Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chapter 3: Inspiration

     The following morning, Jenna had a late class schedule. She woke still thinking about how to improve the previous night’s glaze and she decided she would thumb through some of the cookbooks in her extensive collection for inspiration. She dressed for class in a white kitchen shirt, white chef's pants, and black Crocs. While air-drying her hair, she set a stack of cookbooks on the granite bar, turned up Elvis Costello, and pulled up a barstool.

     While Elvis crooned about Allison, Jenna thumbed through some of her more contemporary books, skipping to the sauces and glazes section of each, looking mainly at the ingredients for the different recipes. She searched for divine inspiration and, as such, did not look for a specific recipe per se. Rather, she sought an idea for an additive or combination of ingredients that would bring the glaze recipe to life. Her dilemma was that none of the books provided any inkling of fresh ideas.

     She needed to leave for class and was fairly frustrated. One more, she thought. The next in the pile was a very old book she inherited from her grandmother. Jenna received all of her grandma's cookbooks because of her affinity for the culinary craft. However, Jenna did not remember seeing this particular book in the box Donna packed for her when she cleaned out her grandmother’s house. It must have been buried in the box with the rest of the cookbooks and that strange amulet, which seemed out of place when she found it. She always meant to ask Aunt Donna about the amulet but never remembered while they were talking.

     The book showed its age. Handcrafted ornate patterns decorated the edges of the dark brown leather cover. Lighter patches of tan dotted the front from years of wear and the gold lettering of the title was almost completely smudged off: Th- ----h's Co-kboo-. Inside, the pages were discolored from age and several spots from archaic kitchen spills intermingled with the ancient text. One of the first recipes in the book was Athanasia and Jenna noted it was very similar the glaze recipe she used with the pork medallions. It seemed the major difference was the addition of cumin. Perhaps this could be the answer to making the glaze pop. She decided to give it a try after school.

     After class, Jenna hurried home excited to take another stab at the apricot glazed pork medallions armed with new information. Athanasia was a sauce, so she marinated the medallions the same way as the previous night and then, once the meat was in the refrigerator, focused on the glaze. The old book was very specific about the measurement of ingredients, so she exercised dutiful precision while combining recipe items in a metal mixing bowl. Upon completing the glaze, she noted it to be extremely eye appealing because of its translucent, dark-peach color and velvety smooth texture, which had an almost glowing quality coming from within. Impressed with herself, Jenna placed the athanasia next to the meat in the refrigerator to serve time once again.

     While waiting for the marinade to do its bidding, Jenna needed to find something else to occupy her time. There were dried flower arrangements in the craft room that needed attention, but, because of her busy school schedule, she had not had time to complete. She decided to occupy her mind with them. She clicked on her iPod and Jewel asked Who Will Save Your Soul while she added lilac to the edges of the dark blue orchid-centered arrangement. She continued working on the piece and a good bit later, she finished it. Sheryl Crow was Leaving Las Vegas, as Jenna began working on another. Time slipped away from her while she toiled with the flowers and was surprised when the DJ told her it was 5:45. She quickly came to a stopping point then jumped into the shower.

     While toweling off, she heard Randy open the front door. “Hi. How was your day?” she asked when he walked into the bedroom.

     “Good. Nothing exciting to report.” He liked when nothing exciting happened because excitement was invariably code for extra work. “What's for dinner?”

     “We’re going to redo the pork medallions. I found an old cookbook that belonged to my grandmother and found a recipe in it which was similar to last night's glaze.”

     “You know there was nothing wrong with last night’s dinner right?” Randy knew trying to talk her down once she focused on something was futile, but he honestly could find any fault with the meal.

     Jenna chuckled, “You’ll see. These medallions will be infinitely better than last night’s, or my name isn’t Jenna Sims.” She was not sure if she was trying to convince Randy or herself. She moved to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner. She opened the refrigerator, pulled out the glaze, and thought it looked even better than when it was deposited in the refrigerator.

     “Cool. What should I call you then?” he joked and sat down at the dark-stained oak dining room table, ready for a second showing of the previous night’s dinner. He couldn’t help thinking how appetizing the medallions looked when Jenna put them on the table. “Is it just my imagination, or do those look like they're glowing?”

     She laughed. “I thought the same thing. I think is just because of the bright orange from the apricot preserves. Dig in.”

     He obeyed and there was not much conversation during the meal. They both ate the medallions as if they had not seen food for very long time. It was as if the athanasia put them in a trance while they ate. Randy was the first to speak after they finished, “That was one of the best, if not the best meal you have ever prepared.”

     “Well thank you sir!” She did her best version of a curtsy. “I told you there was something missing from last night's meal,” she joked. In her mind though, Jenna thought how spectacular the meal was. She could not believe that simply adding cumin put this dish over the top. It was almost magical. She looked forward to telling Aunt Donna about the book and the dish the next time they met at The Perk.

     “Okay, you are still Jenna Sims,” and then he felt it, “Whoa! What is that?” He felt a burst of energy, not nervous energy though. More like a blast youthful vigor that washed over him leaving a feeling of contentment in its wake.

     “What are you talking about?” Jenna asked. Then she felt it too, “Oh…oh my! That is amazing!”

     Curious, Randy asked, “Just what did you add to the recipe?” He was feeling good, “ Not that I’m complaining.”

     “Nothing out of the ordinary,” content Jenna replied. “Just cumin, but it was good.” The two finished the evening in an aura of indescribable contentment. Once in bed, Jenna reflected on the feeling they experienced. Where on earth did that come from, she thought, Just cumin. Hmmm...This lingering thought and feeling was followed by a thoroughly restful night of sleep.

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