Chef Tom – A Short Story and a Drool-Worthy Recipe

I’ve written a series of very short stories as part of a program called Round Robin. For eight weeks we had to write something every day based on short “prompts” from the instructor. Had to set the timer for 12 minutes. Not any longer, hence their brevity. Tried to squeeze as much into a few paragraphs as I could. Some stories, as you will see below, even had multiple chapters.

Alarm goes off…stop writing.

WARNING: These stories are for entertainment only.

The daily prompt is the title.

Fur Traders

Chapter 1
He Carries a Box

Henry Hortense Goldenrod was a renowned fur trader throughout the northern territories of the New World, particularly the region of the Great Lakes, where for little money, mink, fox, and even wolf fur could be obtained from local tribes. He bought as many as his wagon could hold. One summer he accompanied a special shipment on a giant steamer bound for Paris. He planned to sell the precious hides to the local nobility.

Henry rented a lovely set of rooms near the newly constructed Eiffel Tower in which he could entertain his special guests and give them exclusive showings of his furs. One of his best customers was the Comtesse d’Agoult, an attractive young noble woman with a strong desire to be the fashion center-of-attention in Paris’ High Society. The two of them had agreed to a trade — his American furs for her rare French wines. She chose only the most select pelts with which her private team of furriers fashioned luxurious capes and hats. As her carriage arrived at Chez Henry’s, the Comtesse was beside herself with excitement.

Henry dressed well for the occasion. He’d hired a local tailor to design clothing suitable to his audience. One distinct purchase was a silk brocade vest with a small slash-top pocket barely deep enough to hold his most cherished gift, given to him by the Comtesse herself, in gratitude for his elegant merchandise.

She had presented him with an exquisite tabatière; a tiny gilded snuff box, set with violet amethysts, with a hand-painted, richly decorated tortoiseshell portrait of Notre Dame.

Example of a Tabatière

Henry Hortense Goldenrod

Chapter 2

(prompt was the last line of a previous write)

She had presented him with an exquisite tabatière; a tiny gilded snuff box, set with violet amethysts, with a hand-painted, richly decorated tortoiseshell portrait of Notre Dame.

He had carefully observed the well-dressed gentlemen of the court and so wanted to empress her. He even went so far as to purchase an elegant hem-stitched linen kerchief, which, just as the refined men in her company would do, he poked down the sleeve of his waistcoat.

She was looking away from him, into the drawing room at the ladies in the corner dressed in their finery and jewels, all chatting in a tight circle near the fireplace. Reaching into the small pocket of his brocade vest, he brought out the snuffbox, her beautiful gift. Holding it in his left hand, he snapped the small latch open and pinched out a small bit of blue-powdered, lavender-scented tobacco. Turning his left hand slightly so his thumb was on top, there appeared a small indent between his wrist and the base of his thumb (the human snuffbox is what one gentleman had called it). He placed the bluish pinch into the divot, snapped closed the tortoiseshell lid of the tabatière, and drew his newly-tobaccoed wrist up to his right nostril.

The one thing he was most uncertain about in this whole show to impress the Comtesse, was exactly how much of the snuff he was supposed to pinch out of the box. When the divot lined up with his right nostril, he sniffed in the tobacco (perhaps a little loudly, but he did want her to notice). The concentrated dust smacked into the back of nasal cavity with such force that he barely grabbed hold of his fancy kerchief, drawing it out quickly (with plenty of flourish) in order to contain a most powerful sneeze that was just about to occur.

The sneeze was most voracious, nearly knocking his top hat to the floor. He’d managed to cover up most of the explosion with the small square of crumpled linen, but as he was discretely wiping his nose, straightening his hat, and mumbling politely, “My heavens, please forgive me!” he looked to her with teared eyes and noticed that she was straining a smile at him. She snapped open her lace fan, bringing it quickly up in front of her face.

But not before he saw, dangling from the end of her powdered nose, her lovely, dainty, or so enticingly feminine nose, the smallest droplet of blue.

Half Sky

Chapter 3
Dried Grass

Henry Goldenrod sat cross-legged across from a fierce-looking woman. The embers of the small fire between them were sputtering. He watched her gather a couple of large handfuls of dried grass and some twigs near her side and throw them into the smoldering coals where they burst into a yellow flame.

He was nervous and excited. Mostly nervous. She was a two-spirit from the local Ojibwe who went by the name of Half Sky. The tribe honored a third gender. The men would become shamans, a role forbidden to the women, and the women would become hunters, and sometimes warriors. Half Sky was a ferocious hunter. She watched him through the thin smoke of the fire. Not smiling. Rather intimidating, to tell the truth.

Henry had come to trade. What he did not expect was the dozen or so beaver pelts on Half Sky’s second horse. Beaver was in high demand. Their underpelts made for luxurious felt from which a gentleman’s top hat could be formed. This was years before Henry discovered that said hats were tanned with mercury, thus poisoning said gentlemen, and giving birth to the saying “Madder than a Hatter.”

He pulled out the gilded snuff box gifted to him by the Comtesse d’Agoult on his last trip to Paris. He snapped open the tortoiseshell lid, pinched out a bit of the blue-powdered tobacco, and caught the eye of Half Sky who was staring curiously at him and eyeing the small jeweled box in his hand. Henry remembered the serious faux pas he’d committed when showing off to impress the Comtesse, sneezing directly into her lovely face, but he’d forgotten the promise he made to himself to give up snuff altogether.

He had an idea.

Using rudimentary hand signs, he made a motion towards the beaver pelts on the back of the small horse, and held up the golden snuffbox to Half Sky, offering her a trade. She looked back and forth from the skins to the box to Henry, eventually giving him a wide-open smile showing the few teeth that remained.

She held out her hand for the box.

=====

Cast iron frying pan with spicy green lentils with sausages on wooden stand on textured table, selective focus.

Sausage and Lentils

Sausage and French Green Lentils
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1/4 pound cooked smoked bacon, thinly sliced crosswise

2 Tablespoons duck fat

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 large carrots, finely chopped

2 large ribs of celery, finely chopped

½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 pound green Puy lentils, rinsed and drained

2 cups chicken stock

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

6 large sweet Italian pork sausages

1/2 cup white wine

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Cook bacon in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, until its fat has rendered, about 6 minutes.

Heat duck fat over med-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery; cook until soft, about 15 minutes.

Tie parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together with kitchen twine (I use a thick rubber band); add to pan.

Stir in lentils, cooked bacon and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 1 hour.

Discard herbs. Stir in mustard and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, roast the sausages at 375 degrees until blistered. As they cook, add splashes with wine to evaporate.

Serve the sausages over the lentils, along with big hunks of crunchy artisan bread and good butter.

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

3 Responses to “Chef Tom – A Short Story and a Drool-Worthy Recipe”

  1. Damon Hines Says:

    Would very much like to hear more of Henry’s tale. Also, want to try the recipe sometime! I ALWAYS tweak recipes to my own tastes, if I follow one at all, or construct a Frankenstein, a basilisk or chimera to appeal to my various aims for a dish. 👏👏👏👍👍😘🎶😁😎✍🍜🍴😜💖😉

    • Hi Damon. Me too. Frankenstein’s are some of my best recipes. Recipes are a point of departure. They’re like GPS. On paper they’ll get you from point A to point B, but in reality, almost anything can happen on the way. This recipe is imminently tweakable. Sub cannelini for lentils. Sub chops for sausage. Go Latin, Middle Eastern, German, with different spice/herb combos.

      Just started my 2nd Round Robin, so more stories to come. Henry might indeed show up again. (btw – I had to look up basilisk…great word)

      • Damon Hines Says:

        For variety…oreganisk!
        Rosemarisk!
        Cilantrisk!…not to all tastes😋
        Keep ’em coming, please, big fan. ..writing in particular, though culinary inspiration inspired also always welcome 👍👅🔪

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