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Winners: Round 24


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#1 maggiethecat

maggiethecat
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Posted 06 March 2005 - 06:54 PM

I am deeply impressed (to say nothing of madly envious of) the entries this Smackdown received. Thank you, entrants. You really put the letters in the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts and Letters. Judging this round was took multiple PMs back and forth among us judges, and I wish to dispense a blanket Honorable Mention to all who didn't make the top three. You guys have some chops.

We know that there are many, many more Society members who can dazzle us with their wordsmithery. Please watch this space for Round 25, and send in an entry.

The golden threesome: please PM me your addresses so that I can trot to the Post Office with your prizes.

And the winners are:

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."
Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com


#2 maggiethecat

maggiethecat
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  • Location:Chicago Burbs -- West

Posted 06 March 2005 - 07:01 PM

Third Prize: kriskitchen

“Why don’t you look through medicine cabinets like normal people?” Because kris makes the case that the fridge is a better source of DNA evidence.


“You can tell more about a man by looking in his refrigerator than in his eyes.”

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.

Congratulations, kriskitchen. Here's your Golden Gully:

Posted Image

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."
Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com


#3 maggiethecat

maggiethecat
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  • Location:Chicago Burbs -- West

Posted 06 March 2005 - 07:10 PM

Second Prize: reverendtmac

This is not Todd's first Golden Gulley -- the man can really write. I can't wait to retire the phrase "science project" to describe the blue fuzzies in the back of the fridge. I'll steal shamelessly from the rev: "something in the back that could hold a rudimentary conversation."



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.
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.
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.
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.

Congratulations, reverendtmac. Here's your Golden Gully:

Posted Image

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."
Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com


#4 maggiethecat

maggiethecat
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 6,053 posts
  • Location:Chicago Burbs -- West

Posted 06 March 2005 - 07:16 PM

First Prize: ivan


"I'm not saying she had me from "hello". I'm saying she had me from "h".

Comrade Davidoff, the Czar of Noir, had me from 1. -- and he made me giggle . What a treat.




1.

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.


2.

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.

Much 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.


3.

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.


4.

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.


5.

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.

Congratulations, ivan. Here's your Golden Gully:

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Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."
Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com


#5 AlisonA

AlisonA
  • participating member
  • 133 posts

Posted 09 March 2005 - 04:56 PM

I am deeply impressed (to say nothing of madly envious of)  the entries this Smackdown received. Thank you, entrants. You really put the letters in the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts and Letters.  Judging this round was took multiple PMs back and forth among us judges, and I wish to dispense a blanket Honorable Mention to all who didn't make the top three.  You guys have some chops.

We know that there are many, many more Society members who can dazzle us with their wordsmithery.  Please watch this space for Round 25, and send in an entry. 

The golden threesome: please PM me your addresses so that I can trot to the Post Office with your prizes. 

And the winners are:

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Congratulations you all. These were great fun to read!

AlisonA
Still searching for hash browns in Jersey.