Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Discovery of a New Dish"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls. It was inspired by the "autumn" square in my 9-30-18 card for the Fall Bingo Fest. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. This poem belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"The Discovery of a New Dish"

[October 15, 2014]

Boss White had had some casual connections
with the Italians for years, but ever since Shiv had
saved Ragno's life and Dr. G got involved,
those connections had gotten closer.

It was nice, because they had
a lot more pull than Boss White did
as a city boss, even if most of it was
located somewhere overseas.

Now he looked over the guest-gift
that Sportivo had brought in courtesy
for a team scouting the real estate in town.

This time the teleporter had brought
a whole bushel of exotic fruit instead of
a bottle of nice red wine that went with
just about anything the restaurant made.

"Well now, this is a pleasant surprise,"
he said with a smile. "I remember
the last time you did this -- those
were some mighty fine red oranges."

"I'll make a note that fresh fruit is
preferred over wine," Sportivo said.

"It was good wine, but we're not
too fancy here," Boss White admitted.
"Most of us tend to stick with beer."

"Perhaps a side trip to Germany
wouldn't go amiss," Sportivo said,
his aura warming with amusement.

A motion caught Boss White's eye,
and he lifted a hand to wave at his boy.

"Shiv, come over here and you can help us
start sorting out all this fruit for the kitchen,"
Boss White said. "There's a lot of it."

Shiv dropped the cloth he'd been using
to wipe tables and trotted over to them.

"A gift from friends in Italy," said Sportivo,
offering him the bushel basket of fruit.

"Is that a Buddha's hand?" Shiv exclaimed,
grabbing a strange yellow fruit. "That's
a Buddha's hand! Oh, there's another."

He snatched them out of the basket as fast as
he found them, gnarled fruit with weird fingers piling up
in his arms until he pulled his shirt out to hold them.

Excitement fizzed around him like bubbles
rising from a pop bottle, tickly and sweet,
instead of the sharp feel he typically gave off.

"Shiv," Boss White said gently, "what'n hell is that?"

"It's a thing like a lemon, only not, it's better,"
Shiv said, dancing around the bushel basket.
"I heard about these in one of the food classes
at Freeman's, only they didn't have any 'cause
they weren't in season then 'cause they only
come out for a few weeks in the year."

"What are they good for?"
Boss White asked, baffled.

"You can make just about anything
you would with lemons," Shiv said.
"Lemon chiffon cake, or lemon pie
with a whole cloud of meringue on top,
marmalade, like that. You can candy
the peel and then the leftover syrup
goes great over pancakes and stuff.
They make good centerpieces too."

"For the fragrance," Sportivo explained.
"Put it on the table and it fills a room."

"Well then, I reckon I'll take one
to put in my office," Boss White said,
fishing a small Buddha's hand out of
the basket. "They sure do smell pretty."

"Hey, do you got any of those red oranges?"
Shiv said, eagerly rooting through the basket.
"Those things were really awesome."

"I'm afraid the blood oranges are not yet
in season," Sportivo said. "I will make a note
to send some as soon as they get ripe."

The basket held all kinds of fruit, from
familiar mandarins and bergamot oranges
to an orange fruit the size of a ping-pong ball.

"What's this?" Boss White said, pointing to one.

"Chinotto," said Sportivo. "They taste bitter
and a little spicy. You can candy them and
save the syrup to make Italian sodas."

"Sounds good," Shiv said, reaching for it,
but he almost dropped the Buddha's hands.

Boss White clucked his tongue. "You got
enough for now," he said. "Go show those
to Cook and see what he makes of 'em."

"On it, boss," Shiv said, and trotted away.

Once he had moved out of earshot,
Sportivo said, "Is he usually that excitable?"

"Nope," said Boss White. "Shiv tends to be
quieter than that. I'm glad to see him so happy,
though, it doesn't happen all that often."

"My boss will be pleased that he is
enjoying the gift," Sportivo said.

"Ah, you ain't seen nothin' yet,"
Boss White said. "He's learnin'
how to cook. He'll be all day in
that kitchen, and then come out
with somethin' delicious."

"It's good to learn new things,"
Sportivo said with a nod.

"Most of this was Cook's idea,
really," said Boss White. "He
put Shiv up to shopping at
the local farmer's markets for
the restaurant, and it works."

"So it does," Sportivo agreed.

Tito and Manny were the next two
who caught Boss White's attention,
and he beckoned to both boys.

"We got a bushel of mixed fruit,"
Boss White said. "Each of you
choose one kind and sort 'em out.
Cook can give you some washtubs
to put the fruit in so you can carry it."

"I could just leave you the basket,"
Sportivo protested. "We have plenty."

"And we'd put it where?" Boss White said.
"Cook has that kitchen crammed with
so much equipment, there's barely room
to fit the wooden snack table in there."

It only took a few minutes for the boys
to sort out the remaining fruit, and then
Sportivo could hop on back to Italy.

Boss White ambled into the kitchen
to see what Cook and Shiv were
doing with the Buddha's hands.

The whole kitchen smelled of
sunshine, rising up from the fruit.

Cook was delicately scraping
the rind off one with a zester.

Shiv had another pinned to
the wooden table as he
diced it into tiny bits.

Their pleasure fizzed
and simmered all around
them as they worked.

"Hey, boss," they said
when he came in the room.

"Are you planning to make things
for us, or for sale?" Boss White said.

"Both," Shiv said. "Cook wants us
to test out the recipes, then he'll
put up some for the customers.
If they like it, he'll send me out
to buy more. Figger I'll take
Luci with me, she should know
where to look for this stuff."

"We're going to start out
with lemon meringue pie and
grilled lemon-thyme chicken breasts,"
Cook said, flourishing his work.

Boss White's mouth watered.
"That sounds mighty fine."

"Then when I get this candied,
we're gonna pour the syrup over
our apple-pear salad and top it
with the candy bits," Shiv said.
"There's a vinaigrette recipe, too,
but for that I gotta see what kind of
fall greens the farmer's market has."

"That gives us a good spread of
'healthy' dishes for the season,"
Boss White said with approval.

Soul food was so heavy, they had
to add other stuff to lighten the menu
or some folks just wouldn't come.

Plus they got a tax break for serving
a certain amount of healthier foods.

As much time as Shiv spent over at
Freeman Family Hospital these days --
not to mention the farmer's markets --
maybe they ought to consider calling in
a nutritionist to survey the menu, which
was good for yet another tax break.

Eat Healthy Omaha had already
done good things for Blues Moon,
so more was worth a thought.

Boss White would wait and see
how the Buddha's hand went over,
and then make a decision on that.

"You know what else we can do
with these?" Shiv said with a smirk.

"What's that?" Boss White asked.

"Bribe teleporters," Shiv said. "I
know Junket loves fancy stuff, and
they pretty much all got a sweet tooth."

"Put aside one just for Junket, then,"
Boss White said. "If you can spare another,
the other teleporters can share it around."

With the Finns coming and going, he had
more teleporters in and out of his place
than he ever had in the past. That was
something he wished to encourage.

Boss White watched Shiv scrape
the bits of Buddha's hand into a pot
of water that went on the stove.

Then Shiv sat back down and
started doodling recipe ideas in
a notebook with colored pens.

"Shiv, you know the reusable cups
that some places have?" said Boss White.

"You mean like the collectible character cups,
Floppits and what-all else?" Shiv asked.

"Exactly," said Boss White. "People use
those to promote their restaurant and
encourage healthy habits. I'd like you
to draw up a few designs for us."

"Who, me?!" Shiv squeaked.

"You see any other artists
around here?" Boss White said.
"Yes, you! I've seen your artwork,
and it's good. They're cups, Shiv,
not paintings in some museum.
Don't get yourself wound up."

"But why make pictures when we
don't have that kind of cup?" Shiv said.
"I mean, sure I've seen those around,
but we don't have any of them here."

"We might," Boss White said. "One of
the perks in the Eat Healthy Omaha program
is free printed cups, but you have to provide
your own image to put on the side. I want
to see if we can level up, and that means
thinking about what new perks to choose."

Shiv drummed his fingers on the table,
and it took a minute for Boss White to realize
that it was neither nervous fidgeting nor
playing riffs. He was counting something.

"You mean like so many of this and
so many of that?" Shiv said. "Cook told me
a little bit about that stuff. We got a fresh fruit
and a sugar-free jello dessert, along with
the usual run of pie and cake flavors. Do
enough more, and it's like earning points,
so we get to choose new rewards?"

"That's right," Boss White said.
"Start with the cups. If we need
new art for menus, or chalkboards,
we can discuss those later. All this
counts toward your work hours, too."

"Gee, thanks!" Shiv said, grinning.
"This will be as much fun as trying
the new recipes for Buddha's hand."

He bent over the notebook and
began sketching some ideas.

Cook chuckled as he added
his zest to what would become
the lemon curd for the meringue pie.

"The discovery of a new dish is
more precious to human beings than
the discovery of a new star," he said.

"Well then, I'll leave you to it,"
Boss White said, and backed
out of the crowded kitchen.

He knew it was in good hands.

* * *


Sportivo (Alfons Dinapoli) -- He has olive skin, brown eyes, and black hair buzzed short. He wears a mustache and beard. He is stocky with well-defined muscles. Alfons comes from a satellite family connected with the Marionettes, originally from Naples. He later moved to southern Italy for work. Sportivo serves for the Marionettes as a combat teleporter, but he also does peaceful trips. His loyalty and athletic prowess make him popular.
Origin: He grew into his Super-Strength slowly during childhood, but the Teleportation arrived abruptly at puberty.
Uniform: He likes a sporty or casual look, but often wears designer clothes when on duty.
Qualities: Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Geography, Good (+2) Loyalty, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Mobster
Poor (-2) Can't Cope with a Crying Girl
Powers: Good (+2) Super-Strength, Good (+2) Teleportation
Motivation: To serve the Family.

* * *

"La scoperta di un piatto nuovo è più preziosa per il genere umano che la scoperta di una nuova stella."
(The discovery of a new dish is more precious to human beings than the discovery of a new star.)
~ J. A. Brillat-Savarin

Italian citrus comes in many types that change over the seasons.

Buddha's hand is available briefly in late fall-early winter.

Grilled Lemon-Thyme Chicken Breast is a healthy choice.

Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Chiffon Pie, and Lemon Chiffon Cake can all be made with Buddha's hand.

Candied Buddha's hand and its syrup can be used for many things.

Check out these recipes for Buddha's Hand Marmalade and Buddha's Hand Salad Dressing.

Fall salad greens include quite a variety, although I've yet to see a fall mix in local-America. This recipe for mixed green salad is a good example.

Here is an Autumn Fuit Salad, similar to the base for the Blues Moon version. 1 serving of fruit is 1/2 cup.

Apple-Pear Salad
1/2 cup chopped apples, pears, and grapes
1 tablespoon Buddha's hand syrup
1 teaspoon candied Buddha bits
1 teaspoon chopped walnuts (optional)

Mandarin oranges typically ripen from October-February. Bergamot oranges ripen from early fall into winter. Chinotto ripens September-November.

A zester scrapes the edible peel off of fruit in small shreds.

T-America offers many and varied perks to encourage healthy habits. Junk food restaurants get pushed toward the fringes, while the best spots go to those serving healthy foods. (If you look at L-America you can see how fast food restaurants are much more popular in some regions.) Restaurants can get tax breaks for providing a certain amount of healthy options, and that's in brackets so the more they do, the higher the payoff. Many cities also have a healthy eating program of some sort which may be run by the health board, business bureau, the restaurants, the hospitals, or some other interested group. In this case, rather than trying to rule out or lighten traditional fare, they concentrate on marking foods with specific traits (organic, local, low-calorie, low-sugar, etc.) and if necessary adding new recipes to meet desired goals. Another good method involves offering healthier cooking methods (baking, braising, broiling, grilling, poaching, roasting, steaming, etc.) more than less healthy ones (boiling, frying, cooking in heavy sauces).

Since Blues Moon serves soul food, they're on the heavier end of the scale; but they're trying to hit more of the healthy targets because some folks just can't eat regular soul food safely. Less healthy soul foods include chicken-fried steak, fried chicken, fried fish, pickled pigs' feet, ham hocks, cornbread, hushpuppies, peach cobbler, pecan pie, pound cake, and red velvet cake. More healthy soul foods include chicken livers, chicken hearts and gizzards, oxtails, turkey neck bones, hoppin' John, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, okra, and sweet potatoes. Red drink can be either healthy or unhealthy. Often it's just canned fruit punch or soda such as RosySo. Blues Moon serves a cold summer version based on hibiscus and a warm winter version based on cranberry and pomegranate. They used to carry RosySo but quit after the emulsified corn syrup scandal. Instead they introduced a new batch of nonalcholic mixed drinks to match their red cocktails.

Healthy platters and menus make a restaurant more attractive to many diners. Read about how to start a healthy food program and slim down a menu. Here's an example of a whole program. The problem with L-American versions is that they tend to cram in a lot of different nutritional requirements for the same food, or even all foods. That makes it difficult or impossible to counterbalance a diner's need to reduce one thing by increasing another, as required for many diets, and it can lead to bizarre combinations that people won't eat. T-America is more flexible.

Eat Healthy Omaha is a T-American program that promotes nutritious food in restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, schools, and other locations. It has tiered levels of participation -- Basic, Average, Improved, and Exceptional -- and the perks increase as an establishment moves up. This makes it easy for people to get started in the program, while encouraging them to do more.
Notice that the proposed Buddha's hand recipes include one main dish (grilled chicken), two salads (a leaf and a fruit), two desserts (a pie and a cake), and three condiments (candy, syrup, and marmalade). Three of those are healthy, two are indulgent, and the three condiments depend on use.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, food, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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