Funny Contemporary

Later life undoubtedly brings its share of travails, but one of its pleasures is surely a slowing of the pace. The urgency of youth, or the sheer size of the task mountain represented by home, work and family in mid-life, gives way to a more measured ability to notice, well, life.

David sipped his wine and read those lines again. He had been focussed on his phone, only dimly aware of the warmth of the sun and the chatter of other customers scattered round the pub garden. The remains of a meal in front of him brought a realisation that he’d been barely conscious of eating it; his act of consumption a simple exercise in refuelling, unsavoured, unappreciated.

The Buddhist saying “when walking, walk” floated unbidden to his mind and the germ of a project took hold. “When eating, eat,” he thought, “when creating, create.” He announced to his wife, “I’m going to cook you something really special for our anniversary.”

“That’s nice,” she said, face neutral. A woman accustomed to his enthusiasms, with the wisdom, and long-suffering patience to let them run their course.

He returned to his phone, googling recipes and even philosophers of food. She continued watching the young couple at the next table. From above the table, the impression was that he was making headway. Below the table, the agitation of her feet and the positioning of her legs, knees facing away from him, told a different story.

 “He should give up bloody projects and try people watching,” she thought, “so much more fun.”

Near their house is an artisan butcher. A young man, Greg, venturing into his first business. His enthusiasm and expertise will take him far, for Greg is a foodie with a deep understanding that great cuisine delights all the senses. David decided he would be the perfect starting point and, leaning over the counter, described the project with some enthusiasm. Greg recognised a kindred spirit, and the conversation spun off into a metaphysical realm as Greg paraded cuts of various meats enthusing about the qualities of each.

“Great food is far more than just taste,” he would exclaim.

“Indeed, yes, an artwork on a plate."

“Don’t forget smell is the sense most powerfully associated with memory. Create an experience you will remember all your life."

“Texture, ah texture, critical to the proper release of flavour.”

Greg’s assistant, a farmer’s wife of doughty character, looked on in head shaking disbelief. Some in the growing queue chipped in with their own comments, others tapped their feet. At last, a rack of lamb was chosen. A beautifully delicate side of rich red meat, with tiny white ribs protruding from the top like a row of small teeth. Greg skilfully stripped a thin layer of fat from the outside and recommended crusting the rack with breadcrumbs and herbs.

With the foundation of the dish identified, David scoured the internet for just the right elements to take this simple fare into the realms of the sublime.  An excellent recipe for a crusting coat- a kind of breadcrumb pesto all created from scratch with a wide range of herbs, appeared in its photograph as a beautifully golden crust. His imagination soared into a dream of the plate as a palette on which he could paint a masterpiece.

The creation took form in the sunny uplands of his imagination. A whispery fan of intertwined asparagus and carrot would frame the delicate rack of lamb. Green, orange and gold, highlighted by a poetic drizzle of red wine jus, and set off against a small, white, ceramic dish containing mashed potato, crisped under a grill, cottage pie style. As a stroke of personal inspiration, he decided to include Roquefort cheese in the mash creation.

Determined to use only the finest ingredients, the budding Ramsey eschewed supermarkets entirely and sourced the remaining ingredients from the local greengrocer, a dour man, entirely lacking in the appreciation of food as an art form. Alas the powers of observation and imagination do not always completely align. Without guidance, David’s enthusiasm for the fine carrots in the greengrocers, green leaves still attached, masked their stubby robustness and unmistakably phallic appearance. Had similarly robust asparagus been chosen, an interlinked fan effect may still have been possible, though more likely to have appeared as a five-bar gate. As it was, the asparagus was truly delicate, and their mismatch created an early setback that went completely unnoticed.

The time to create arrived. Brandishing new knives, pestles and sporting a fine line in pinafores, David laid out his ingredients, a lengthy array of herbs, vegetables, meat, and various tubs of flour and stock. He blue tacked the half dozen different recipes to the wall and poured a glass of wine to lubricate the experience.  “How long to you reckon to put it all together” he asked his wife, with the eagerness of a puppy anticipating a walk, “about half an hour?” She smiled, nodded noncommittedly, and went for a bath.

It was a leisurely bath featuring candles, a book, and her own glass of wine. A relaxing moment of calm ahead of the coming storm.

After three hours, a bleary voice was heard from downstairs.

“It’s ready.”

Taking a deep breath she entered the kitchen, noting first that the bottle of wine was now empty. The master chef was swaying slightly, and the kitchen resembled a war zone, but there, on the table, were two plates each containing a masterpiece … that Dada might have recognised.

The carrots and asparagus had been glazed with Maple syrup, honey and olive oil and cooked together. The carrots retained their shape, albeit with the glaze now giving them an odd plastic sheen, but, as David noted ruefully, the asparagus “might have been slightly overcooked.” An assertion backed up by the algetic slime pooling on the plate.

The red wine jus also hadn’t worked out too well, taking on the colour and consistency of congealing blood. The pesto breadcrumbs, after cooking, had turned a somewhat gangrenous shade of green and streaks of livid Roquefort blue gleamed from the surface of the mashed potato creation.

Seeing her face, David looked back at the table. The scales of blind enthusiasm fell from his eyes which, in the cold light of dispassionate reality, finally absorbed the truth; two plates, each containing a decomposing rib cage, accompanied by a Petri dish of penicillin and framed by two orange vibrators sitting in a puddle of Chartreuse. Over it all, it seemed, somebody had inadvertently slaughtered a goat.

She took the exquisite scallop dish she’d prepared earlier, from the fridge, and put it in the microwave to warm.

“Let’s eat the starter first” she suggested.


December 14, 2023 09:33

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Marty B
23:20 Jan 02, 2024

Ahh, the pure vision, beautiful in the mind, until it meets the cruel light of reality ;) I have made a similar grandiose dish, and been left with what my wife called generously 'slop'. At least he got a bottle of wine! Good thing his wife had a back up!


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Ken Cartisano
21:23 Dec 27, 2023

Very funny. '...Googling recipes and even philosophers of food.' In the ending, I would go with 'sitting in a puddle of congealed blood' to 'put the icing on the horrendous cake' as it were. I would add a space or two before 'Near their house is an artisan butcher.' Or, in the preceding sentence you could add the words, 'As they were leaving the restaurant she thought, 'He should give up bloody projects and try people watching, so much more fun." Some way to indicate there is a scene change. At first, I thought Greg was seated at the nex...


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Claire Marsh
15:33 Dec 16, 2023

Beautifully written, lovely visual ending and your viewpoint character gets bonus points for effort!


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Wendy M
10:34 Dec 14, 2023

I cried again, so funny and so well written!


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