BY DAVE MEDD
Copyright is held by the author.
“THE MYSTERY of the Garbanzo Bean Moroccan with Toasted Pine Nuts” is what he’d call it, though a conventional reader would be content with the original title: “Curried Chick Pea Soup.” Gareth had a rather novel approach to reading cookbooks — and he did indeed read them, not refer to them. It’s not that the G-man was a talented and devoted cook (he was, in fact, neither/nor), he simply found them pleasing reading as others may find a morning paper, the afternoon mail or an evening’s Poe (not too late in the evening on the Poe, though, especially after an overly sauced pudding).
When Gareth turned to a recipe, the bookmark would immediately cover some ingredients. The title was mentally rewritten, punched up, made catchy for the reader’s attention. A glance through the remaining ingredients revealed the clues: 1/3 cup flour. “Indeed,” thought the inspector, “this could be a misleading roux. Clearly not enough flour for baking, but certainly enough to thicken any plot.” A half cup of cream (substitute 1/3 cup plain yogurt). Ah, rich. Money could be a motive.
After ruminations on the evidence at his disposal — some still carefully hidden from view by the bookmark — it was on to the story itself.
1. Dice the onions and fry in 1 tblsp of the olive oil over medium heat until golden. Onions! These had been hidden, new to his reading of the Garbanzo Mystery. Perhaps tears had been shed. A possible matter of the heart. But what did this mean for the richness of the cream? Love feigned in pursuit of money? Dastardly.
2. Add the remaining 2 tblsp of olive oil and Garbanzo beans, stirring to coat beans in oil. Vaguely erotic? Possibly, but with “Garbanzo beans?” Earthy. That’s it, earthy. A good, grounded man, stout of character though modest of means is beset by a beautiful, exotic, dangerous stranger (curry will come into this; Gareth had already seen the turmeric writing on the wall).
And so it would go. Each recipe step added to or altered what had come before as the story took form. The true challenge was always the ending. What does one do with “Simmer for 20 minutes” or “Bake 40-45 minutes?” Clichés all! Ending with whimpers, not bangs. Truly, who simmers to a satisfying climax, anyway? Hmm, maybe that slow build could work after all. Especially in a mystery involving an earthy Moroccan’s toasted pine nuts.
But it’s “Cook until done” that leaves the creativity clearly in his court and leads to the most fun.
Once the ending is resolved and Gareth’s imagination purged for the evening, the cookbook is shelved in the kitchen or returned to the bedside table and he reflects briefly on how the story went as he tucks himself in. If pleased with it, he pictures a review or two in his mind’s eye and damns the critics. “… written with all the artistry and originality of an onion soup recipe.” Hypocritical bastard. It’s not like his precious, precise 748 word review didn’t have its own carefully planned beginning, middle and end, three part structure. Hypocritical glass house living, stone pitching bastard. Can’t even distinguish a chicken stock story from a beef stock one.