If you've been following along since here and here you're up to speed with what's what and why I'm printing the first chapter of my work of culinary fiction, "Indigestion". Herewith, I present the final pages of the first chapter. (And that's all you're gettin'.)
It looks like Ruthie Cohen is heading off to culinary school: This is where it all begins, people! (Plus, a recipe. Enjoy.)
And please do tell any of your friends in the TV, film or book biz that this baby is still up for grabs (for now.) Since my traditional publisher went out of business, I'm trying to get this wonderful book published in the most modern way possible, meaning, in whatever medium best suits. Animated webisodes, anyone?
But now on to the story...
When we last left our protagonist Ruthie, she was pondering whether or not to use the inheritance recently bequeathed to her by her grandmother, Boobie Bobby Grace. Let's listen in...
My Boobie Bobby Grace had passed away just over six months ago, and while it shouldn’t really shock a grandchild when her 89-year old grandmother dies, it was a real blow to me, because not only was Boobie Bobby Grace one of my favourite people in the entire world, she was no ordinary granny, either.
Her husband, my Zaidy Murray, had died when my dad was just 12-years old, so Boobie had to raise her five children on her own, and somehow figured out early on that real estate would be her ticket to financial freedom. She was right for the most part, spending the better part of 40 years working as a real estate agent, often keeping the best gems for herself, buying up whole blocks of downtown Toronto in the 70s, suffering through the real estate slump of the early 80s, but the market always rebounded and she ultimately made a very good living.
After seeing all of her children through university, she happily retired to Miami on her 61st birthday.
From the time I was eight-years old my parents would fly me to visit her for a week in February while they took their annual sojourns to various Club Meds. They claimed the resorts were “adults only” but I later learned that this was not the case at all. But I didn’t care. I loved my special week each year with Boobie Bobby Grace, going for early bird specials with her and her friends, shopping in malls so big and air conditioned that she’d have a blanket waiting for me in her Cadillac so that I could warm up on the drive home to her gated community.
“Ruthie,” she’d say, as we drove the 20 minutes back to the manicured palms and overly chlorinated swimming pool of her condo, a time she often used to dispense important life lessons to me. “I want you to remember three things: If you learn nothing else from me, please remember this.” At this point I’d usually turn towards her, adjust the blanket and listen carefully.
“Never buy green bananas. They will never ripen properly and will ultimately disappoint you. And while were talking, never wear banana yellow. Sorry doll, it’s just no good on you.” I’d nod in agreement suddenly embarrassed by my cheery yellow skorts yet thankful for the honest advice. Then we’d drive for a little while in silence while she mulled over a final lesson: “Give money to street bums even if it’s just a nickel. And make eye contact too. They’re just like you and me, only they haven’t been so lucky.”
The thing is, our chats almost always started with these life lessons, so, fearful of forgetting any of the very important “three things”, I’d always rush into the bathroom as soon as we got back to the condo to write them all down. (I later learned she thought I had a weak bladder.) When Boobie died I numbered all of her life lessons and added them up. There are exactly 7,853 and I swear, at least half of them are totally useful.
Boobie loved taking her daily swim, an hour after playing canasta and two hours before dinner. That usually meant a 3pm swim in the Atlantic Ocean each day. I used to marvel at this fit, leathery women as she pulled on her swimming cap, so colourful and floral that her head looked like a giant frosted cupcake. She’d leave me on the beach, on a big pink towel under a blue umbrella, to watch her purse and eat a Snickers bar while she did her 45-minute swim. “Don’t talk to strangers,” she’d instruct as she pulled on her swimming goggles and kicked off her sandals. “But if you do, be sure to offer them a stick of gum. And don’t forget – Lipton’s onion soup mix is the secret ingredient to a flavourful brisket.” (Boom – three more without even trying.)
A jet ski hit Boobie as she was swimming back to the beach one day, even though I have no idea how he hadn’t spotted her elaborate swimming cap. A bunch of people ran into the water after witnessing the accident and helped to carry her ashore while others called 911. But it was too late to save her. Apparently, as the life faded out of her on the powdery white sand, her last words were, “Go to Charlie’s Seafood restaurant on 15th Street. They really give you a nice piece of fish.” And then she gasped and died.
A few months on, it all came down to money and possessions. Boobie was the matriarch of our family; the eldest of four (though her middle brother, my great uncle Stan, had died while fighting in WWII — of Gonorrhea), she was the mother of five, and the doting grandmother to 11. After they divvied up her real estate holdings and stock portfolio, I inherited $62,873.42 from Boobie Bobby Grace, and that inheritance was now resting comfortably in my savings account.
There were no real stipulations as to how the money should be used, but as was Boobie’s way, there were some really good suggestions: “There are three ways I’d like you all to try to use this inheritance,” started Auntie May the executor, as we all gathered in the lawyer’s office to hear the reading of Boobie’s will. “No pressure, but I’ve got some nifty ideas for you all.” Auntie May was reading the will in a spot-on imitation of Boobie Bobby Grace, which I’ll be honest, I was having mixed feelings about. “Use it for education – why not learn a new trade? I’m not saying you should become a metallurgist or anything, but carpentry, locksmithing – you’ll never be without a job if you’ve got one of those under your belt.” True, true, we all nodded in agreement. “Or, use it for travel – maybe you’ll learn some things about yourself along the way. For instance, remember that time I went to northern Norway and went dogsledding? I never knew how much I’d hate dog-sledding.” Hmmm, I thought. I love to travel. Boobie knew that. Hearing about her adventures had inspired me to create ones of my own, so much so that all of my extra money, every spare cent, usually goes to saving up for my next big trip. And I have always wanted to go to Thailand… “Use it to open up a small business,” Auntie May as Boobie Bobby Grace continued, “Learn to be self sufficient; there’s nothing better than being your own boss, I’ll tell you.” And that she was, and that she loved. I take these final life lessons into consideration when I eventually use
Boobie Bobby Grace’s generous inheritance.
But even though it’s by far the most money I’ve ever seen, it’s now six months on and I haven’t touched a nickel of it. I guess I kind of feel if I don’t spend it, it’s like she’s not really gone. But was Lilly right? Was now the time to use it? Could this $62,873.42 set my life on a brand new course?
“I think it’s sort of a gift from Bobby Grace,” says Lilly, which does make an awful lot of sense. Boobie would have loved giving me this kick-start, and I would have to be sure to make her gift last. I would use it for nothing but furthering myself in a way in which Boobie Bobby Grace would have approved. I could live on my savings from work for rent and day-to-day living for a year, but once Boobie’s inheritance was spent it would likely mean back to the grey grind of Telecorpmedia for me.
I won’t bore you with the details regarding the rest of the night. All I will tell you is that three petite women ended up drinking two bottles of wine and another of pink champagne. We also polished off a pot of my go-to pasta – linguine swirled around marinated artichoke hearts, nicoise olives, red pepper flakes, garlic and oven roasted tomatoes, topped with some chevre, parsley and a mitt-full of toasted pine nuts. Then we got on the Internet and before I knew it, I had put down a deposit for the autumn session of L’Ecole de la Cuisine Française. I was going to train at a traditional French cooking school.
It would seem, if I listened to what Trish and Lilly were blabbering on about, my bliss was being followed. I may have woken up as a data-entry Smurf this morning, but tonight I go to bed on the verge of becoming a chef.Inheritance (to be used only for school-related costs and materials): $62,873.42
Books $400; Black safety shoes $100; Subscription to Cook’s Illustrated: $27. Balance remaining: $49,826.42
a few shakes Tabasco
Mix everything together in a bowl. Sometimes I use a hand blender if I want it extra smooth. It goes great with warm, soft Greek-style pita for ripping and dipp