Chef Tom’s 3 Short Stories and a Citrus Salad

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.

Catering

Why do I care about this?

Remind me. Why do I care about this?

You don’t. You do care about me and that these functions are important to my career. At best you tolerate.

Right.

But I do so love having you along. I am very proud of being your husband, you know.

Your trophy wife.

Hardly.

Good evening, Chef. My I introduce our hostess for this evening? Mrs. Chandler, this is Chef David McWhorter. He’s the brains and talent behind this event.

Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Chandler. I am proud to be able to offer our services to your great organization tonight. Thank you for thinking of us. This is my husband, Michael.

Please to meet you both. Chef McWhorter, thanks so much for doing this. Our annual fundraiser is our biggest money maker of the year and the response has been incredible. I owe that to your firm’s reputation. When they heard Vagabond House was catering tonight, the RSVP’s came pouring in.

My pleasure. I wish you and “Meals for Migrants” huge success tonight.

Thank you. (walks away into the party)

(pause)

(pause)

Meals for Migrants?

Be nice.

Seriously?

She does very good work. They’ve provided supplementary meals for hundreds of field workers and their families throughout the Sacramento Valley. Of course, they could never have catered using their weekly menu’s. The deep pockets might not have attended at all.

Snobs.

Yep. Snobs. With big bucks.

(waiter approaches holding a pot of coffee) Chef David, please forgive me. Is this decaf or regular?

Whatever the customer wants.

(Michael hides his smile with his martini) You stole that from Birdcage.

Hush.

Flashlight Beam

Flashlight beam

Shridhar invented our language. He was good at inventing stuff. A series of binary flashes, as well as various sideways and up-down movements, meant different words or phrases. It took me most of the summer to figure out the right sequences, but he was patient. We’d have long conversations, him from his bedroom window on the attic floor of their big house across the wide lawn between us, and me from my bedroom window a story below and a hundred feet away.

The Guptha’s moved into our neighborhood almost a year ago. They were the first brown-skinned people I had ever met.  Mrs. Guptha wore her rainbow-colored sari’s with gold bangles hanging from her wrist, her ears, and sometimes her nose. She always had a red-jewel bindi on her forehead, and the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen.

The first time Shridhar invited me to have dinner at his house, I was nervous. Their house was an entirely different world. Walking through their living room I was submerged into a cloud of aromas I had never encountered. Sweet incense from their many ornate altars permeated the house competing with the intense fragrances of curry spices coming from their big kitchen. Took a few times before his mom made something mild enough for me to eat, other than rice with butter. That made them laugh.

Shridhar and I became close friends. He was the one to suggest we connect at night before we go to bed. He said I’d need a flashlight and handed me a piece of paper well-diagramed with coded flashes and movement patterns. With flashlight beams through the dark, we’d talk boy-talk about school and food and girls and exploring the backwoods, until his mom or mine would yell Go to Bed!

Empty Hallway

Empty hallways

Mr. Harvey loved his children. They meant everything to him. He looked forward to seeing them every day. All sixteen hundred of them. As head janitor for Eureka Senior High he was always there, always seen. His real son, the one he had with his lovely wife Madeleine, was often his right-hand man and together they kept the school in a state of high polish and gleam.

James Jr. also belonged to the drama club. It was 1971 and he was stage manager for their next production. The theater held five-hundred people easy with a stage large enough for the entire cast of thirty to be on at the same time. The troupe was a motley crew of hippies, those who wished they were, plus more than a few who were glad they weren’t. A colorful bunch, and fragrant. On more than one occasion Mr. Harvey would descend to the basement below the floorboards and walk into a blue cloud of dope smoke. Never bothered him, even when he noticed James Jr. sitting among the beaded and fringed long-hairs, his eyes wet and red, and that wide, unfocused grin he sometimes gets.

Within the school’s culture, the Harvey’s represented family. The love between dad and son was palpable. It was easy to see how proud he was of his boy. They were a fixture. They were history. They provided a sense of lineage; of continuity, which was hard to find in a generation struggling hard to “find themselves.” Mr. Harvey walking in on a basement party was less a threat from authority, and more an acknowledgement that things were cool, in keeping with the students’ ideal.

But this week was always the loneliest week of the year. The final bell of the Spring semester had rung last Friday, and the kids scattered to the winds, leaving the hallways empty. The oppressive silence from the void left by his children disappearing for the Summer, was always painful. Even consolation by James Jr. could barely salve the ache in Mr. Harvey’s heart.

Citrus Salad

Citrus Salad with Radicchio, Dates, and Smoked Almonds

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 whole red grapefruit

3 whole oranges

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/8 cup olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced

2/3 cup pitted dates, chopped

1/2 cup smoked almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions:
Peel, core and slice ¼-inch thick the grapefruit and oranges. Toss with brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Drain fruit in a fine mesh screen over a bowl and reserve 2 tablespoons of the juice.

Arrange fruit on a serving platter and drizzle with olive oil.

Whisk shallot, mustard, oil and reserved juice. Add to a large bowl.

Add radicchio, half the dates and half the almonds and gently toss to coat.

Arrange radicchio over the fruit leaving a one-inch border. Top with remaining dates and almonds.

=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

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