Do not order the salmon.
I know it sounds good, Aurelia, but it’s not. It’s not good. Nothing here is good. Some things are bad and some are unspeakable. Order something bad. I can’t promise you good. I wish I could, but no good. No good. None of it is good.
The salmon, however, is unforgivable.
We wouldn’t even be here if not for family obligations. My brother insists he’s a chef. I disagree, but I do so privately. That’s how I was raised. When you’re brought up in a monastery by monks operating under the oath of silence, you learn to keep your opinions to yourself. To this day, I’ve never heard my father’s voice or been able to ask him who my mother was, although I have my suspicions. The girl who would care for the turkeys always bore a striking resemblance to Josiah and I. I assume he goes by Chef Josiah now.
I do not begrudge my brother having a passion. We all must have passion in life. That being said, please cast your eyes to page three of this…menu. On it, you will find a duck entree. Believe me, Aurelia, this man does things to a duck that a priest wouldn’t do during an exorcism. The first time I ordered it, the waiter gave me a look that I now know was a suggestion to flee. The plate arrived at the table appearing as though it had just been sent through a spin cycle on an old washing machine. I picked at it as best I could, but there was no salvaging it--let alone consuming it. Josiah came out to the table to ask how I was enjoying my meal and I lied to his face. I said I had come down with a sudden case of botulism and would need to leave. Truthfully I’d rather die than eat something out of a can, but it was all I could think of at that moment. Aurelia, you have no idea the hellish situation you find yourself in when your path in life has led you to writing about food and your brother--your dear, sweet, lovely brother who is incapable of so much as boiling an egg properly--decides to become a chef.
Thank goodness it would be a conflict of interest for me to review this place or I’d have to give up my profession entirely. I’d rather set my career on fire than hurt my brother. When we were younger, I was always protecting him from bullies. He was a very tender child. Tender--unlike the chicken you’ll find on page four. He would chase after butterflies and sing songs and when the monks sent us to school in the village over the hill, he was the apple of every teacher’s eye. Unfortunately, that made him a target. Soon, I was knocking knuckles with anyone who dared even utter a cruel word at my precious Josiah. He was never even aware of how much I sheltered him. Perhaps that’s why now he thinks he can run down whichever terrifying road he wishes and not a single car will come his way.
This is my doing, Aurelia. You’re going to have to order the steak frites and suffer through them simply because your fool of a new boyfriend never wanted to let his little brother grow up. Don’t believe the menu when it says the frites are divine. They are the furthest thing from Heaven short of the sweat of Dante’s big toe. If you like, I can ask for extra napkins that we can hide our meat in before storing it away in your purse. I’d say we could feed it to the dogs when we return home, but even canines don’t deserve to dine on poorly seasoned cuisine.
When Josiah comes out here, as he always does, you must smile at him and tell him the food is delicious. Take a small morsel from your plate--only half a forkful--and plop it right in your mouth. Do not chew it. If you release any of its flavor, you will gag immediately. I once made the mistake of chewing on the lamb you see midway down page five and--for a brief instance--I did not believe I would ever know joy again. Such was the darkness of its inadequacy. It didn’t belong on a plate, it belonged on the gallows.
This is not to say Josiah is totally bereft of talent. Years ago, when I was ill from a cold I caught whilst traipsing home from a delightful four-course evening at Le Canard Royal, Josiah came to check up on me. I assured him that I could fend off a simple ailment, but he insisted on making me something to buoy my spirits.
Dear Lord, I thought, I’m mildly ill now, but after some of his cooking, I’ll most likely need an ambulance and a stomach pump.
Josiah surprised me. He made me chicken soup--the same kind the monks used to make us when we were boys. I nearly laughed at the simplicity of it all. When he brought me the bowl on a small serving tray, I was so…touched. The concern he had for me. The way he clasped his hands as he handed over the soup--clearly praying it would do some good.
Aurelia, that soup…
It was the most disgusting thing I’d ever put in my mouth. That includes the raw yak meat I ate during my trip to Siberia.
But, you see, when I said Josiah isn’t entirely lacking, I wasn’t speaking about his food. I was speaking about his heart. For there are many chefs who cook with expert precision, but their food is soulless just as they are. My brother’s food is not like that. It has the same passion that he does. Perhaps too much passion. Passion is like paprika--a little goes a long way. Eventually, I hope, he’ll become more skilled. He’ll fail and try again. He’ll have to--I can no longer shield him from life’s tribulations.
I just hope that any creative gains do not result in integral losses. I would take him as he is right now forever and ever--even if it meant I had to eat every single despicable item on this menu.
You’ll love him too, Aurelia, I’m sure you will. Tonight will be the test we all face if we’re lucky enough to love someone. We will choose to overlook the gristle and celebrate the grace.
That being said, in the event that one of tonight’s specials is the lobster roll--
There is absolutely nothing special about it.