"An Audience Worth Cooking For"
On the day after graduation,
Heron showed up at Maisie's house
carrying a reusable shopping bag stuffed
with several pounds of fresh vegetables
from the Urbanburg farmer's market.
Just past the foyer, the entry room held
a stack of cardboard boxes labeled
in Josephine's tidy handwriting.
The black woman sat on the bottom
of the staircase with her head in her hands.
"Rough day?" Heron asked gently.
"Oh!" Josephine said. "No, nothing
out of the ordinary, I'm just ... tired."
"Moving is exhausting," Heron agreed,
recalling his own experiences with it.
"I brought over some fresh fuel." He
jiggled the bag enticingly, which made
the spinach leaves flap up and down.
Josephine laughed. "You're always
feeding us," she said. "What did
you have in mind for today?"
"Green Curry," Heron said. "It takes
a lot of work to make -- and a big pot,
which I forgot to ask if you have one,
so I really hope you do -- and ideally,
at least one helper. It's worth it, though."
"I'll trust your judgment on that,"
Josephine said. "Yes, I have
a 12-quart multi-cooker."
"How would you like to do
something fun and relaxing that
will get your mind off moving
for a while?" Heron invited.
"Yes, please," Josephine said,
teeth flashing white against
her smooth dark skin.
So they went into the kitchen,
where Heron rinsed the vegetables
and Josephine got out her stock pot.
"This is for you too," Heron said,
handing her the Green Curry recipe that
he had copied in his adequate calligraphy
and then laminated for safety's sake.
"Thank you, it's lovely," said Josephine.
"Put on a smaller pot of water to boil,"
Heron said. "We'll need to cook
the potatoes and the green beans
for five minutes each."
"Okay," said Josephine,
following his directions.
They sat down together
at the table to prepare
the rest of the vegetables.
Heron sliced the zucchini
into thick coins while Josephine
stemmed the spinach and then
tore the leaves into pieces.
Their shoulders rubbed against
each other as they work, not enough
to get in the way, just to reassure
them of the companionship.
Next, Heron cut the baby potatoes
into halves as Josephine snapped
the green beans to fingertip size.
They didn't feel any compulsion
to talk too much, just let the work
pass the time in quiet contemplation
as they slowly began to relax.
Josephine peeled and chopped
the onion, then slopped a big spoonful
of ghee into the stock pot to melt.
Meanwhile Heron minced the garlic
and ran the fresh ginger root
through a spice grinder.
Josephine scraped the onion
and garlic into the liquid ghee.
Heron put the potatoes into
the pot of boiling water first.
Then he went to gather the rest
of the spices for the masala,
pouring them into a little dish
in an earth-toned rainbow.
"The onions are browning,"
"Coming," Heron said,
and tipped the masala into
the stock pot atop the onions.
Next, he removed the potatoes
from their pot and set them aside,
replacing them with the green beans.
Finally, they added all the vegetables
and the other ingredients to the pot,
which filled it almost to the rim.
"That is a lot of food," Josephine said.
Heron chuckled. "It looks that way now,
because the raw vegetables take up
so much room," he said. "Actually, it
cooks down to just a couple inches
of curry. The spinach turns into
a thick green paste that holds
the other vegetables together."
"What smells so good?" Mallory said
as she wandered into the kitchen.
"Green Curry," Heron said. "We just
finished putting it into the pot to cook.
Would you like to help us out with
the other things for supper?"
"Sure," Mallory said, joining them.
Heron unpacked apricots, strawberries,
and other berries along with a baguette.
For the spread he had cream cheese
and vanilla Greek yogurt. He took out
a recipe card and explained how to make
the filling and press the fruit into it.
Josephine sliced and toasted the bread
while Heron whipped up the spread, then
they let Mallory help put the fruit on top.
Their hands all wove together in
a dance that was becoming familiar.
"You keep feeding us," Mallory said.
"How come you never feed
your housemates like this?"
Heron felt his cheeks warm. "I, uh,
kind of excommunicated them."
"What?" Mallory said, laughing.
She almost dropped her apricot.
"Are you the Pope or something?"
"Well, actually ..." Heron said,
taking out his wallet to show them
his Pope card. "... I am. I got
a little wild in high school."
"You, wild?" Mallory said,
pushing playfully at him.
"I hardly believe it."
"Fnord," Heron said seriously.
"High school had its ups and downs,
and I dealt with those creatively,
if not always wisely."
"Hail Eris, all hail Discordia,"
Josephine said. "I'm not a member,
but some of my classmates are.
Poli-Sci attracts all kinds."
"You know that's a supervillain religion,
right?" Mallory whispered to Heron.
He just shrugged. "Discordianism is
chaotic, not evil," he said. "Just because
some supervillains follow it, doesn't
make it bad. There are Christian
and Muslim supervillains too."
"It doesn't seem to fit you,
though," Josephine said,
making a pyramid of berries.
"It doesn't," Heron agreed.
"I figured that out myself, and
moved on to explore other faiths.
Pastafarianism is the best fit
that I have found thus far."
"That's what you mean when
you said you excommunicated
your housemates," Mallory mused.
"You don't feed them anymore."
"Exactly," Heron said. "They weren't
good housemates, long before it got
really bad. The kitchen was so gross,
I just got tired of having to clean it up
every time I wanted to cook something."
"So you came here, where we are
happy to have you," Josephine said.
"Their loss is our gain, Heron."
"Cooking is a wholly unselfish art,"
Heron said, "but all good cooks,
like all great artists, must have
an audience worth cooking for."
"Hear, hear," Mallory said, putting
the last of the strawberries onto
the toasted bread. When they
finished, the sweet bruschetta
looked almost too good to eat.
"Well done," Heron said.
"I'll put these in the fridge to chill
before supper," Josephine said
as she picked up the platter.
"Fantastic," Mallory said.
"I need to go pee."
After she left, Heron took out
the greens for the salad, the eggs
and the bundle of tandoori naan that
he'd bought from the Indian baker.
"I thought you could make a salad,
and I wanted to do curried eggs,"
Heron said as he set them out.
"Sure, that sounds great,"
Josephine said. "Heron,
can I ask you something?"
"You can ask, but I don't
promise to answer," he said.
"Would you look after the girls
when I'm gone?" she said quietly.
"They don't have a senior anymore --
Danielle and Paige will be juniors, but
the others are younger. They could use
someone older to keep an eye on them."
Heron ran his fingertips over the tops of
the rainbow-colored eggs, then the bags
of spring greens and flower petals.
"I'll do my best," he promised,
and hugged her close.
* * *
Josephine Frazier -- She has light brown skin, hazel eyes, and very curly brown hair to her shoulders. She is the older of two sisters. She lives in the same house with Damask. She is vegetarian. Josephine knows what she wants and goes after it, usually towing other people in her wake. She studies Political Science to understand how the world works and how to fix various kinds of discrimination. She has a double minor in Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies.
Qualities: Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Physically Fit, Good (+2) Political Science
Poor (-2) Working Alone
* * *
"Cookery is a wholly unselfish art: all good cooks, like all great artists, must have an audience worth cooking for."
-- Andre Simon
This poem happens on Saturday, May 17, 2014 when Mallory is 19 weeks pregnant.
See the farmer's market bag that Heron has.
Farmer's market produce in May includes a few early fruits and vegetables, supplemented with stuff from a grocery store.
Food sharing is a bonding activity which conveys affection and intimacy. Cooking together is another intimate, bonding activity. Feeding people may be associated with romance or parental caregiving, but it's not restricted to that. It's also an excellent way of bonding with survivors of abuse or neglect and showing friendship.
Mixing and matching international cuisines can be a lot of fun. Here are some international recipes to try. There are also tips for making a vegetarian meal satisfying.
Enjoy a recipe for Vegetarian Indian Green Curry. Note: The directions lie like a carpet; this recipe takes hours to make. I have therefore based the description more on how we have made it. Divide the vegetables among the available cooks, and process all of them before you turn on any heat.
Ghee is clarified butter used in Indian cuisines. It is all but impossible to burn, thus better when you need to saute ingredients. After the first time I cooked with it, I have never again thrown ordinary butter into a pan to cook anything in.
Masala is the Indian term for "spice blend," and there are many popular types.
Stock pots are big metal cooking containers that come in many sizes. The 12-quart size is widely considered the most useful for home purposes. Among the best stock pots is the All Clad Stainless Steel Multi Cooker. The set includes the outer stock pot, inner steam basket and strainer, and lid. This is very useful for vegetarians, as many such recipes are bulky.
Here's a recipe for Sweet Bruschetta.
Discordianism is a religion of cheerful chaos. Among its more amusing tenets is that everyone is a Pope, as shown by the Pope card. Fnord and Hail Eris are things that Discordians say.
Triple Green Salad is made with spring mix (an assortment of any young, edible leaves) and plenty of parsley. Heron has added a cup of flower petals to his for extra color. In T-America, it's much easier to find these; farmer's market booths selling salad greens will often have edible wildflowers and/or cultivated flowers either loose or already packed in cartons like what Heron got.
Heron has brought a carton of naturally rainbow-colored eggs from the farmer's market. His rendition of deviled eggs with curry does not use commercial curry powder. Instead, he builds a masala to match whatever else he's making. In this case, the egg yolks are flavored with turmeric, cumin, and coriander. After assembly, the eggs are dusted with a blend of sweet paprika and cayenne.
Tandoori naan is a type of flatbread customarily made in a tandoor or clay oven. You can make or buy a tandoor. If you don't have a tandoor, you can make naan in a skillet.