Chef Tom’s 3 Small Stories and Char Siu-BBQ Chinese Pork

A Reminder: These short stories are from a writing program called Round Robin. Write something every day, set the timer for 12 minutes, the title of each piece is the daily prompt. Stop writing once the alarm goes off.

Bed Springs

Noise this morning

I love Sundays. Sundays stretch out before me like colored taffy, way out in front where I can’t see the end. Sundays are brunch days. That hybrid meal where relaxing is the first thing on the menu. Then a lavish parade of gentile cocktails; Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and Ramos Fizzes. Frothy feminine drinks with fruit and booze. And Carbs. Wonderful carbs. Slathered in fat-butter and sugar-syrup.

Brunch is permission to remain. Sundays are where brunches live and leisure sits down to have a latte, or a coffee poured on high from a silver samovar into a china cup, splashing to the edge where he gestures happily to the heavy cream in her pewter pitcher inviting all of her liquidity to come over, relax and sit a spell.

Before brunch (still Sunday), before the feast of pleasure, there is bed. Soft, sinking, cloudy billows in which to dream a bit more. To linger longer. To bask in the sensuality of a good night’s sleep and be warmed by the gauzy haze of pleasantly fading dreams.

We lay there engulfed in our feathery bliss, rested, assured, confident in our comfort. Sunlight has tiptoed in through the night blinds and is sitting at the foot of our bed, reading a newspaper and waiting for the alarm to play soft jazz guitar riffs into the dust-mote rays of morning.

From our neighbors above, through the thin ceiling, comes an old-school familiar sound. Something from the movies, from stand-up, from porn. Bedsprings. Squeaking bedsprings. Steadily, rhythmically squeaking. I hear your light laughter and you smile at me. We know that noise and think “Wow, someone’s having a happy wake-up.”

The sunshine, the warmth, the fluff, your tousled hair, and the ceaseless squeaking.

Imbricated with that first sound is a second. Wonderfully familiar and terribly out of place. A juxtapose. A conundrum. It cannot be. We look over at each other with growing smiles of realization and wonder. Someone upstairs in that same bed with the squeaking and the squeaking …

…is snoring.

Ponte Santa Trinita

Grief makes the heart

Francesco stood on the bridge looking up the river at the Ponte Vecchio. He untied and opened the leather pouch that was attached to his belt and pinched out a small handful of dried yellow rose petals. Saying a silent prayer, he sprinkled the flowers into the still water of the Arno.

The petals were from the services for his mother who had passed away suddenly a few months earlier (today would have been her ninety-first birthday). She’d been in the middle of baking the week’s bread for the family when she collapsed on the floor, lying there for a couple of hours before her sister came into the kitchen and found her next to the big table.

The doctor said it was her heart. It just gave out. She had turned ninety last Spring. The family insisted she take it easy, but she would not give up cooking and baking and taking care of her family as she had done since she was a girl.

Ponte Santa Trinita was her favorite place. She and Francesco would walk the lanes all the way from the Galluzzo past the Palazzo Pitti. They’d speak of the king and queen and what it must be like living on the hill above everyone else, with servants running around and those beautiful gardens in the back. Francesco would leave her to enjoy her prayer time and he would go back to his shop on the Ponte Vecchio to continue his work as a goldsmith to the royal family.

Already in his mind, as he stood on the bridge and watched the petals swirl slowly in the water, he was fashioning a golden ring of yellow roses, her favorite, that he would add to her great-granddaughter’s dowry.

Over one hundred people came from the village and the surrounding farms to pay their respects to Maria Conchessi, the most famous bread maker in Florence. For years people would walk miles to her bakery near the Duomo and buy her bread, and, because her family was so big, they’d also ask for her wise counsel.

Francesco was surprised that so many came to the services because his mother had become quite stern in her later years. She had grown weary of listening to people complain and tell their dreary stories about unfaithful husbands, rogue sons, and naughty daughters. She’d long since let people know she would not stand for such nonsense.

Some eventually stopped asking for council, though they did keep buying her bread.

LV Trunk

Discarded clothes 

Rat-boy spent most of the day at the county dump picking through piles of discarded trash. His pops said he could have a piece of whatever sold at the shop so’s he could save up to buy that bike if he could find stuff that people would truly pay for. No broken crap. No torn stuff. Things pops could hang a price tag off’n and folks would wanna reach into their pockets.

From the pile in front of him he lifted up an old leather suitcase. Maybe this, he thought, but when he turned it over the thing had a wide black stain on it like someone had spilled ink or something. Shit, that won’t work. Underneath the satchel, Rat-boy could see something gold or brass a-shinin’ in the sunlight and he lifted off some hangers, an old smashed-up hat box, and a worn-out blanket. When the blanket came up what was showin’ looked to be a big ol’ steamer trunk. Like the kind gramma had in the attic.

Folks’d keep stuff in them things and maybe this one had somethin’ good inside. Looks to be ok.

He dug the thing out and dragged it into the middle of the dirt lane that wound between the mountains of rubbish.  He looked at it. It was kinda brown with brassy hinges and leather handles. There was LV ‘s all over the brown parts. Maybe that was the owner’s name.

Digging out his pocketknife, he flicked it open and poked it carefully into the big brass lock. He’d picked fancy locks like this so many times. Click! The latch popped open. Rat-Boy lifted the trunk lid and the thing was full up with all manner of swanky-lookin’ stuff. Clothes sell real good, if they still wearable.

He pulled out a soft man-shirt that was kinda purple with white bone buttons. There was two very nice hats like the fancy men wear down to the theater. Fee-dorah’s I think that’s what pops says. He dug out a long, heavy overcoat in a dark blue color and stuck his arms into the sleeves and draped the thing over his skinny shoulders. The bottom dragged on the ground a bit, but the sleeves were lined with shiny, slippery material that felt like sticking your arms in melty butter.

Sliced Char Siu Pork on Wax Paper

Char Siu

Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Serves 4-6

2 pounds pork shoulder (preferably organic, pasture-raised pork)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup local honey

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground star anise

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Preheat your oven to 375F.

If your cut of pork shoulder or pork butt is too large, divide it into two equal sized pieces and place in a shallow baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, add all the other ingredients and stir until uniform in consistency.

Pour about 3/4 of the marinade over the pork and let your pork marinate, covered, turning occasionally, for at least two hours. (You’ll be reserving 1/4 of the marinade for basting later).

Place the marinated pieces of pork on a broiling pan and bake for 30 minutes. While the pork is cooking, put the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, until the marinade is reduced to a thick sauce.

After 30 minutes of baking, remove the pork from the oven and pour about half of the thickened marinade over the pork and spread and baste the sauce with a basting brush. Broil the pork for about 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes of broiling, flip the pork oven and baste the other side of the cuts of pork with the remainder of the sauce. Broil the pork until it is slightly charred, so the black bits are a good thing.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Slice and serve with your favorite stir-fried Chinese greens and a big bowl of rice.


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

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