Fiction

Kitchen Mystic by Paulette Licitra

The Deconstruction by Karen Cantrell

Patisserie de Pakistan by Gregors Johnson

Meals of a Lifetime by Rebecca Keller

Ode to Risotto by Donald Newlove

Fully Committed by Doug Sovern

Biscuits and Gravy by William Blomstedt

Keeping It Tidy by Alan Linton

If I Knew You Were Coming by Alisha Lumea

On Your Only Day Off by Nicole Edwards

Bagpipes and Pan Fried Smelts by Ted Radakovic

Joseph Conrad’s Dark Linguini by Giovanni Berchtold

Missing Something by Jean-Luc Bouchard

We Love You, Mayonnaise! by Alona Martinez

Japanese Food by Esther Cohen

Raw Köfte by Hardy Griffin

Proust's Soup by Giovanni Berchtold

A Sacred Virgin by Paulette Licitra

on a friday evening by Keith Leidner

Ropa Vieja by Raul Palma

Deidre's Last Meal by Esther Cohen

Wired by Alan Linton

Chestnut by Katherine Gleason

The Moon is an Outdoor Sandwich by Patty Houston

Garlicky Greens by Lois Marie Harrod

First the Shell, Musical; Then the Custard, Irrevocable by Sarah Begley

Meals of Choice by Dorian Fox

A Low Table by Christian Aguiar

The Sylvian Fissure by Rosalie Loewen

Two Versions of Eating Potatoes by David Spiering

Conch Salad by Michele Ruby

Hopper by Michael Onofrey

Caution: Coffee is Hot by Gary Scott

The Fairy Part by Alberto Giuseppe

Foie Gras by Judith Edelman

Rosemary and Olive Oil by Gail Gauthier

Mario's Shoes by Natalie Parker-Lawrence

Cake by Marianne Villanueva

Retreat: October on Copper Mountain by M.E. Parker

The Sandwich Diaries by Angus Woodward

But There Was No Star Anise by Andrew Martell

Fruit Route by Susan King

If I Knew You Were Coming

by Alisha Lumea

April 2015    

He said he would be home by now. And I said I wouldn’t stay. But here I am, baking a cake and drinking his whisky. Maybe I shouldn’t have come at all. But then, of course I should have. What else was I going to do? No wasteful heart here. You have to feast before the famine. Even squirrels know that. And he was never going to use up that wheat flour.

This is Peter’s kitchen, in his cottage, at the end of his crumbly dirt road that climbs halfway up the big hill, and then just stops in a field. We met at an eco conference in Edinburgh. It was after a lecture on the future of offshore wind energy, which is big business here in Scotland. He’s an aspiring wind farmer, which means he spends his time trying to turn one ungraspable thing into another. Looking back, there was probably something significant to find in that.

I was at the conference for the food system sessions. I prefer the tangible. But I was done for the day, and it was raining outside. While I sat there scanning the room and thinking about where to have dinner, I saw Peter sitting two rows up looking tall and earnest and tweedy. After the lecture, we were both getting a cup of tea from the table at the back. Up close Peter is even better looking, and he started talking to me. He has these sturdy, squared off shoulders and a way of standing that takes up all the space, so it’s just him you can look at. And he has a slightly unkempt mess of dark curls and glasses with dark, heavy frames like all the hip city kids are wearing now. He looks like a nerdy satyr. And his voice, with that soft purring accent, it’s like whisky and melted butter. It literally warms you up to listen to it.

We went to a pub. It became a date. I hadn’t been on a date in years, lots of years. And it was a good date with all that optimism and anticipation everybody wishes all their dates had.

At a small table tucked against the wall, we sat in tartan-upholstered armchairs drinking our pints. A fireplace made the room almost hot. My new ring kept pulling my eye. It’s a big round agate, lollypop red in a silver setting. I bought it when I first arrived and was trying to walk off my jet lag. My naked ring finger felt strange the whole flight over, too exposed. I wasn’t used to it yet. The new ring covered it up. Every time I saw the ring, or it clicked against something, it said: This is a whole new hand. This hand can do whatever it wants.

We ended up at my hotel room. I was supposed to be leaving the following afternoon, but in the morning I lied and said my client wanted me to stay.

“Why don’t you stay another week, or even longer,” Peter said. “I could take you home with me. Maybe I’ll keep you.”

“Well, take me then,” I said.

I changed my flight and paid a $500 airline penalty to stay. Eventually we all pay for sex, one way or the other. I wasn’t sorry. I’m still not.

While I was away at the conference, my nearly ex-husband Evan was supposed to be moving into his own place. When I called Evan to tell him I was staying in Scotland longer, he was still in our apartment. He had messed up something with his new lease. He said maybe it was a sign from the universe that we should stay together. I asked him why the universe had waited so long to weigh in. We had been fighting and trying to make up for two years, and the universe had been dead silent. Black hole-silent. I didn’t even bother to tell Evan about Peter. I guess I could have rubbed it in, but I didn’t want to hear anything about it come out of his mouth.

Whole wheat flour, like what I’ve used in this cake, is so much better for sweets than people realize. I found some in Peter’s cupboard earlier in the week when we were cooking dinner together. It ended up as me cooking dinner and him opening the wine and telling me a story about rock climbing. All of his stories are about something like rock climbing or deer hunting, all so masculine and bold sounding. It’s like having your own personal Hemingway around. He showed me how you find a hold on a rock face, flexing all the tendons in his hand against the counter top. Beautiful. Evan wouldn’t even know how to make something like that up.

Peter bought the wheat flour in a fit of bread baking, which was the phase before the running app on his phone that lets him race himself. He even tried growing his own starter. He measured and timed and made it all much more complicated than it needs to be. There’s still a jar on the windowsill, crusted around the sides with a plug of dried-up paste at the bottom. I noticed it the first time I was in this kitchen. You have to feed the yeast in a starter, or it dies.

Whole wheat needs a little bit more than regular flour. It’s not the flour’s fault. In a lean dough, without milk or eggs or anything, it can taste like bark, something to take with you if you expect to be stranded up a mountain or trapped in a bunker.

I can do better than the food of last resort. I wanted to leave something behind too, so you could tell I’d been here. I thought it could be a little assemblage of all the good things from this week. There’s half a jar of marmalade in the fridge, which is just so quaintly Scottish. And there’s still ginger root left from the curry he made a few nights ago, which was really delicious actually. I was impressed. This cake I put together in my head in just a few minutes — a little orange zest for brightness, a little butter and sugar to soften the crumb. Cake is all in the small gestures. I could make it worth wanting.

Two nights ago — that would be my seventh night here of our big 12-day tryst — Peter told me that he needed to go down to Edinburgh for work. He said he would drive down in the afternoon, stay overnight, and then be back up before supper the next day. It’s barely three hours away, so he could have done it all in one day if he wanted too. He thought that was ridiculous. In America, what’s three hours? He didn’t invite me to go with him either.

We got in a fight right before he left. I said that if he couldn’t be bothered to stay, I couldn’t be bothered to stay either. It would have been best if I could have left right then, but my stuff was all over the place. And you have to call the taxi at least half an hour before you want it to show up, which doesn’t help with storming off.

I stayed here in the cottage by myself last night. Leaving someone alone in your house is a strangely intimate thing to do when you’re blowing them off. It was so quiet and dark. Peter’s coffee table is filled with field and farming guides. Last night I read about the habits of local wildlife. I learned that rabbits evicted from one set of burrows will go to ground elsewhere to stay out of harm. I wonder how that works out for them.

Going to ground is a lot harder than it used to be. Remember the good old days when you went to Europe and you were really gone? No cell phones. No texts. It was so much easier to be alone then. Peter hasn’t called or emailed or anything since he left. You think you’re connecting with someone, and then you’re not. You never know. Sometimes silence is deep. Sometimes it’s just quiet.

My official status with Evan is “separated.” “Divorced,” I’ve learned, takes a very long time. The term separated makes it sound inevitable, like how milk separates when it gets left too long and the fat and acid each drift off on their own. Where there was something rich and worthwhile, now there’s just cloudy water, a few chunky bits you’ll have to chase down the drain, and a bad smell. People drift apart too, but to get the piece of paper that calls you “separated,” you have to admit that you’re out of ideas. You have to admit that you’re stuck with something that you can’t make anything new from.

It’s not like that in the kitchen. In the kitchen you can make something from almost everything, if you’re trying. Bones make stock. Fruit that’s gone soft can go into muffins. Stale bread can turn into cubes or crumbs and can find a home basically anywhere. Sour milk, you can bake with.

The milk I used in this cake was sour, a product of benign neglect. He overbought for my visit. I take my tea and coffee black. He didn't know that yet. The day we arrived here, he already knew how to make me shiver but not how I take my coffee. We ate toast and jam in the mornings, not cereal or porridge. Sometimes we just ate Tesco shortbread from the box and went back to bed. A return ticket makes you prioritize. I was never going to go home wishing I’d eaten more cereal. If there’s anything we have in America, it’s a boatload of cereal. Now that I’m living alone, I’ll probably be eating the stuff for dinner if I let myself.

When I opened the back door to get a little fresh air in here, Melvin came to sit in the doorway like a bouncer. He’s a big bruiser of a tabby, flicking his tail and surveying the ivy with murder in his heart. Peter can’t keep a jar of yeast alive, but Melvin is the fattest, happiest cat I’ve ever met. He’ll probably take something’s head off just for fun as soon I turn back inside. You can’t blame the tiger for being a tiger.

The cows are out in the backyard again today. Behind the cottage is a little patch of domesticated green ending by a stone wall covered with splashes of pale lichen. The cows are on the other side in the neighbor’s pasture. The first day I was here, I called to them. I wanted to pet their soft wide noses and twitching ears. I called and clapped, but they were unmoved. Turns out, I don’t know how to lure a cow. Maybe the idea of petting a cow is better than the real thing anyway. For all I know, they bite.

It’s done baking now, but I hate the sight of a naked cake. It’s too unresolved. I can warm the rest of the marmalade with whisky. If I poke little holes all through the cake and spoon that over the top, the glaze will seep in. Every bite he takes will be sweet.

The light is starting to fade already. I should probably call the taxi. Online I found a nice little guesthouse in town with lots of embroidered pillows and a full breakfast of eggs with toast and bacon, and beans, and black pudding. I can keep myself busy. I’m not changing my ticket for this.

I’m packed. I did that this morning. Then I wanted one more cup of tea. And I got the idea to make this cake. Then I started in on the whisky, and I still have a bit more. It would be a crime to dump out anything this good.


NUTTY GINGER CAKE WITH WHISKY MARMALADE GLAZE

For cake
1 cup (2 sticks/227g) unsalted butter
1 cup (120g) sugar
4 eggs
½ cup (130ml) well-shaken buttermilk (can always substitute plain yogurt, thin with a little water if thick)
¼ cup (80g) prepared marmalade
1 cup (120g) whole wheat flour
1 cup (120g) almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt

For glaze
1/3 cup (100g) prepared marmalade
¼ cup (75ml) whisky
2 tbsp candied ginger, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175C).

Butter and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan.

Combine wheat flour, almond four, baking powder, ground ginger and salt and mix until blended. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the marmalade. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully combined. Add the buttermilk and mix. In two or three additions, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not over mix.

Place the batter in the pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake come out clean. While the cake is in the oven, combine the marmalade, whiskey and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until the glaze becomes liquid.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to sit until the pan is cool enough to handle but the cake is still warm. Remove the sides of the spring-form pan. Use the testing skewer to poke holes down into the cake to help the glaze seep in fully.

Using a pastry brush, apply the glaze in several additions until it has all been absorbed into the cake and the top of the cake is coated in marmalade. Sprinkled the chopped candied ginger over the top.

The cake will keep in a sealed container for up to three days.



  Alisha Lumea is a trained pastry chef, an accomplished chocolatier, and consults with food businesses and projects, from fish to films. This is her first published story. She lives in San Francisco and is currently at work on a novel. She can be found at www.alishalumea.com and tweeting about food @gastroconomy. Photographs courtesy of the author.