Good Reading : December January 2009
NEXT ISSUE narrowed her eyes and chose honesty. ‘My grandmother’s homemade tamales, fresh out of the steamer. A cup of hot chocolate I drank in a restaurant by the Louvre in Paris. A plate of blue- corn cheese enchiladas with green chile in Santa Fe.’ That was three. She paused, letting others bubble up. ‘A bowl of buttered squashes at a museum restaurant. And –’ she sucked in a breath and snatched one of the hundreds swirling up, ‘a roasted garlic soup, in New Orleans.’ She brought her focus back to Julian’s face. ‘I’ve been trying for years to reproduce that soup and still don’t know why it was so spectacular.’ He nodded. She sipped her tea. ‘Now you.’ ‘Of course.’ His eyes, she noticed, were not just brown, they were blackest black. It made him seem wise. ‘A plate of roasted lamb in New Zealand, made by a housewife who put us up when our car broke down.’ ‘Oh, I forgot lamb! I love lamb.’ ‘That was one. Two was a strudel our next-door neighbour used to make, back when I was a kid.’ He held up a third finger. ‘A bowl of green chile in a greasy spoon in New Mexico. Espanola, as it happens.’ She raised her eyebrows – she’d mentioned Espanola in the article. ‘My uncle probably made it.’ Julian chuckled. ‘A steak pie in Aspen, and’ – he gestured toward her – ‘a zucchini blossom with blue corn- bread and piñon stuffing.’ She pressed her hands into namaste position. ‘Thank you, kind sir.’ ‘The last three are why we’re here.’ A ripple of nerves shot through her gut. ‘Okay.’ ‘The steak pie was in a failing restaurant. The chef is a drunk, the owner was a ski bum who had no business sense, and the building is challenged, though in a very good location.’ Elena hazarded a guess. ‘And you bought it.’ He smiled. ‘Yes.’ The food came, steaming hot, served on heavy white porcelain plates the server set down with no attention whatsoever to presentation. The parsley on Elena’s was at the top – as it should have been – Julian’s at the bottom. She couldn’t be silent. It would have been like letting some one leave the restroom with toilet paper stuck to her shoe. ‘Miss?’ The girl turned. ‘Did I forget something?’ ‘No, it looks beautiful – but can I ask you a question?’ ‘Yeah, I guess.’ ‘Are you new to this job?’ ‘Yeah. Only three weeks.’ She winced. ‘Does it show? They’re pretty shorthanded and I didn’t get trained that good.’ Elena gently touched the girl’s wrist. In her smoothest, least threatening voice, she said, ‘The food here is beautiful. The setting is spectacular. You can make a lot of money if you pay attention to little details.’ She blinked, fearful as a rabbit. ‘Yeah? Like what?’ ‘Tuck your shirt in better. Stand up straight. Serve the food as if the diner is in for a giant treat.’ She bit her lip, confused. ‘Okay.’ ‘Parsley at the top, right?’ ‘Oh!’ She smiled. ‘Right. I forgot. Anything else?’ ‘Grapefruit juice and milk.’ ‘Be right back.’ Julian picked up his fork. ‘You say exactly what’s on your mind, don’t you?’ ‘Did I embarrass you?’ ‘Not at all. It was compassionate.’ ‘Good.’ She picked up her fork, admired the omelet, and took a bite. ‘Mmm. Very nice. You were saying?’ He took a moment to turn his plate slightly, chose a spot, cut a small triangle and sampled it, then a cube of potato, then another small bite of omelet. Paying attention. ‘I was about to say, those three things came together. The Aspen restaurant. The bowl of green chile in Espanola, and your zucchini blossom appetiser.’ ‘And?’ He lifted a brow. ‘I would like you to come to Aspen and be my executive chef.’ The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal will be published by HarperCollins in February 2009. Stay further tuned for a profile of the author in the February 2009 issue of gr. Barbara O’Neal on her new book The Lost Recipe for Happiness Meet the authOrs Margo Lanagan Peter Matthiessen Christos tsiolkas MOderN JaPaNese Writers by tim Winton on sale an australian Classic Cloudstreet 30 January ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!