Display a printable version
A "Vorare" Story
“Do you like it?”
Sylvie turned the copper pot over and over, her wide eyes and smile proving that she loved it. The tiny white lights which hung on the Christmas tree, and those which had been nailed around the windowsills of her apartment, reflected off the copper surface. Gordon thought that he could see them reflected in her dark eyes as well.
“I love it! I’ve wanted one of these pots for ages, but …”
“It’s not that much,” he assured her. “But I knew you’d been looking for them, and how much you really wanted the whole set.”
“You got the whole set?”
“Well, that’d be telling. You have more gifts to unwrap, you know.
“Gordon!” She reached across the sofa and punched him in the arm. “You better not have spent that much.”
“Fine way to repay a man for his generosity.”
“You’re right,” she said, and set the new copper stockpot to one side to free her hands. “I love it. Thank you very much, Gordon.” She leaned forward and kissed him, bangs tickling the bridge of his nose just below his glasses.
“You’re very welcome.”
“I’m going to put it in the kitchen and check on dinner right now. You want another gin and tonic?”
“Sure, if you’re heading that way.” He stood along with her. “Got to get to the bathroom for a minute. I’ll be right back.”
On closing the door, he looked into the mirror to give his reflection a grin and a thumbs-up. They’d been dating just over two months now, and he’d known for a fact that Williams-Sonoma would be the way to her heart. He’d never met anyone who put so much emphasis on cooking and eating and still stayed in such fantastic shape –he’d had to start putting in extra time on the treadmill after the first month of seeing her, but it never seemed to affect her much.
“I do love it, but still, you really shouldn’t have spent so much,” she chided him as he came back into the kitchen. “I swear, those things are expensive.”
“Honestly, I only got you the one. I hope you’re not too disappointed.”
“Don’t be silly. I love it, and frankly, if you’d spent that much on me this early I think I’d be a little freaked out.”
“Well, you’re worth it,” he said, coming up to wrap his arms around her. “Heck, if it weren’t for you, I think this winter would have driven me right back to Charleston.”
“Oh yeah? What if I tell you this is nothing compared to February?”
“Don’t even joke about it. I don’t know why anybody ever came this far north in the first place.”
“You get used to it, I promise. Plus, the fishing’s better up here.”
“If I fished.”
“You will. That’s how you’ll know you’re finally a true Wisconsinite.”
“They didn’t tell me that when I got the driver’s license.”
“Well, you should’ve gone to the DMV offices above the bait shop. Then you’d know for sure.” She handed back his highball glass, shaking her hand a bit to rattle the ice cubes. “Just be glad I’m not bringing up ice fishing yet.”
“God forbid,” he shuddered. “What would drive someone to sit on the ice all day?”
“Hunger,” she said with a smile. “Same thing that’s making you stare at those biscuits. Go ahead and have one, it’s not going to spoil your appetite. Main course is almost ready, anyway.”
“Nah, I’ll wait. I want to be good and ready for this big Christmas surprise.”
“It’s my grandma’s recipe ...”
“... passed down from generations for every Christmas Eve,” he said.
“Fine, I’ve told you already. You don’t have to be smart about it.”
“You want your boyfriend to be dumb?”
“Well ... were you planning to cook dinner on Christmas Eve just out of pity?”
“No, I just like the sound of it. Very high-school. Boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Yeah. I like the sound of that, too.”
She turned away from the oven to look at him. “I’m glad. Now go get the table set, okay?”
He didn’t see how it could get any better - red and white candles in the centerpiece, Christmas lights casting a warm glow around all the windows of the room, places set for two and the smell of a roast filling the entire apartment. Gordon set his drink down and poured water for both of them as Sylvie came out with the biscuits and salad.
“Oh, set another place up, would you?”
He looked up. “Huh? Who else is coming?”
“Well, nobody, really ...” she said. Hesitating a moment, she dropped her eyes back to the table. “It’s just silly. But grandma used to insist that you set a place for the fairies when you’d sit to a special meal, and since this is her recipe and everything...”
“For the fairies.”
“Yes!” Her voice came short and sharp, surprising him. “What’s so weird about that?”
“Nothing, I guess. I’ve just never heard of it before.”
“Well, it’s what she did. And I want to do it for her memory.” Her voice changed once more, from defensive to playful. “Besides, it’s Christmas. And you’re my boyfriend now, so you have to do what I say.”
“Right,” he said with a nod. “And on my birthday ...”
“Be good,” she warned. “I know I got snappish. I’m sorry. I just miss her a lot, Gordon. She and grandpa taught me everything about the holidays, and I want to make tonight special.”
“Hey, it’s fine,” he said. “Just because I’ve never heard of something before doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, right?”
“So you don’t think I’m crazy?”
“No. Heck, do you want to set an extra place for your grandma?”
She put her head on his shoulder. “Yes,” she said, “One for you and one for me, one for her, and one for the fairies, and everything will be ...”
“Good. Then let’s get started. I’m hungry enough to eat a horse.”
“You don’t snack much while you’re cooking.”
“No. I think it tastes better when you’re sitting down.”
Gordon nodded, bringing two new plates into the room. “Do you want any drinks for our guests?”
“Yes,” she said quickly, “but I’ll get it. I keep a cordial in the cabinet for them.”
He didn’t say anything this time, preferring to keep his mouth shut around this new ritual. It took only a minute for her to reappear and pour a single shot of deep red liquor into the glasses before motioning him to sit down. “I’ll just be another minute or two in the kitchen with the roast. You sit, I’ll bring it out.”
“Don’t you need me to carve?”
“It’ll fall apart the minute I take it out of the oven.”
“That’s some pork.”
“Well, I’m some cook,” she said over her shoulder, playfulness now completely restored. Gordon sat at the table alone, with three settings surrounding him, and took up his gin and tonic. Hitching the right side of his mouth into a smile, he lifted his glass to the two empty settings at either side in a mock toast, sipping at the drink after each one.
She was indeed some cook. She was indeed some girl, as his mother would have said. He could live with a few quirks. Didn’t he talk to himself in the mirror and think of it as perfectly normal? It was basically the same thing. In point of fact, he felt honored to be trusted with it. She was sharing a secret part of herself with him, something new that he’d not thought to see from her in the past two months. And, he reminded himself, she was his girlfriend now.
All things considered, it was going to be a great Christmas.
Sylvie flipped the dining area’s switch, leaving them to dine by the candles and strings of Christmas lights. When she carried in the platter, the smell of roasted pork and cranberry was almost too much – nearly too rich for Gordon to take in all at once. Everything she cooked was something special, and he knew for a fact that this would beat them all.
“Give me your plate.” She took it from him and dished out a fist-sized piece of meat, twinkling lights reflecting off the thin sheen of fat that fell away.
“You were right. It just comes to pieces, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” she smiled, dishing out smaller portions to the two empty places at the table before taking a modest-sized piece for herself. “It’s the most tender cut I could find. It’s a big night.”
“Where did you get it? Copps?”
“Hardly,” she rolled her eyes. “There’s a private ranch and farm up northwest that delivers around the holidays. I went to school with the son of one of the owners, so I’ve been using them since I got my own place. It’s expensive, but it’s really worth it. Tell me if you don’t agree.”
“Should we say grace? It is Christmas Eve.”
She wrinkled her nose. “If you want. You’re still going to Midnight Mass?”
“Yes.” He didn’t press her any further, though it was the one thing that bothered him about their relationship. Sylvie had no time for church or for faith, and while it wasn’t the biggest part of Gordon’s life he enjoyed feeling a connection to the Divine. Just as she wanted to honor her grandmother, he wanted to honor his parents and their faith by following along in their footsteps. They’d been one of the few Catholic families in Charleston, and while he didn’t have as much time to go to weekly Mass as they might have liked he did his best with the time he had.
Still and all, he’d have plenty of time to bring her around, and it wasn’t an argument he wanted to have tonight – or anytime soon. He bowed his head and gave quiet thanks rather than praying aloud, then took up his fork.
The roast had to be all but scooped onto the tines – it fell apart too easily for him to really spear a piece. But when he brought it to his lips, all thought of grace or time left him.
“Oh, my God,” he mumbled around the mouthful. “That’s incredible.” She watched him carefully, her dark eyes as wide and focused as they had been on receiving her present, as if his taking that bite and enjoying this meal were the most important thing in the world.
“You like it?”
“It’s nothing like what I expected,” he said, “but in a good way. It tastes so different from the pork I’m used to.”
“They do really, really good work at the farm.”
“I guess so!” He took another bite, then reached for a piece of bread to go after some of the juices. “And you are an incredible cook, Sylvie. This must have taken you all day.”
“It’s worth it,” she said, taking up her own fork for a bite. “Nothing in the world brings me closer to people than sharing this dish with them, Gordon. Grandma always said that there was something primal about it, something that could take you out of yourself and make you something more than you had ever been.”
“It sounds a little spiritual.”
“It is, I think. More than a little. You can build an entire community around food, maybe even around a single dish, and be more intimately connected to those you sit at table with than anyone else in the world.”
He thought about Midnight Mass again. She had a sense of spirituality, then – if not of religion. It was enough to know for now. And maybe, he thought, if she asks me to stay the night, we could get to a morning mass instead.
It was something to think about, here in the candlelight, with her dark eyes on him as if she were drawing closer with every bite he took. Even on Christmas Eve, it was something to think about.
I could at least stay for seconds.
Story and Image by Ivan Ewert, Copyright 2006