Polly wondered what else was inside. She’s always been particular to bags. Some might say it was at fetish levels. She found them on eBay at decent prices, which is what she always told someone who questioned her bag prowess.
“How about meeting me at Abril’s this weekend?”
Wow! That was unexpected, but not unwelcome. He’s a cute boy. Friendly, pursuing a worthwhile endeavor. And he digs queso fundido.
“What’s in your bag?”
“Your bag. What’s in it?”
The big, heavy front flap folded backwards as Robert plucked out a few items one-by-one.
“My Moleskine datebook, which is part datebook, part address book, part diary. I don't know what I'd do if I lost it. My iPod, of course, on which I’ve replaced the stock earbuds with something better and not white. My checkbook. Hatless Jack by Neil Steinberg. And a cheese sandwich I made this morning with Red Hen Bakery bread, great Dijon mustard I picked up at the farmer’s market in Daley Plaza last week, cucumbers thinly sliced on the bottom, and three slices of French Emmental.”
Polly paused. Her heart fluttered.
“How about Saturday?”
Edited by ChgoMike, 16 February 2005 - 01:28 PM.
Posted 16 February 2005 - 05:50 PM
Deadline: February 28th. Let's hear from more of you; The New Yorker can eat its heart out.
Posted 25 February 2005 - 10:52 AM
You can tell more about a man by looking into his fridge than looking into his eyes.
Not that looking into his eyes ever reveals anything. Margaret is in the car on the way home, dangerously barreling north on the interstate. The wind is roaring through the open windows and in the vortex she is trying to shake the sadness. Her hands are still trembling. Of course waking up in a strange room isn’t anything new. The smell of dirty sheets and stale cigarettes is pretty much normal. Stumbling to the kitchen in stilettos to make breakfast in her skivvies to tease and play domestic type is a surefire probability. Finding one can of Budweiser attached to the six-pack holder, a couple of ageless eggs and a takeout box containing mystery meat? That’s basically what she expects. So how could she have been so wrong about the guy’s fridge? She inhales deeply on the cigarette, not her brand, flips the turn signal, and closes the windows.
In one hour and 40 minutes time, Margaret will be showered, dressed in a double breasted navy blue herringbone straight skirted suit, slick low chignon in place, cheerily and briskly soothing the nerves of various pitiful groveling fallens-from-grace. During the morning, she’ll find seven 15 minute slots for conferences with the President’s current favorites, clinch 6 coveted dinner reservations in four continental capitals with the slick utterance of her boss’ name, and strongly command to the staff at the hotels before arrival to include only certain fruits to the President's liking in the suite baskets. Before the afternoon is over, she’ll have arranged for the corresponding VPs to submit their contributions for files and she will have worked out the details of his every move down to which dossier President opens from second he kisses Lorella goodbye on his front step in Beverly Glen to the moment the limo picks him up at airfield to take him home again 6 days later. She will present herself - Smiling, polished, professional, artificially cheerful, of course in a realistic and concerned sort of way. But that is in one hour and 40 minutes time.
Right now, Margaret swings though her neighborhood toward her Westwood apartment, her eyes wreathed by deep black mascara stains, her skin shining with a layer of grimy bar and bed. She had gotten it all wrong. All wrong! She takes another heavy drag from the artist’s brand cigarette and reaches up to press the remote as she turns into her covered lot. No, of course she did not bother asking details about his life, there was no point! All of the signs indicated that this specimen’s dim future would not, could not ever include her, and that was why she chose to go with him in the first place. She had no idea that she would ever wish to see this man again. Discovering the contents of his refrigerator had ruined everything.
Margaret scrubs the sordid freakish night from her skin and lets the water take the past down the drain. This process, usually a source of great pleasure, is tinged with the violence of two realities colliding. As the smoke and filthy night smells are rinsed from her long black hair she relives her trip to the kitchen and the surprise she found there.
M in stilettos had been mildly shocked by its cleanliness. Prepare for Emp-ty, she gloated, bringing right arm over to bring it open, wide. There she was suddenly before a full frontal amassing of delectable provisions. Good God, what had she done?
The Corsican hand formed rigotte smelled less than a week old. How? A twinge of fear of the unknown took her as her eyes caressed the line of langouste and coquille St. Jacques paté in morille lined glass ramekins. Bunches of fresh parsley, chervil, basil, thyme, and wild oregano. She discreetly took a whiff of the Chorizo. She knew it was real, and she only knew of one domestic source of this particular kind. There was no way he could have gotten it into this country legally.
She wildly calculated the ramifications of her complete failure to properly judge last night’s specimen, knowing there was no taking back the laundry list of dirty deeds she’d led him through step by step the night before. His vision of her had already been ruined. There was no hope.
A glutton for punishement, she opened the vegetable bin - the paragon of freshness and seasonal flavor. In the door, an unmarked ceramic pot contained unmistakably hand whisked aioli, her perfectly manicured left ring finger having been slipped though it and into her mouth to be sure. The sharp and spicy mustards and the well used Tupperware labeled “Alba” that contained, in a shallow bed of rice, a specimen the size of a child’s fist that shot sadness through her splendorous breast when she surrendered and inhaled its contents with a heady sigh of regret.
This was the first time she’d so grossly miscalculated. At that moment she had begun to feel disoriented, cornered, a wave of panic sweeping over her. She heard a noise. She immediately did what anybody would have done in her situation. Margaret took his cigarettes and was gone before he could get a good look at her face in the morning light.
Margaret is at the office now. She smiles, a pillar of strength, profesionally administered compassion, competence, and complete reliability, as the shock still wears her thin from the inside. She is but a shell. Her lips part slightly as she verifies that her lipstick has been applied with the usual flawless technique.
The telephone rings. Margaret answers in the perfect sing song voice: “President’s office!”
Just then she gets the shock of her life when the specimen walks up to her desk in a Brooks Brother’s suit.
“I believe I’m Jim’s 9 o’clock”, he smiles, gently straightening his tie while his eyes directly rivet her with a jolt of passion and desire.
M’s world begins to spin. From this day on begins the defragmentation of M’s reality, the joining of diametrically opposite and seemingly incompatible sides, yin and yang united in a turbulent sea of complexity. The foundation has shifted. Life has begun. M has a boyfriend.
Posted 28 February 2005 - 01:15 PM
I have been wandering around, lost in a fog, ever since project blew up the Great eGullet Novel; where's the talent? thread!
You guys are terrific. Great surprise ending, Lucy! I have to catch up with everybody else now...
foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II
Portland Food Map.com
Posted 04 March 2005 - 08:53 PM
“You can tell more about a man by looking in his refrigerator than by looking into his eyes.” Sarah told me without flinching. I flinched though, and broke eye contact as I thought about the contents of my fridge and how it reflected the contents of my heart.
“And you want me to report to you what Carl has in his fridge.” I said, not yet feeling at all astute. Carl was an old friend, though we had grown somewhat apart, he was re-entering my circle by dating my ex-girlfriend and sometimes partner in catering.
“Yes.” She smiled, “you’ve grown smarter without me around to destroy your brain.”
It was that easy to get me to do things. Push me around and I’d wash your rugs. Pull my hair and I’ll carry 4x8 sheets of sheetrock five flights up to redo your walls. Flatter me while slapping me around and I’d spy on an old friend and submit a report Homeland Security would be proud of.
“By the way, who says you can tell more?”
“Hey Carl, you got anything to drink?” I yelled back towards the living room as I walked out of the bathroom. From beyond the sounds of the time suck machine called a playstation, I heard Carl reply to check in the fridge. A vampires invitation.
A naked fridge says more than an adorned one, thought I, as I scanned the month old notices and the sticky note exhortations to DO IT and WRITE ANYTHING. Were those notes to me, I wondered. With a tug and a gasp, the secret heart of my old friend Carl became mine to pillage.
If I had been feeling it, I would’ve closed my eyes and used my nose first. Sight makes claims on all the senses, ruining any sort of buildup as it seeks the source of the jumble of scents that may assault perception. Instead I spotted the old looking half head of lettuce and the takeout carton with red sweet and sour sauce dripped down the side quickly, hardly savoring the slightly pet store like smell.
“Okay, let’s see here.” I knelt down to inspect the half empty character of Carl. Was it half empty, I pondered, or half full. What he would call it? Eggs. Five of them. A four egg omelet one day and a three another? Showing an inconsistency of character? One a day for a week? Showing a dull insipid regularity?
Milk, a quart dated fresh. A quart, that meant no cereal and maybe coffee with a splash. A man who liked his stimulants only slightly cushioned. No cereal… what ever could that mean. Four jars of mustard, all rough, all French. This bespoke of a man with contradicting tastes, rough yet refined. More contradictions. A jar of gherkins, not cornichons. DelMonte catsup. What of that? DelMonte Catsup vs Heinz KetchUp? Southern European softness over Nordic hardness?
Bread, in the fridge, this means roaches in the kitchen. An apple, green with the label still on it. Unwashed meant he felt no fear of imported germs, green meant he liked the poignancy sour sweet contrasts. My eye strayed to the takeout carton.
Ten bottles of domestic beer lay stacked on the bottom, but to the back of the first rack were three opened and partly empty (or mostly full?) liters of cola. All flat, I doubted not. These were sodas who had not known glassware, I could just tell.
Cold sweat dripped down from the icebound top freezer portion, and I pondered opening it. Did I ever want to know more about Carl than what I knew already? Going into a man’s freezer could be like going into his closet and finding the clothing he never wore but wouldn’t toss. Here might be the things that haunt him, that bring him home to his mother, memories frozen forever in time like photographs of some European adventure when he was 16 and met some Swiss girl named Elsa. What was I doing in this man’s refrigerator?
I fled then. Calling out my regrets as I exited, Carl glancing up from the action packed screen for long enough to purse his lips and say “Later.”
Now I sit, scribbling these thoughts on the walls of my own fridge, the harsh clear light of the 25watt bulb casting cold shadows on wet walls. It hums... it shakes... trying to adjust.