The Food Critic

Prompt Day #301: Speculate on paper: If you were to eat your own brain matter, what do you think it would taste like? Describe it, appealing to the senses, evoking the texture and flavor. Then begin the next paragraph. See if you can keep going, unfolding a plot that explains why you would be eating your own brain to begin with. Don’t force it…discover it.

I couldn’t do this in first person, obviously, not with the story that popped into my head when I read this prompt. Either way, I tried to stay true to the idea behind the prompt.

The Food Critic

 

“I’m going to say that when presented with the chef’s newest creation, one is immediately enticed by a familiar scent reminiscent of Sunday dinner at your grandmothers. My stomach rumbles in anticipation. The plate, when presented, was…uh…also like something I ate as a child at my grandma’s. Of course when I write this I’ll make it flow better, you understand, I just, well obviously I’m a little stressed, a little overwhelmed and to be honest, I have a splitting headache.” She said. The chef standing in front of her was her career long nemesis. She’d never once wrote a kind word on his restaurants, his menus, or his technique. She abhorred the idea of reimagined comfort foods or deconstructed common dishes. It was presumptuous and unimaginative. Sure, his food tasted fine, but it certainly didn’t stand out.

“Go on. Tell me what you will say about it. I want to hear exactly what you plan to say.” She said. His arms crossed in front of him as if he was some iron chef from that silly show. His sleeves rolled up revealing his multiple tattoos another aspect of the man she found offensive.

“Well, I want to say it reminds me of that old dish ‘shit on a shingle’ but obviously I wouldn’t say that. I’ll think of a better way to put it. It’s just I can’t think right now. Don’t you see that this is insane?”

“What will you say about it? Describe it and then eat it.” He said.

“Fine. I would say that there appears to be perhaps a lovely portion of foie gras lightly fried and stacked on a thick crostini. The creamy sauce gives the comforting aroma of mushrooms and sage. It really does smell delicious, I’m not lying to you.” She tried to pick the fork up but it took a tremendous effort and concentration to do it. She’d been drugged, there was no doubt. She wasn’t sure which came first; getting hit over the head and then drugged or drugged and then attacked. She suspected she was still being drugged through the IV that was hooked up into her hand. The IV pole was behind her, so she couldn’t turn around to look, not while strapped in to the chair she was in.

Chef grabbed her fork and knife off the table and began to cut her food into small bites like one would do for a toddler. He stabbed a piece and swiped it through the sauce. He put it up to her lips and like a child she opened her mouth. She chewed.

“Oh. This isn’t foie gras. It’s soft, like tofu or…hmm ricotta, no it isn’t cheese. It’s almost like a sweet bread but the texture is softer.” She chewed a bit more. “May I have another piece?” He fed her.

“It’s certainly a meat flavor, animalistic. Is it pork brain?” She asked a little panicked. Pork brains were notorious for hosting parasites, would he deliberately undercook pork brains as a revenge, hoping she would contract a brain parasite? The truth was, she doubted she was getting out of this whole thing alive. She worried that he was forcing this review just to torture her before he killed her, but still she was going to do whatever it took to stay alive.

“This really is the most amazing and dare I say original dish you’ve ever created. These brains are cooked perfectly and put on a crostini like that, almost as if it is a spread rather than the main piece in the dish. The earthiness of the chicken and mushroom sauce speaks of the juxtaposition between the mind of man and the earth from whence we all came. It really is a statement dish. I’d love to do some photographs and a full spread on this new direction you’re taking with your cooking.” She said and meant it. Too bad he’d felt the need to do all this. Had he invited her, she would have come, hadn’t she always, even if it had always been another excuse to skewer him again and again.

“I can admit when I’m wrong, Chef.” She said and smiled. “Please let me go.”

“I can’t, not yet. This was only the first of many dishes to come. My butcher is providing us with the freshest of cuts this evening. All for your pleasure.” He walked over to the table and lifted the large silver dome covering a platter she’d assumed was the main course. Instead it held a hand mirror. He picked it up and held it in front of her.

She met her own eyes and gasped. Dark circles ringed her sunken, red eyes. Then she realized the rest was much worse. Her head presumably had been shaved, her scalp peeled back and the top of her skull had been removed. Membranes that had once wrapped themselves protectively around her delicate grey matter had been torn away like the foil on a Jiffy Pop pan. She could see the butcher standing behind her with the carving knife in his hand. There was a quarter of her brain missing. She looked down at her plate, the fried grey slice now cut into tiny pieces two of which were now being digested in her own stomach. She looked up at Chef in horror.

“Now, which organ would you like to try next?” He asked.

 

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Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Dead Cold

Prompt Day #168: The mortician is obsessed with a certain something he comes in frequent contact with. What is it? How does it affect him? How will it be his undoing?

 This story is dedicated to my Father in Law, Mike Dowdy. He is one of my biggest supporters and reads all my prompts. I hope you like it, I think you’ll see why this one is yours.

 

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Dead Cold

 

“Mr. Addison, thank you so much for the lovely job you did on our Harold, he looks so peaceful, just like he is sleeping.” Harold’s wife wiped her tears away with a lace hanky. “And this delicious spread makes these long arduous days more bearable” She held her small cocktail plate up as if to accentuate her words. The owner of the Funeral home, Mr. Williams Sr. happened upon them just then.

“Yes, I must admit, when we hired Ben on as a mortician I had some doubts. Could a lifelong chef successfully navigate such a severe career change?” Mr. Williams took a bite of cracker with the chef’s famous pate spread.

Ben chuckled respectfully, “Well, I’ve gone from preparing dinner to preparing loved ones. It’s still a very important service.” He looked down for a minute “I’ll admit, mortuary school was a spontaneous decision when I couldn’t find another restaurant willing to take a chance on an old dog like me. But I know the service industry, and I’ve come to love this job.” He patted Harold’s wife on the shoulder and headed back to the kitchen, checking the status of the pate on his way by.

It had been a huge change to go to mortuary school, but after two years of job searches, he wasn’t getting any younger. Mr. Williams was kind enough to give him a shot and he proved to be a hard worker, staying late and taking constructive criticism as best he could. He’d taken it upon himself once about three months into the job, to prepare a fruit and cheese tray for the mourners and it went over well. The fact that the funeral home provided snacks as part of their viewing services boosted their business six fold. The Williams’ encouraged him to continue even providing him a small budget to purchase the required food-stuffs.

He frequently had to put some of his own money in to provide the service but he enjoyed the feedback and holding on to a small piece of his old life as well. And then Josh Whittaker, the owner and proprietor of the Inn at the Cliff’s was tragically killed in a car accident. For twenty seven years Ben had worked at the Inn under Josh’s father Sam. When Sam passed on, he left the business to Josh who immediately “released” Ben and other older members of the staff and replaced them with a bunch of his young college buddies.

Josh’s death changed Ben’s income for the better and began an obsession that would eventually lead to his undoing. When Josh Whittaker’s body arrived, Ben unpacked the red biohazard bag containing the man’s organs and stuck it in the big refrigerator. He always did this before embalming and then would return them after the fact. He knew it didn’t make a difference really but keeping them cool would keep the stink at bay longer.

It was when he put them in the fridge that the idea for a kind of revenge danced into his head. He opened the bag and took out the liver. Later, while the embalming was in process, he prepared the liver into a pate that was subsequently fed to the Whittaker family and fellow mourners. It went over like gangbusters. Mr. Williams declared Ben’s pate should be on every snack tray and began to pay a little more towards the “bereavement buffet”. Ben kept the extra money and began collecting pate recipes.

Soon, every mourner took home a bit of their loved ones compliments of the chef mortician. He loved creating a dish rather than just chopping up fruit and cheese. His pate was universally requested and business was booming. For deceased loved ones who hadn’t had autopsies, he had to consult an anatomy text but soon he could butcher a corpse as well as any pig or steer. Only once did he have to use kidneys to make the pate because the cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver and even the great chef Ben Addison couldn’t find decent meat after cutting out all the bad spots.

As Williams and Sons thrived, so did Ben. The chef mortician was pocketing most of the food budget while feeding family their lost loved ones. He’d been doing it for so long, he no longer felt badly or guilty about it. In fact, he often went home and slept well on the compliments he’d received on his delicious spreads. He felt as if he was doing the families a kindness, his way of emotionally supporting them.

It was the funeral of a local car dealership owner that did him in. The man had died after a short illness that was diagnosed as an undiagnosed disorder known as Addison’s disease. His dark skin would need a lot of make-up. Ben pulled his liver out of the bag. It was large and Ben had learned this often meant a fatty liver (from a good old fashioned American diet) which resulted in a pate close to that of Foie Gras, a gourmet dish made of fattened goose liver. It created a smooth, buttery pate and he was excited to get to work on it.

Once he had the embalming started, he went to work prepping the liver. Ben’s only handicap was never tasting the dish. He based it on smell alone; that and almost thirty years of high end cooking. He served the pate at both viewings and because the liver had been so large, he had a small amount left over for the Williams’ family.

Mr. Williams was the first to get sick but it was the deceased’s six year old grandson who died first, followed by several other family members including the deceased’s mother. Mr. and Mrs. Williams passed next and over half of the mourners who’d attended the funeral were hospitalized with a stomach flu-like illness.

The Williams’s were three days in the ground when the order came for exhumation of the dealership owner as well as the Williams’s and the grandson. Ben, the only person who remained completely well, was brought in for questioning. After answering every question with “I don’t know, I don’t attend the services” and “No, I didn’t notice any unusual smells or fumes from the body” he was left alone in the room. After an hour, the detectives returned with much more pointed questions. “Where did Ben purchase the liver that he used for the pate?” and “Could he produce any receipts” followed by “Surely he’d kept at least a few receipts given that the food budget was kept separate from is pay.” Ben continued his denials until the detective leaned in close.

“Mr. Addison, what you do not know is that while we were questioning you, Mr. Carlisle’s wife who had fallen ill and is currently dying in the hospital broke down and told the doctor that she had poisoned her husband with Thallium and now believed perhaps his corpse had somehow given off fumes or something that sickened all the mourners and funeral home owners. But that doesn’t make sense, does it, Mr. Addison, because one would assume that you would be the sickest, having prepared the body.” The detective paused, staring down at Ben. “And you know what else is a strange coincidence, Mr. Addison? That you don’t have a single receipt for the liver you use in the pate and when Mr. Carlisle’s body was exhumed, the liver of all things was missing from the biohazard bag. Isn’t that a strange coincidence, Mr. Addison?”

“I think I’d like to call my attorney” Ben said.

I Am A Mosaic (and I Can Be Serious)

Here’s what you need to know about me. I am a mosaic. I am made up of multiple tiny pieces with different colors, pattern, and even textures. So what if I like to go fishing and get earthworm dirt under my nails? The very next day, maybe I will want to be sparkly and pink and frou-frou to the max. That doesn’t make me less of a feminist. That doesn’t mean I can’t demand equal pay and reproductive rights. Because I like to feel like a girl, look like a girl doesn’t make me any less of a human being.

Sometimes I turn up the 80’s station really loud in my car and sing Come On Eileen at the top of my lungs. I’ll grumble and complain about how awful today’s music is and you might even hear me making fun of the styles the young girls are wearing. But next week, I just might be tapping my toes to Pierce the Veil while buying leggings and a miniskirt at Hot Topic. Know what that means? Nothing. It means my age does not define me. It means that I can like what I like and wear whatever makes me feel good that day and if you don’t like that, well, I’m glad you have an opinion, that’s your piece not mine. I am not a genre. I am a living, moving, changing creature who can appreciate art for art’s sake. I’m really cool with that.

I eat chicken wings and cheese fries and hot dogs because they are freaking delicious. I like sushi and veal cheeks and I learned recently that I also like a good blood sausage. Some days I eat all day and not one thing is good for me and some days I count calories like Rain Man counts toothpicks. I gain weight and feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and then, I bust my ass and lose it again and feel like a little pixie. You know what? I love this about me. I will never be a Victoria’s Secret model living on celery and laxatives, and I will never be on My 600lb Life either but even if I were, I’d be loving every morsel I put into my mouth because food is amazing. It tastes so damn good and if you aren’t out there eating it and tasting it because you feel bound by society’s ideals or you aren’t trying things like Foie Gras or caviar because you think it’s for snobs, then I am sorry for you, because you aren’t using all the perks that came with your body.

Some nights, sex is the only thing on my mind; I might watch some porn or maybe try out my own porn scene in bed. Other nights, the pillow and blankets cover my yoga pants and tee shirt and that feeling is the equivalent of an orgasm and all I want is to be left untouched while I sleep.  I want to do things that make my body feel good. I’ll go to the beach or pool with you and I’ll lie in the sun as long as it feels good, but I’ll abandon the perfect tan in a second to feel the water slipping past my skin while I swim. I’ll go for a run because I love the feel of the wind, the smell of the trees and grass, the sounds of the crickets as I go by, but I’ll take the damn elevator every time because I don’t like to climb the freaking stairs. It’s all about what feels good.

I love my children and I am proud of every accomplishment they achieve. I have never signed them up for every activity that came along or insisted they participate in community service because it looks good on the National Honor Society’s application. I have never made them go to church either. I never stopped them or said no when they wanted to participate however. I have told them every day of their life that I love them, I have made every decision with their well-beings in mind. I have encouraged their dreams, even when I couldn’t understand them. I have never given them lectures on why my beliefs and opinions are right. I have tried to expose them to both sides of a political disagreement, many religions, and cultures. I want them to grow up to become their own mosaic, not another version of me. They have to collect the pieces that will ultimately become the beautiful work of art that is life; their life.

I write this today because I want you to look at yourself and see your mosaic. Are you happy with your pieces? Are there enough colors, patterns and textures there to tell your story or are they all mirrors reflecting whatever society is doing at the moment. Do you see a unique and priceless work of art or just some second hand knock-off of someone else? I have been 40 for five months now and I’ve thought about it a lot, how fast life really does slip by while you are worrying about what you look like, dress like, or how much money you make. What you should be doing is laughing, and tasting, and smelling and loving. That’s what your body is supposed to do. That’s the only way to collect your pieces in this game. We all have our own finish line waiting for us. No one is going to beat us to it. It’s ours. So why worry about what they are doing or what their picture looks like? Why not take their hand and walk the path with them and if you see a piece that isn’t right for you, leave it or better yet, pause and let your friend check it out, it might be the right one for them. People will remember you for the work of art you created by living, they won’t remember you by the pieces you passed by or stepped on. I love my mosaic, even a couple pieces that aren’t quite the perfect color (I’ll just sprinkle some glitter on them). I hope you get out there and find your pieces, I bet your final work of art is gonna look amazing!

Psssst…….

If you liked this post today, you realize that I also do some serious writing. I have a Long-Short Story out there on www.freeditorial.com in the long short story contest. It’s called The Appetite of Sin and you can download and read it for free. If you like it, tell your friends. I won’t lie to you; it’s part of a contest and the winner’s story will get published. I’d like to have time to do more writing but to do that; I need to get my foot in the door. That’s where you come in. You can download it to your phone, your e-reader, your computer or all of the above. If you hate it, that’s ok too, if you don’t feel like reading it, I’m cool with that, but if you could take a second to download it, that’d be great. MmK? Thanks a bunch. Mwah!