My heels clack loudly down the isle of the grocery store as I ran through. Earbuds in my ears. My husband’s voice telling me about his particularly shitty day at work. I hate to say, but I was only half paying attention. Not because I didn’t care, but because I just wanted to buy food, get home, chuck it in the microwave and go to sleep.
“And then that dick from accounts said…” he tells me. I hate Accounts Dick more every day for the shit he puts my husband through. I think about physically hurting Accounts Dick as I stare at the endless options of frozen foods.
Fries. Pizza. Crumbed fish. Mashed potato. Curries and noodles and rices and pies. Frozen vegetables and Frozen meats. All prepackaged. Single serves. Calorie counted.
I hear my husband’s sigh. He is already home, trying to get the kids to do their homework, trying to finish emails for work, trying to survive another day.
I pause. Give him my full attention. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. Are you okay?”
He sighs again. A sound like a hammer, breaking my heart. “I’ll be fine.”
“Just… Come home soon, okay?” he says. I can hear the ellipse in his sentence, like fingers gripping my heart. There is sadness in his pauses.
I am still standing in the middle of the frozen foods isle. The cold air is seeping out of the giant freezers and creeping up my legs. I am silent for a moment and we just sit in all the unsaid words. Marinating in the silence. “Is there anything you feel like eating?”
A ghost of laughter comes to me through the earbuds. “Well… You are pretty tasty,” he says.
A blush rises to my cheeks. I have not heard him speak this way in months.
“Sorry,” he apologises. “Anything, I don’t mind. Just… come home.”
I clear my throat and look around the grocery store, feeling suddenly self conscious. “Don’t apologise…” now my ellipses are showing, but for a different reason.
“What?” he yells. “Alright, alright!” I can hear scuffling. “Gotta go. The children want me to go parent… love you, bye.” he hangs up with out me being able to tell him that I love him too.
My music comes back on through the earbuds and I am left standing in the grocery isle, alone. I suddenly feel small. Lost. A child.
I can see myself reflected in the glass of the frozen foods section. Business suited up. A costume I never thought I’d be wearing. This was not where I thought I would be. This was not the life we had dreamed of years ago.
The costume I had hoped to wear would not have been so clean. So neat.
My playlist shuffles and Dean Martin’s crooning voice comes through the earbuds.
Memories, like a nostalgic wave, crash over me. My Nonna dancing with my Pop in their kitchen. A pot on the stove bubbling over down the sides. The heavily scented air, rich with tomato and wine and sweet smoky meat and love. Their bare feet slipping over the glassy, blue tiles. Music playing loudly. I sit on the kitchen table just watching as the pair tango around the kitchen.
I look at the time and run out of the freezer isle.
“My mamma used to tell me to always use fresh tomatoes,” my Nonna said to me. “But I cheat and use canned.” She winked at me and put her finger to her red lips as if it were a secret.
I grab the cans of diced tomato off the shelf.
Nonna pushed meat through a meat grinder, hands on the meat, feeding it through. “You can buy ground meat these days, but what would be the point if me owning a meat grinder?” She said, winking at me. Her short, wild hair playing around her eyes.
I pick out some pork and veal mince. Pre packaged. I do not own a meat grinder. Although, thinking if it, I may have Nonna’s hidden in a box, unpacked, somewhere.
“If you chop the vegetables really fine, you get the flavour without the vegetable part,” said Nonna, chopping the carrots and celery and onion and garlic finely. Cleaver in hand. Over kill but so her. A habit I have caught from her, but so often unused.
My music comes through the speakers of my car now. I drive home too fast. Excitement building inside. Why I do not do this more often, I don’t know.
I do know. Time. Time and energy. It takes time and energy to make edible love. That is what a good meal is, right?
Tearing up the drive way and into the house. Not in the car, obviously. But on my heeled feet. I kick off said heels, tired of their clack, and their slavery. My feet slip on my tiles in time to the music in my earbuds.
No one had come to greet me, but then again, I have not greeted them either. I am too excited to get started.
Flicking on the flame, in the true Italian way. On. There is no medium setting. On or off is all there is. Just like feelings. Just like life. All or nothing. Fly or die. Live or perish. On or off.
The weight of my cleaver feels good in my hand. The feel of it hitting the chopping board as it slices through the vegetables. Like a limb I had severed but found. A dog, lost.
The aroma as they hit the pan sizzling. Oil and garlic are lovers. They make love in the pan, hot and sweet. Salt and pepper for swinging.
My hips cannot help but sway to the music and the smells and the feeling of creation.
“Don’t be afraid to let things colour in the pan. Colour is flavour, bambina.” My Nonna bends down to me. She is an Amazon. No little Italian lady here. She is big and bold and living as lively as the smells in her kitchen.
I do not hear the footsteps behind me but I feel warm hands slip around my middle.
I feel my husband’s body press into mine. And he steals an earbud from my ear and places it in his own.
“Dean Martin, hey?” His voice has that same note to it as before. The good one. The sadness and ellipses disappearing.
His face and mouth and lips connect with my neck and I momentarily forget where I am.
There is a small part of me that thinks, no… I have to keep cooking… but that disappears completely as he pulls me into him and kisses my neck, his hips swaying in time to mine, dancing with mine.
“Cooking, food is love, Bambina. It gives us life. It gives us joy.”
“I love it when you cook,” he says, as he turns me around to face him.
My body tightens being so close to him. All the worries of the day are gone in this moment. The perfect distraction.
We dance in the kitchen. Bodies close. Sauce bubbling over the sides of the pot. Life happens. Good life.
With the promise of good food, good life, good love, what more can we ask for?
This was a prompt from Chuck Wendig’s fiction challenge. It was meant to be a tribute to the late Anthony Bourdain. It was meant to be about how food can bring people together.
I haven’t done one of these challenges in a while, but when this one came up, I couldn’t help it. I really enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s writing and his shows. Also, I do think food is important in our lives. Not just for survival but for this reason. Food can bring people together.
One of my fav times of day is dinner time. Sitting down with the kids, we go around the table and say our “high points” of the day and discuss things and give compliments to who ever cooked and just enjoy each other.
I am of Italian heritage and the Nonna in this story does resemble my Nonna, but the story is fictional. But we used to go to her house and crowd around the dinner table and she would feed us until we were busting. She would sneak me a tiny glass of red wine on special occasions. Lol
In my past life, dinner time was a source of stress and fighting. So, now I try to make it a super positive experience.
If you have read this far, then you are awesome. Big hugs to you. I hope you enjoyed my little story.