In a post titled Punctured, we met Jeremy: he works in a food co-op and is bitten by a gigantic Thai centipede. Earlier Jeremy worked in a coolants factory that moved operations; repaired stereo turntables until CDs took over; and serviced video stores where the only genre patrons regularly rented was pornography. Then, with the advent of on-line downloads, those shops closed as well.
He’s tried to involve his wife in some aspect of each new venture. Now Jeremy’s at the co-op, and Abigail’s nervous…
Jeremy got a job at the market and the offerings for her continued education went from disks to baskets full of items Abigail couldn’t begin to identify. “Whole foods?” Abigail asked bewildered. “What, have I been cooking halves all this time?” Her culinary repertoire consisted of items like tuna surprise, or flank steak with teriyaki sauce.
As Jeremy introduced new ingredients for her to cook, Abigail despaired. The experiment with pornography had wearied her in more than just her body. The effort to familiarize herself with her husband’s latest employment arena was too much. Abigail couldn’t even begin to cook with broccoli rape, celeriac, rose apples, or salsify…
just looking up the latter food and realizing that it was a vegetable also known as oyster plant rendered it too foreign. If she didn’t know where to start with a real oyster, how in the world would she find her way around a dastardly, cleverly named root vegetable you had to wear rubber gloves to prepare?
Abby stood in her kitchen, lost. She resented feeling inadequate, but she felt guilty, too. Nothing says loving like something in the oven. Which part was true, she wondered. Love, for whom? Something in the oven, but what?
Her husband had assaulted her senses one by one. First it was her sense of touch with the air conditioners. Sound had proved inadequate with the stereo shops. Her senses of sight, sound and touch were simultaneously overwhelmed by pornography. Currently the food store derided her sense of taste. Abigail wondered depressed what would be next for her sense of smell.
Abby leafed through the cookbook he bought her and sighed, looking without success for familiar ingredients. Miracle whip. Devils food cake. Cowboy beans and chili. A slice of American cheese on a burger. Jell-O with fruit cocktail. When she confessed this to Jeremy, he said, “I married a Betty Crocker cliché.”
He had been dismayed when she first cooked for him. After all those great meals in exotic countries of curries, tom yum gum soups, and completely fresh ingredients, Abby’s cooking was like going from Technicolor to a 50’s black and white film clip. She served fish sticks bearing little resemblance to the fish dishes of his recent memory.
“I made homemade tartar sauce!” she announced proudly.
Jeremy spooned out mayonnaise with pickles cut into it and smiled weakly.
The first time she tried to cook him Indian food Abigail choked almost to death because she had no idea that the whole spices all get taken out or pushed to one side, and are not eaten. Ditto with the hot chilies used for flavor.
New ingredients were dangerous. For her, bourbon vanilla meant cheap cooking sherry. Cans of condensed soup were her friends.
Abby loved tuna surprise, and the most exotic dish she could cook was a quiche. “If life is a banquet,” she thought, “I must be cheese Doritos chips. I am flat cherry soda.”
– from my short story “Punctured” in Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Available online at amazon.com, amazon.de, and amazon in countries everywhere.
Go to the post titled Punctured to read more about Jeremy.
(All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)
More pictures from our trips and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.
- Salsify: also called scorzifora and ‘the poor man’s oyster’ (photo from Wikipedia)
- Pomolo: gigantic relative of grapefruit, can grow to the size of a basketball
- Dragon fruit: thick red rind is peeled away to reveal citrus fruit with pale flesh flecked with black seeds
- Mekong seaweed: river weed harvested from Mekong River. Often fried in thin sheets with garlic or sesame seeds. In Luang Prabang, Laos, a specialty eaten with dipping sauce that includes pounded water buffalo skin as an ingredient
- Chin lau: grows on bushes and tastes like lime
20 thoughts on “Despair Is An Exotic Ingredient”
Wow Jadi! What a feast for ALL the senses! Gorgeous photos and beautiful words. I too was just recently introduced to salsify and loved it. We’re traveling in Mexico now and encountering some wonderful new taste sensations. 🙂 ~Terri
We used to spilt a CSA basket with another family and one week I discovered sandy black stalks of— something… in it. I’d never seen salsify and had to go through cookbooks looking for a photo (this was before the ease of Googling!) Then I had to seriously read up to figure out how to prepare it and which parts could be used. But man, is it versatile and yummy. ! I’m sure you’re enjoying beautiful Mexico and the flavors!
Great post for a foodie 🙂
I’ve just recently tried salsify. I think it’s coming into its own here in the states.
We got some in a CSA box and I had to hunt for a cookbook that told me what it even was (This was in the days before Google searches). I don’t see it on menus much in Europe either. Glad you’re an adventurous eater! Salsify is time consuming to prepare but worth the effort. —Jadi
The humor punctuating your story just makes it a lovely read.
Thanks! I had a lot of fun writing this story. Glad you enjoyed it. —Jadi
Wonderful photos to go along with a great piece of writing. Nice!
Thanks for the comment! This one was easy: text and photos came together without much work on my part. I’d love it if all my writing could go this nicely. —Jadi.
I completely understand that!
That looks very tasty, nice! ☼
I’ve tried everything except the preserved eggs or chin lau (I had jack fruit dried into chips)… Thanks for commenting. Come back soon! —Jadi
Clever, colorful, appetizing post, young lady!
Thanks. These are very good. The dipping sauce with the pounded water buffalo skin is especially tasty… a bit of chili gives it a nice bite. 🙂 —Jadi
Wonderful idea… brilliantly realised… I was rivetted right up to the last sentence !!!
Thanks Valerie, as always great to see a comment from you here. I am enjoying the challenge of selecting excerpts from my book and Uwe’s photography for short blog posts. It’s more work than I expected, but since I post only twice a month I try to take the time to get it right! —Jadi