It’s difficult to keep a travel blog going at the moment, when travel is so restricted, so today I am doing something a little different and sharing a short story that I wrote. One of the dishes I mention in the story was inspired by a delicious dish I had at the Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, WA. I have previously written about this restaurant; you’ll find that post here. I can’t remember the name of the dish, and I didn’t see it on the menu I found on their website, but it had truffles and a celeriac cream sauce; it was delicious!
I also want to mention that I am poking fun at myself in this story, since it is extremely important to me to eat organic, non GMO, fairly traded foods that are raised and produced humanely and sustainable. They are better for the farm workers, animals, the planet and for you.
This is my first short story, I hope you enjoy it! As always, please leave a comment; I love hearing from you!
Zoey always longed to be like other families, the families of her friends who ate normal things, like spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, and looked forward to Taco Tuesday, but her family had Truffle Tuesday and French Food Friday. Her family was well off and lived in the biggest, fanciest house in the neighborhood with a gardener, housekeeper, chauffeur and chef. But why couldn’t her family eat normal food? To make matters worse, she was not allowed to buy a lunch at school. According to her mother, eating food that was surplus, probably GMO and had questionable origins was not good enough for her little girl. So she was subjected to a packed lunch prepared by Chef, that was kept properly chilled in order to prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses. And oh, how the other kids teased her about her snooty lunches.
Today was a particularly difficult day. Zoey could feel the other kids staring at her as she ate her hazelnut encrusted, wild-caught, Alaskan salmon on a bed of Oregon truffle, enoki mushroom risotto, garnished with a tumble of early harvest micro-greens. On the side was some Yakima Valley, organic, early spring asparagus, drizzled with extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme and roasted until just al dente. For dessert she was allowed a small piece of organic, fairly traded dark chocolate; just a small piece though, to keep her sugar intake at the appropriate level. And of course, no one drinks cow’s milk anymore, so she had to wash it down with a small container of cashew milk. She came home from school in a foul mood. She approached her mother who was enjoying a cup of fair trade, organic, non GMO, dark roast coffee with a splash of hemp milk, and slammed her lunch box on the table.
“My darling! Whatever is the matter?” her mother inquired.
“My stupid lunch!” Zoey bellowed in reply.
“Didn’t Chef prepare a healthy, nutritious and sustainable lunch for you?”
“Of course she did, but why can’t I have normal food like the other kids? Like a sandwich and some chips? Peanut butter and jelly would be nice, or even bologna, and a Poptart for dessert would be great!”
“Why my darling, you know we never eat those types of foods,” Mother exclaimed, emphasizing the word “those”.
“Now, go to your room and try the meditation program I have queued up for you on your iPad. It will help you calm down before dinner. It’s Truffle Tuesday after all!”
“AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!” she yelled as she ran up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door.
“Poor thing, I hope she calms down before dinner,” Mother thought.
Mother was by the pool and had just started her 90 minute body sculpting session with her private trainer and would be out of the house for a while. Zoey entered the kitchen where Chef was relaxing before prepping the truffles and other ingredients for dinner.
“Something on your mind kiddo?” Chef asked. Chef had a Southern drawl that was much more pronounced when Mother and Father were not around. She had completed her culinary training in Paris however, so the accent was overlooked.
“I’m sick and tired of being teased by the kids at school about my fancy lunches! And I’m wondering if you can help me.”
“Hmm, well, your mom is pretty strict about the food that comes into the house,” Chef replied.
“I know, everything has to be organic, sustainable, non GMO, fair trade, heaven help us if a GMO apple or a Poptart slips past inspection!”
“Oh, Poptarts, I loved those as a kid,” Chef said dreamily as her childhood memory returned. “They come in lots of different flavors, and you heat them in the toaster. And then, hmmmm, they get so warm and melty and delicious,” Chef had gone off to some far off place where Poptarts were king.
“I wouldn’t know, I have been completely deprived of that experience,” Zoey replied, stomping her foot for emphasis. “But, since you do the shopping and prepare my lunches, I’m wondering if you could help me. I have a plan that just might work.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” replied Chef, with a sly smile and a wink.
Dinner that evening consisted of cream of artichoke soup garnished with slivered Oregon truffles, fresh chives and a drizzle of olive oil, which was served with a crisp, Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. The main course was orecchiette pasta with roasted vegetables and a truffle infused, celeriac cream sauce served with an Oregon Pinot Noir. Mother commented that the flavor of the Oregon truffle was much understated as compared to the traditional French truffle, but both were delightful. Father, who fancied himself a wine expert, was particularly surprised by the supple mouth feel of the pinot, with hints of black pepper, mushrooms, American Oak and black currant. Watching her parents sip their wine, Zoey wished even more that they were having tacos for dinner.
The next morning, Chef packed two lunches. She handed one to the chauffeur and told him to put it in the car, on the floor so it was hidden. The other lunch sat on the counter as usual to be inspected by Mother as she said goodbye to Zoey and wished her a good day at school.
The morning at school passed quickly. Zoey received the usual stares as she opened her lunch box, this time however, there was no teasing or giggling, just opened mouth gawking.
“Hey, where’s your fancy lunch? That looks like the same boring lunch just like everyone else has,” one kid said; he put a long emphasis on fancy.
“Yeah, I was going to ask you if you wanted to trade, I’m sick of peanut butter and jelly!” said another kid with braces.
The other kids at her table were staring at her in disbelief.
Zoey was completely astounded! She looked around at the other kids and their lunches and noticed that several had Poptarts for dessert.
“Bu..but… you always tease me about my lunches!”
“Of course we do,” replied the kid with braces, “but we still wish we had your lunch or a better lunch than this crap!” As he said this, he dramatically tossed his peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the center of the table, as if it was nothing more than fair game for anyone with the slightest bit of interest. No one took the bait, in fact a few kids backed away in horror.
“OK, then, no more teasing?” she asked, waiting expectantly for them all to agree.
“OK, but that’s no fun,” sighed the kid with braces, “but a good lunch will make up for the loss.”
At the same time, at a picnic table along the side of the house, out of sight from Mother and the household staff, the chauffeur was enjoying a delicious lunch. Chef had prepared delicata squash stuffed with roasted veggies and Gruyere imported from France, a quinoa salad with garbonzo beans, pine nuts and kale and, of course, a small piece of dark chocolate for dessert. He provided his own wine, a glass of a nice, affordable, California Cabernet Sauvignon. He had all afternoon before he had to drive again, and wanted to savor this delicious lunch, which was perfect, except larger portions would be appreciated. He texted Chef:
“Thanks for the delicious lunch, it was amazing! Would it be impertinent of me to ask for larger portions?”
Chef replied with a thumbs up.
Zoey’s after school activities consisted of LaCrosse practice, a private fencing lesson, then 10 laps in the pool at the local country club. The Chauffeur, of course, picked her up after her activities. A stack of homework kept her occupied on the drive home, God forbid that her grades were not good enough to get into an Ivy League college!
She was late getting home due to an accident on the freeway. Dinner had already been served and the table cleared. Her parents were sitting on the veranda enjoying a pot of loose leaf, handcrafted, organically grown Lapsang souchong tea. Father was playing a game on his phone and Mother was on a Facetime call with her personal trainer.
“Hello darling,” they both said, barely looking up from their devices.
“Good day?” Father inquired.
“Yup,” she replied, “I have more homework to do, so I’m going to eat and head to my room.
“Lovely,” Mother replied, giving her a quick, distracted smile.
Chef had already retired for the evening, and was most likely watching an episode of Duck Dynasty or Toddlers and Tiaras. Zoey found a large plate in the refrigerator with a bowl of minted, spring pea soup, a plate of seared sea scallops served on a bed of citrus, fennel salad and a small dish of gemolata. She was tired and hangry, so she shoved the whole plate into the microwave and hit the “quick heat” option.
She checked her phone for messages, then noticed Chef’s instructions on the counter for heating her dinner.
“Remove the bowl of soup and the gremolata; place the plate in the microwave for 25 seconds, not any longer or the scallops will turn into hockey pucks!”
“Oops,” Zoey said as she heard a loud BANG in the microwave. She quickly opened the door; the soup had exploded splattering everywhere, the gremolata had turned into a dried mess on the bottom of the dish and the scallops had indeed, turned into hockey pucks. She dumped the plate in the sink, grabbed a carton of organic, dairy free, agave nectar sweetened “ice cream” and a spoon, and headed to her room.
Chef would barely speak to her in the morning because of the mess she had left in the sink and microwave, so Zoey couldn’t tell her that she didn’t need a second lunch today. She muttered a quick “sorry”, grabbed her lunch and headed to the car.
At lunch that day, after the trades were made, Zoey sat smiling to herself as she ate a bologna sandwich, a bag of chips and a Poptart, which was every bit as delicious as Chef had described. The other kids were thoroughly enjoying parmesan encrusted, herb roasted chicken with crispy Yukon Gold potatoes and shallots; a tossed salad with tender baby greens dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and several large pieces of chocolate. She was surprised at the large portions though, particularly since Chef was so angry at her about the mess she left in the kitchen.
Back at the house, the chauffeur set the picnic table with nice linens, a simple, Italian style wine glass and and silverware. He poured a glass of a rich, jammy, fruity Washington State Syrah and in eager anticipation, slowly opened the lunch box. He was expecting a delicious lunch that would compliment the Syrah, but instead he picked up a slight whiff of peanut butter. He looked in disbelief and great disappointment as he saw a sandwich, a bag of something orange and crunchy and a Poptart for dessert.