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

But There Was No Star Anise

by Jack Andrew Martell

August 2012

She wasn’t lonely, not in the depressing sense. She had her relaxed, slightly-more-than-adequate-wage job with a slightly-less-than-average workload, and a series of enjoyable hobbies: the most recent of which was creating desserts. Their colors, intricacies, transformations, had fascinated her for the last ten dedicated months. Something inside her changed and thrived along with the puffing of pastries, thickening of reductions, the physicality of hand-mixing dough and taffies: it all felt like something she could do forever. This volatile, impermanent state of food was far more impressive and interesting than her safe, yet satisfying, day to day.

Tonight was a bergamot semifreddo with a pomegranate-raspberry coulis, partially inspired by late night television not twenty hours before, and the rest by an unsubstantiated hunch of the “sounds good let’s do it” variety. Freshly juiced pomegranate and a dusting of diced sage simmered merrily on one stove element as she fussed over whether to leave the half-cup of muddled macerated raspberries crowning or scrape it level. The lenses of her rectangular, horned glasses caught the light in just such a way to hide her eyes from view behind a sheen of white glare. She resisted the urge to open the freezer to check on the resting whipped cream, egg whites, salt, sugar, and bergamot zest which hadn’t yet conformed into the proper whole. It was a temptation which summed up her attitude well; more confident was she in her knowledge than her execution, a mentality which serves only to justify itself.

Instead she made up her mind about the raspberries, and knifed a clean swath off the top onto a small plate. The perfectly flat half-cup was carefully but quickly scooped and whisked into the pot, followed by a few dashes of pure vanilla extract. Her hand was as gentle with the bottle as if it was a fiery hot sauce and the slightest over-inclusion would ruin the flavor completely. She picked up the plate of discarded raspberries and lifted it to her mouth with graceful fingers, as much to test as for pleasure, though the latter did override all else. She chose a slightly larger plate and placed it in the crisper, lamenting that she had a dish warmer in her oven but not a chiller in fridge or freezer.

She settled in to read the paper while attempting to willfully ignore whatever news depressed her, resulting in a listless flipping past headlines trying and failing to grasp her. Without a timer she arose almost exactly every two and a half minutes to cautiously stir the pot, ensuring even heating and no burning along the copper-plated bottom.

Forty minutes passed, with her mental timekeeping as reliable as the tocking drone of a grandfather clock. Her reading material shifted from newspaper to music magazine to literary journal. Through intuitive feel alone she decided the reduction was ready, took out a large bowl, filled it with ice and water, and placed a smaller bowl beside it on the counter, empty and eager. With a quick taste, she marveled once more at how food could transform so completely, so magically, before turning off the stove and lifting the pan.

The fragrant reduction made its way via spatula into this smaller bowl with a practiced, even ease and light whisking. This was set into the ice water, and fiercer whisking evened the gentle cooling process as much as possible. She smiled at her efforts, relishing the insistent pangs in her forearm. “Pain means promise”, as her father once said to her vaguely. It was the only time she doubted his advice, yet it made sense in the context of baking. She folded and whipped until even the part of her brain controlling her left arm was sore. She wrapped her right arm around the whole two-bowl ensemble to lift it, remembering how her mother used to do the exact same; and there it went, two hours of raspberry-pomegranate coulis effort, mixed imperceptibly with regurgitated bile as she flew into her third panic episode of the year. Memories might be as deadly as bullets in the right mind. The whisk was smashed against the linoleum floor, leaving a perfectly symmetrical splash of unimaginable complexity, a perfect pairing with her solitary anguished sob. The whisk itself was completely clean, much the same as her tear-stained cheeks would soon be. Her weeping was brief, though she silently hugged herself for much longer. Her hands were unconsciously on the precise spot where her father had placed his own hands as he stood behind her at the funeral, the last time he had touched her as he shot himself with his treasured .38 Special revolver that very night.

She wiped the mess from the floor with her eyes shut tight, refusing her imagination. It took an awkward half-roll of paper towels to clean the majority of the spill. Her sigh spoke for so much more than the lost fruit, time, and work. Taking the now-ready semifreddo from the freezer, she took a bite and decided the coulis might have been too much, after all.

Jack Andrew Martell is a gourmet who’s always starving. He does his eating and living and writing in his once-abandoned hometown of Toronto, Canada. In spite, or perhaps because of, his initials, Jack doesn’t like jam. Jack writes in fountain pen.


Photo of "Star Anise Series " under Creative Commons.