Happy Day of the Risen Dead!

I give you…

The zombie egg! A tentative recipe

This take on a deviled egg consists of a Thousand Year Egg, or Century Egg:


Remove the yolks and add Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, miso paste, lemongrass, minced Thai chilis, fish sauce, herbs, smoked paprika and whatever else you like to the tune of bitter, herbal notes.

Then spoon the modified yolk back into the white, and serve in half a plastic Easter egg. The relatives to whom you serve this delightful zombie egg will either never return…or will demonstrate their quality.

If they can eat it, keep them around. They’re worth the trouble.

By the way, it is delicious. Very complicated taste. Freshly shelled, they smell strongly of ammonia, but you can soak or cook them to remove this. I found it dissipated very quickly. The finished product is very spicy, slightly bitter, creamy, a trifle sour, and has the scent of a brand new cheap shoe. Lovely!

Otherkin-d Of Like A Platypus

“Wait, what?”

“I am told it is a state of being that identifies as a mythological creature.”

He frowns at me, which usually means that he is giving a tremendous amount of thought to what I have said, but is displeased with that. “So…like….if I feel like a dragon….I can be a dragon?”

I shrug and put away the mixing bowls. “I suppose so. I really have no idea how it works, and not being a human, and actually being something upon which many such creatures are based….my perspective is a bit different.”

Rebecca takes off the cartoon animal hat that the child has put on her head and smoothes her hair. “I know about this! I read about it on Tumblr. But yeah, it’s gotta be weird for you, I bet. Like…yo…you say you’re a vampire…but like….”

“Please let’s not devolve into vampire jokes.”

He is still frowning, but she waves her hands as she swallows the last of her drink. “No! No! I mean, that’s just one myth but there’s others! Like…goblins and whatnot.”

I let out a sigh and turn back to the sink to finish the rest of the washing. “For once, I wish that someone would find a happier myth to compare to me.”

She snorts. “You eat people.”

“So do ants,” he is quick to defend.

“Well you get what I’m saying, right?”

I make a face that she cannot see. “Yes, I have advised some of them, to whom I have spoken at some length, that they are in fact identifying as something based on me. It does not appear to matter. I have enough trouble carving out my identity from this uncaring world without adding Tumblr to it, and yet…that is the experiment.”

In my periphery, his frown evolved into a narrow eyed stare. “I have a question.”

“You always do.”

“Does that mean I can identify as you?”

I turn to look at him. He is giving me his mischievous tilt of the mouth that he knows melts the hearts of the females he manages to impress with his masculinity. I roll my eyes heavenward.

“If ever there was a human…”

“He makes a great point though! I mean…okay…” she spreads her hands across the kitchen island as if laying out a small stage peopled by fleas. “So like….you know, because you’ve been alive, that those things aren’t real, or like, you’d have seen them if they were or whatever…so like, I mean…you know that all those people are just owning your mythology.”

“I don’t even own my mythology. Humans wrote it. You deal with the blasted shit!” I toss down the sponge.

“Well what I mean is…they’re not really “other” are they? They’re just….your-kin.”

I suppose, in a way, I can see why a human would not wish to be human. I may despair of killing and eating you, but that is because I like you. I would not wish to be one of you. That seems a lamentable fate. For some time now, I have seen otherkin and all such identifiers as merely an extension of feeling unwelcome in one’s reality, or uncomfortable being a meat sack with an expiration date. Perhaps it is more than that. Perhaps it is an extension of the thing that began the experiment in the first place.

An aside, if you will.

I mean no disrespect. Not even a little. Those of you who identify as “otherkin” may carry on however it pleases you to do so, so long as none of you dragons begin demanding virgin sacrifices. I care not. What concerns me is the obvious conundrum and how it feeds into my argument with your species- to whit:

You are obviously human. I have a nose, excellent hearing, exceptional senses. I can tell that if I stabbed just here, you would cease to be…whatever you claim to be. I therefore cannot comprehend how there is any point of contention in saying that this “otherkin nature” is wholly and utterly in the mind. And please read me carefully when I say, I ascribe it no value judgement. I did not say such would be a “diseased mind”. In point of fact, I think the sum total of humanity has a diseased mind.

“I can get wanting to be a dragon and like…living like a dragon, or like how you think a dragon would live if it lived in a human body, but…I don’t know,” Rebecca mutters. “But I mean…like aren’t they sort of sucking up that fiction? Trying to be you? Trying to be a monster? Like…aren’t they trying to absorb the things that frighten humanity?”

“I doubt any of them would say they ever chose to be what they are. They often regard it with the same deference as a sexual identity.”

He shakes his head. “But they’re human. By definition anything that makes a human feel inhuman is a personality disorder.” I give him “the look”. This happens when he says things that are unqualified with facts or makes assumptions about me. He usually finds it alluring in some way. At the moment, he is still frowning, however, and shakes it off. “And how exactly does a unicorn live if it were in a human body, huh?”

“I suppose…however it is that they choose to live.” I sip my coffee and cut a fresh piece of pie.

“So, I could claim to identify as you, live however I chose, and that would be how you would live if you were in a human body?”

I am undone. There is very little I can say. The fact is, if I was suddenly transposed with a human, I imagine I would live a life very similar to his- well, with copious apologetic donations to various Human Rights organizations.

“But what do they think about people just making up a mythological being?” She lifts a finger. “Like what if I invented my own creature?”

“That would be ‘fiction-kin’. Apparently the qualification of a mythological creature is something made up by a long dead human and written about by other dead humans. If a modern human makes it up, it is just fiction.”

“But they’re all just fiction!” She shouts in exasperation.

“Yes.”

“So then its all one thing!”

“And it’s all nuts.”

I cannot help but chuckle helplessly into my mug. I spend several hours every day attempting to fathom half of the things I see on television or the internet. The arguments over memes, the needless pigeonholing of politics along the lines of personal experiences that have little to do with the sum total benefit for humanity, the dissections of certain cannons – such that there is now a phrase “head cannon”- which to me sounds like a method of suicide. You bicker over which invisible sky entity said what to which dead person in which book written by an imprisoned fortune teller in a dead language that only six people on the planet can translate. You kill each other over the stupidest of things, and while you think it has gotten better, I would argue it has gotten worse. This is what happens when the collective mind of humanity has difficulty metabolizing all the fiction it sucks down its gullet and attempts to reconcile that to the outside world. 

I would argue that if one were to consider the whole of humanity as cells in a brain and contextualize all trends as single amorphous thoughts, you would see that this is how a mind grows up…and into a disorder. First you believed everything that seemed the least bit feasible, you then underwent education, you ignored those programmed ideas, but then returned to them to simultaneously protect, idealize, romanticize, or remake them until they no longer have discord with your concept of the universe. But you are still learning, and as undeniable fact presents itself, those dreams and wishes of what magic might be are pushed even deeper into your psyche…until it becomes a secret identity, a lens through which you view existence, a modifier of all fact before it even reaches your brain.

I stand before you unamused, yet filled with dark humor, as one who has always been a mote on the currents of your frenetic clash with all that is quantifiable. I snicker because no doubt, I will one day have to contend with someone actually assuming they are me, and not simply a cousin of mine.

My two friends see this as one inexplicable quirk of their species, a subset of human they will immediately classify as “other” and then ostracize. One portion of the mind being shut off by the other. They do not realize that they do the same thing, even in daily life. Every time Chef assumes my feelings to bear even a slight resemblance to his romantic urges. Every time she talks to the child about Santa Claus. Any time any of them, even ironically, use the word “God”. It is happening all around you, and you defend it with the vicious paranoia of a mind with a complex.

Meanwhile I, saying this to you, shall be either lauded or shunned by degrees, as is the custom. And I am familiar with the process in a way that still remains irksome despite the years.

“I’m gonna just make up an animal,” he says to my silent but obvious musings. “Because it’s all myth.”

“Ooh! I feel like I might be a sloth-bear.”

“Those are two real animals,” I point out.

He grins, “Yeah, don’t you know at least one of them has to be old-fake and not new-fake? Like a platypus and a unicorn.”

I think on my several unicorn-loving acquaintances and wonder what they will think of this progression.

“What would you call it?” 

She chews her lip. “A Plunicorn?”

“I am almost certain that already exists,” I say.

They exchange a look of disbelief. Oh ye of little education, how inaccurate and uninformed is your self-image? But I suppose if one cell could conceive of the other cells accurately, it might decide to never deal with those assholes again, and completely shut down the body.

“No way!” They exclaim at once.

I take out my phone and search. Within seconds I have hundreds of references to people who have used “plunicorn” as their name on any number of sites. I hold it out to them. 

He is unimpressed. “Well, shit…a plunicorn could be a fucking unicorn from Pluto. Let’s call it a platycorn!”

Wry expression in place, I call up the search and show him the first thing to pop on screen.

His mouth falls open.

“If you can imagine it, then someone else has, and the felicity of information transit means they have already given it to someone who can draw, and that someone has sent it to 7 billion people. And now there are probably thousands of humans who identify as this stupid poisonous Narwhal. You underestimate your own insanity.”

Jaws dangling, they fall into their cups and leave me in peace.

Much later, when the children are unconscious, and he is twined around me beside the fire pit, his chin resting on my shoulder, he begins to whisper a mea culpa in my ear on behalf of his entire species throughout time.

I shush him.

“No, I’m gonna say it, because I think you need to hear it. I get it, I think. I get what you’re feeling when you hear shit like that. To you it feels like your identity is being stolen, even while other people tell you that you either cannot exist or that if you did you’d be hated. That’s a rejection on every possible level while they turn you into all their good and bad jokes all at once.”

There is nothing to be said. That is precisely the way it has felt, and while I have tried to be objective and view it from the outside, it sometimes still stings.

“But you’re missing something.”

“And what is that?”

“We are different species. You’re seeing us the way you see us, not the way we are. It’s the exact same thing we’re doing to you. Your entire theory is based on your perspective, and I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying that you haven’t considered that maybe we actually just think this way. That we tackle all the shit we hate about reality in the same way every time. Maybe it isn’t a mental illness soaking into all we do. Maybe it’s a process that gets applied to everything even a little bit similar. There’s more of us than there are of you, but that doesn’t make our way better or even logical.”

I stare at him and feel myself grow cold in his arms as I reframe all I have been thinking for the last few centuries from this new vantage. 

If he is correct, that would mean that humanity would take the inexplicable forces of nature, turn them into fictions, absorb and insert themselves into the myth and then rework it and mash it until the gods were tiny friends about their size who sometimes can be killed. If he is correct, certain men will comb derelict houses looking for traces of a spirits until their entire fortune is decimated, meanwhile broadcasting their conjecture into millions of homes so that the human mill can churn and churn until mortality has been transformed into something that can be borne. If he is right, monsters will amplify and warp us to suit their worst parts, then make the rejection or absorption of us into their newest self-awareness exercise, until somewhere, some child reads my journal, and decides that through a curious twist of an imperfect grasp of science, he is me.

“That is a very inefficient and ineffective system,” I breathe.

“No shit. In case you hadn’t noticed, we aren’t exactly the epitome of evolution.”

“It is amusing to hear you tell yourself that you are.”

“Well, it’s just the same thing, isn’t it? Maybe it’s the first thing. The first fiction we ever ate.”

Indeed. When man decided he was obviously smarter than his neighbors, he must have spent centuries trying to feel less alone. Perhaps that is the heart and all the other machinations weave around that delicate organ, protecting it from the onslaught of chaos. You need to be special. Otherwise…you are an accident, and the universe is a fickle thing. It is a beautiful, glorious, bizarre, life-giving and toxic thing.

Kind of like a platypus…if you crossed it with a unicorn.

Perhaps you’re not insane. Perhaps you’re just not as rational as some of us. I wonder what you would do, if I ever actually began to believe in the costume I wear, if one day, I simply looked in the mirror and said “I identify as human.” Perhaps I already have done, by assuming you think anything like me, or are even capable of it. Perhaps we will never understand each other, and perhaps that means we should both take off our costumes and “be ourselves” instead of trying to define what that self is in relation to perceived societal norms. Perhaps we should all confront reality for what it is, and fight that in a more direct fashion.

But then again, platycorns are apparently quite adorable, and who wants to deal with reality? Let’s continue to invent spells and imagine fairies, instead of examine all the stupefying reality that actually does exist. Fairies are easier, because I can make them think and feel whatever I want, while I cannot explain gravity or make you see my opinion as valid.

Forgive the sarcasm. It comes from years of annoyance. Please don’t be tempted to think that my examination of you in any way dims my appreciation of you as a species. It does not. I suppose I shall simply have to accept that you are this way. You have brilliance in you and perhaps your fictionalization of the entirety of existence is simply that which makes you creative.

If you want to make up a person’s that suits you, well, whatever. I suppose we all do every time we step out the door. 

But, as someone said recently, it is easy to pretend to be an asshole and then excuse your bad behavior by saying “Well, I guess I’m an asshole.” Don’t identify as an asshole. That is a terrible fiction to tell one’s self. 

Go with the platycorn.

Teatime

This is a post which was deleted from Creature’s Cookbook 2: Monster’s Mise En Place. In chronological order, it should be first. Merely one of the many things that had to be trimmed to reign me in to a sensible word count.

“Which one of you did this?”

They exchange a look. I cannot tell which one of them is more contrite. I would say the larger of the two, but his tail is capable of sagging, and that does skew the perception somewhat. The other hangs his shaggy head and fans his gaze over my feet, up my legs, a battering at my face, but then fluttering to the concrete.

I narrow my eyes.

“Which one of you is responsible?”

Tongues appear. Then both back away from me in a sense of certain destruction as I tap my toe dusted in one-of-a-kind 19th century porcelain. Tiny, hand-painted Romanesque figures are stopped in their last dance around the maypole, ribbons fluttering in the dead breeze. The carefully procured set still in its box was the product of several decades of searching; worth a down payment on a house, or a brand new car, it lies in porous little shards.

“I will eat you,” I seethe.

Both of them cower. Back to the bar I chase them, until the dog hides in the kitchen and the monster climbs the barstools. His coloring book is open and his half-chewed crayons are scattered. In the poorly shaded image, I see the truth — young girls dancing in a circle, holding hands, their hair done up in ribbons. Several weeks ago I caught him looking in that box; and now he has done it again to disastrous effect. Just so that he could color it properly.

I count. When this fails, I divide. Giving up that for rage, I proceed immediately to factoring a polynomial. My x’s and y’s in a row, I lick my fangs and take deep breaths. Insurance. There was insurance on it. I can make a claim. I can photograph it. I can contact the adjustor immediately and make a claim. As I do this, the two assailants chew — the larger at his paws, the smaller at his crayons.

The evidence is emailed, and the adjustor contacted. I squat beside the pieces and shift them with my claws. Such a gorgeous set of six cups and saucers, pot, sugar dish, and creamer. Every tiny hair and feature captured with the precision of a laser, and here it lies, having gone the way of all flesh.

A tragedy.

Some poor soul, sat at this thing with a brush in his hand. He wetted it with his own tongue, he peered into a magnifying glass. Some day, perhaps, he went blind from the staring by gas lamp. Perhaps this set, the trifle of some corseted trophy wife, sat on display in a drawing room. They survived wars, transatlantic voyages, fires! My kinsman, shattered on the floor.

Fred sniffs. “Fix.”

“It can’t be fixed, Fred. You can’t glue this back together and make it whole. It was beautiful because it had survived for so long. It doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

He drops from the stool like a Chimpanzee and saunters cautiously to me. With that grace that is ours alone, he plucks pieces up and begins to arrange them on the ground, carefully setting the curved bits and flattened fragments of plate into lines. Occasionally, he lifts several bits and looks them over, then they are replaced in different order. Disconsolate, I watch his work, willing to allow him whatever liberties he likes, now that the beauty has been slain; it might as well be devoured. A living tableau of Death and the Maiden.

As the pastel shapes are spread out, like an unfolding map, I see it. A puzzle — it comes to life, and for a moment, I am stunned out of my grief.

The maypole has multiplied. Three stand in a row, and girls composed of disjointed shards dance in a swirling line around all of them. They do not match perfectly, but the image is clear.

He points at it, and nudges me with a grinning face. “Fix!”

With a sigh, I go to the back and fish out a piece of thin wood. It was to be used as a secondary tool shed, but this is a worthwhile cause, I think. Fetching some goops and glues, I sit beside him on the ground, and we two immortals, with our teeth and our claws, turn this broken pottery — the stuff of civilization — into a pretty mosaic. Grouted and frankly lovely, it sits on the metal table in my shop and dries.

A priceless relic that is utterly worthless.

And Fred climbs back onto his stool and colors his pretty little picture.

What are we, I wonder? Are we destructive in our hearts, or constructive in our thoughts? Do we create, or do we annihilate? Or is there a difference. Dancing round that maypole, praying for spring, dreading winter, but preparing for it. Running from shadows to light torches to beat them back. What are we?

When it has cured, I hang it on the wall in my bedroom, and stare at it. Chef  straddles my hips, dangling his legs on either side of mine, his chin on my shoulder and his face pointed at our dread collage.

“It’s pretty. The colors go really well with the room.”

“I could have re-outfitted the entire Bistro.”

“Fuck me. It was insured, right?”

“Yes, but not at value. And that is not the point.”

“I know. You don’t like seeing things come apart. But you know, clay comes from somewhere. I don’t see you out crying over rocks eroding, or coal mines. Don’t see you out there sighing at the fucking coastline.”

And he is right. I care very little for the earth. I know why this is, in the secret heart of me. I know that I do not care for it because it is all circumstance. It is a pile of pieces that crashed into the ground and stuck, no order, no cleverness. As lovely and remarkable as the accident of organization, through evolution and trial and error, nothing is as gorgeous as that which comes from purpose and intent. Nothing is more stunning than a mind which turns something formless into something so dainty, molds mud into perfection.

“I can’t believe he saw that,” Chef whispers as he pulls his shirt over his head. “I saw that stupid thing a dozen times, and I never noticed that the figures overlapped like that.”

“What?”

He points. “See? She was half there, and half on the cup. And that girl is half saucer, half pot. It’s like the image was a whole one that got cut and sculpted into the set.”

“A tesseract.”

“Huh?”

“A two-dimensional image folded into three dimensions.”

He flops backward and wraps his feet up around me. I set my hands atop them, and tap the soles.

And now I see this broken thing anew. Once it sat in parlors and watered the well-heeled. now it unfolds its mysteries and shows me what civility looks like when it is unbent by monstrous hands.

I find that I like it very much.

“I think…I will call it ‘Teatime’,” I say with cocked head. “I wonder if there’s a market for Monster Art.”

“Have you seen the Chihuly museum? Looks like a Dr. Seuss book. I half expect Who’s to wander out from them. How much do the sell for — those ceiling ones that look like he threw all his practice pieces up in the air and backlit them?”

“They’re organic masterpieces!”

“They look like a neon ocean floor on acid. Like some Disney shit.”

I grimace back at him as he rolls up in the bed like a burrito folding itself. The light from my brilliant red chandelier casts a rosy glow. I shake my head as I listen to him snore.

Tomorrow, if Fred returns, I will have him sign his piece. He knows his letters well enough now.

A similar set, still intact.

You may find Creature’s Cookbook 2: Monster’s Mise En Place on the Tapas app.

The BAD RECIPE Contest, And Their Prize

Several days ago, I became very bored. This is not surprising, as you might imagine, gentle reader. Social media has presented me with many things to occupy me in these moments, and it all came down to a conversation about horrifying recipes. You know them. I am certain that all of you have your own story about the casserole your aunt brings to the Thanksgiving feast with the tuna in it, or the fruitcake made with skittles. Perhaps your father is simply inexcusably bereft of culinary skill. Ramen is usually involved. Tinned tomatoes. You take my meaning.

In any event, it got me to thinking, that some of these appalling crimes really do deserve recognition for sheer audacity alone, and so, I began a friendly contest on Tumblr. In the future, I will perhaps hold more of these, and this trial run will provide the framework, but for now, I can tell you that there were many revolting entries. The winning dish?

Grandma’s “You are so ungrateful” lasagna:

@youcantseebutimmakingaface – “Lasagna noodles, cans of tomato paste, 5 lbs Italian sausage, 3 pork chops, ground beef with no fat content, FUCKING. RAISINS, 1 pinch each salt and pepper… flavorless white cheese…Burn ground beef into kitty litter like granules, inexplicably mix with raisins…Make sauce…Boil sausage, pork chops, tomato paste, and salt and pepper until flavorless and slightly burnt. Layer noodles, cheese, meat/raisin hell, using approximately a shot glass of sauce…Bake until burnt. Use…to make a firepit or decorative patio”

I found this recipe utterly irredeemable, and so of course, it must be redeemed. This, however, involved some heated debate, and resulted in a secondary competition between myself and Chef, who staunchly opposed my notions of turning the dish from an entree to a dessert.

And so, as promised, I give you my recipe, and in a secondary post, his. Make them for yourself and be the judge. Which has won? No one at this end could truly decide.


Vietnamese-inspired Cheese Course, a recipe (Or raisin lasagna done with pinache, if you prefer)

Tools:

  • Small casserole dish, about 4” square
  • Sieve
  • Food Processor
  • several pots
  • skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb ground pork (Make certain to get an even balance of fat)
  • 1 package ricotta cheese
  • 1 package of soft goat cheese
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 small package of mascarpone cheese
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. currants
  • 3 sugar dates (pitted)
  • 1 package of small cherry tomatoes (Please perform the “sniff test” and choose one with the best tomato sweetness)
  • port wine
  • balsamic vinegar
  • several large lasagna noodles (Mine were hand made, but you may purchase dried pasta, as we are going to fry them anyway)
  • olive oil
  • brown sugar
  • mint (for garnish)
  • sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to about 350
  2. Boil your tiny tomatoes, until their skins begin to split, then blanch with cold water, and gently shrug them out of their red coats.
  3. Place in a food processor with raisins, dates, currants, about 1 cup of port, several tablespoons of balsamic. Pulse until nicely blended. Pour back into the pot and boil
  4. You must achieve a thick, tangy, but sweet flavor profile, and so please add or diminish as you like. Once your sauce has cooked off all the alcohol, and is about the texture of tomato paste, run it through the sieve, by pressing it through with a spoon.
  5. Return to the put and continue to add wine, vinegar, or whatever you would like. When you believe it has achieved the proper taste, you should set about 1/3 of it aside, and then continue to reduce the other 2/3, stirring constantly, until you have created a dark syrup. Set this aside
  6. Start your noodles boiling.
  7. Brown your pork, very lightly seasoning with salt. Set aside.
  8. Once the noodles are finished, drain. Sprinkle them liberally with brown sugar. Add some oil to the pork fat in the skillet and fry the noodles lightly, until they begin to brown a little, or fold up at the edges. Lay these aside to cool.
  9. Throw your meat and the thinner sauce into the food processor, and turn into a paste
  10. Mix about 1/2 the ricotta with 1/2 the goat cheese. (You would ideally wish to have a somewhat gamey flavor.) Whisk the egg and then beat into this mixture.
  11. It is time to assemble your “lasagna”. Carefully oil the inside of the dish. put a spoonful of your stronger sauce at the bottom and work this around into a thin layer. Line the bottom with one of your fried noodles. Spread a generous layer of your goat cheese mixture until the noodle is covered. do the same with the meat mixture, and another spoonful of your stronger reduction. Repeat as many times as fills your dish or uses up your ingredients, making sure to finish with noodles.
  12. Cover in foil and bake for as long as it takes the thing to boil for about ten minutes (We are merely cooking the egg, so do not overcook your dessert simply for a little raw egg. It is a cheesecake, not a brick.) Let us say 45 minutes?
  13. Allow to cool, and then upend on a plate. It should pop free, but if not, run a knife around the sides.
  14. Cover with the sliced almonds, pipe fresh mascarpone on top as you would whipped cream, and drizzle with your stronger reduction.

Garnish with hefty amounts of mint. Serve in small cubes, and ideally, pair it with a tawny port. I do believe you will no be disappointed.

Potato, Leek, and “Ham” Soup

This is a favorite for dark and stormy nights, but I find that it can also be served cold or lukewarm, especially if run through a blender. As is always true of my recipes, the protein must be substituted. I have used thinly sliced muscle deep to the spine that I braised in wine, but I will give instructions for pork. This makes a large pot, so do expect to feed a group.


Tools:

  • Large soup pot
  • Frying pan
  • Good chef’s knife

Ingredients:

  • 3 good sized leeks
  • 4 good sized potatoes, that will fit in an open hand with spread fingers
  • green onions
  • garlic
  • fresh parsley
  • chives
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • butter
  • milk
  • heavy cream
  • white wine (You may drink some as you cook, as you will only need about 2 cups worth)
  • Vegetable stock (You may use a stock concentrate, cubed or jellied, or you may use a liquid stock. The only important thing is to gain about 8 cups of yield, or about 2000 ml)
  • bacon
  • 1 pork loin steak (A pork chop will also do, but trim off all the fat and gristle)
  • green beans and peas (Optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • Crème fraîche (or sour cream)

Instructions:

  1. Chop the leeks by simply slicing across them and separating the rings. Chop the yellow and green onion. Mince the garlic.
  2. Cube the potatoes (and prepare your beans and peas) but set them aside
  3. Put a few tablespoons of butter in the bottom of your soup pot. When melted add in the three types of onion and the garlic. Sweat these in the pot for several minutes. You can estimate the doneness by the yellow onion and how translucent it becomes.
  4. Pour in the stock and wine and let come to the boil
  5. Add in the potatoes (beans and peas)
  6. While the soup simmers happily, put a little butter in your pan and fry your bacon, then remove to let cool. Add the pork steak to the pan and cook until medium rare (don’t worry, it will continue to cook in the soup). Set this aside to rest.
  7. While the meat is resting, deglaze the pan with a little bit of wine, working it around the pan to free up all the tasty pork bits. Let it boil off all the alcohol (You can check this by sniffing the fumes). Then pour this into the soup. (This will also aid you in cleaning your pan, and should really be done any time you cook meat. It not only loosens all fat deposits, it also gives you a delicious base for gravy.)
  8. After the pork has rested, slice it thinly and then chop. Chop the bacon too. Add the meat and all its juices to the soup pot.
  9. When the potatoes have finished cooking, add in a couple cups of milk and some cream (To taste). Keep the heat low, or the proteins will muck up and give you a skin on top. A little salt and pepper should do. It should now begin to taste like soup, but do continue to cook for as long as you like, stirring regularly. The longer it cooks, the more it will reduce, and the softer the veggies will get.
  10. While it is cooking, mince up your parsley and chives.

To serve, put in a bowl, spoon in some crème fraîche , and garnish with chives and parsley. (My chives suffered in the sun this year, and I ran out, and so you will see from my photo, that I have instead substituted green onion). Add a freshly baked loaf of bread and a tangy white wine, and you cannot go wrong.

 

Combustion

“I hate it.”

I stare at him. How can he hate it? It is my face. I can understand not liking my face, certainly, but he has never said that he does not like my face, in fact quite the opposite.

“Don’t put it up.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want you to.”

“Again, I say why?”

He stomps away and before I can turn from this latest recording of my reflection, he is up the stairs and on the roof, forming an alliance.

“Did he show you that shit?”

Rebecca is caught mid-mouthful and mumbles incoherently. I join them, still caught in a tangle of confuse emotions. I have never found myself completely human, that is true, but my face is as balanced as any other: two eyes, nose, mouth – all slightly odd, but all in place. It meant a great deal to me to take that photo out into the light of day, to digitize and disseminate it to an artist so far away there would never be a risk of discovery. But here he is, hands on hips, glaring down at Rebecca as if he is my father, she my mother, and I have been caught smoking cannabis behind the Seven Eleven.

She dabs the corners of her mouth. “Um…You mean the picture?”

“Yeah, duh! I mean the fucking picture.”

Her gaze swivels to mine as if to imply one of her usually onomatopoetic rejoinders, like “Whhhhaaaaaaa?”

“It’s his book, his face, his life.”

The muscles in his neck tug as he scowls. “You’re okay with this?”

Jimmy, silent at the barbecue, flipping his hamburgers with purposefully stooped shoulders, finally glances backward. “Yo! Wanna relax?”

“No! No I do not want to relax!” He looks around him at every face, young or old, until finally, he realizes that no one feels nearly so strong as he does. In that instant, his ire is redirected to me. “What the fuck are you thinking?”

“Language!” Porter grumbles. The children look up from their table in the open greenhouse. Katherine’s face peeps above the window sill. He turns abruptly and latches onto me with an iron grip. I am dragged bodily from the roof, and down the stairs, following behind him in a shocked silence.

You know me, friends — if I may be permitted to call you that — and you know how much I dislike being given ultimatums. Quite possibly, you also understand that while I am willing to make enormous allowances for the sake of those in my care, I respond to anger in kind.

However, Chef is different. When he is upset with me, something happens to my organs, that results in a complete and utter shutdown of my nerves, tongue, or capacity for greater reason. I wither, in an entirely embarrassing fashion.

I apologize. This is again one of those times when I am acutely aware of the divide I traverse by discussing events out of chronological order. You see, since the publication process began, I have had to develop a system with my editor. I send all my diary entries to her on an almost daily basis. She reads them and tells me whether or not they are “plot”. I have no idea what “plot” she is referencing. Usually I do not have the slightest concept of what any one volume of my life will be “about”, until she has curated the entries. She scrubs detail, alters names, transforms the events so that they do not match any newspaper articles or news programs, and then arranges the entire thing so that it at least has some adherence to the standard publishing models of the industry. For this, I pay her a substantial salary and my literary agent sings her praises, but there are unfortunate side effects, such that when I receive Kristina’s emails (some half dozen a day), I am often told what I can and cannot discuss with my readers directly, as those details may arise in further sequels.

Why am I telling you this? So that you understand that the relationship I now have with Chef is a very different one than is detailed in my first novel, and do not think that in some way, I have misled you about my character. Believe me, I do not enjoy having multiple personality disorder, or frankly disorder of any kind, but this is the only way I am allowed to keep my dear website intact, concurrent with the published works.

When Chef pulls me to the car and steals the keys, I am surprised by the violence of his feelings. While he drives, I sit quietly, staring at myself in the wing mirror, wondering what I have done to earn his distemper. He does not ferry us very far; we end up at the river docks, parked facing the bridges.

“You can’t put it up.”

“Why?”

He closes his eyes and covers his face with his hands. “You know what they told you. They said no pictures. No evidence of any kind.”

They are not in control of my life. Nor does one commissioned portrait constitute a declaration of war. It is a drawn image, based upon a photograph. It is not documentation.”

“Simon, please…”

I cross my arms stubbornly. He makes a series of sounds and throws himself out of the car, pacing up and down its flank like a puma. I slowly unfold and emerge, barricading myself behind my door, arms draped over the roof.

“Explain to me what is really at issue here! You have never once seemed to care about them. Why all of a sudden?”

The metallic gaze slices up the bridge of my nose, and runs me through. “Really? With all the times I’ve had to stuff food down your throat and stitch you up with cooking twine to make sure the skin closes properly? Really?”

“You exaggerate.”

“I am not exaggerating and you damn well know it!”

“Chef—”

“I won’t allow it! I’m telling you not to.”

The air thickens around us as the full weight of what he has said settles. Never in all our acquaintance, not even since discovering all the many facets and implications of our partnership, has he ever seen fit to leverage my actions with that old magic. It is a betrayal, of all that we are, and as I look him in the face I see that he knows it. He knows I will not forgive him, and is willing to pay that price, if only to rescue me from a fate he believes I am ignoring.

“Is this a command?” My voice is a hiss, and comes out more sharply than I intend, but I cannot hide the disgust that I feel at the very notion of being anyone’s slave.

“Please, Simon. Do not post that picture.”

“And if I do?”

“I can’t watch you get hurt again.”

“Nothing will happen to me.”

“How can you possibly know that?”

I close my eyes, and think that if something did happen, it would merely be one in a long line of new things, new adventures that have made the last five years bearable.

“I just do. Far be it from me to once again cite my age and experience—”

He snorts. “Yeah, but here we go.”

“I am older and more knowledgeable than you. They will not bother me, and if they do, I will handle it. Stop manufacturing ancient clandestine cults out of a few stragglers who communicate by smoke signals.”

“Now you’re exaggerating.”

I slip around the car. Somewhere nearby a fishing boat trades its grateful use of the first month since the fisheries reopened, for the more lucrative task of tugging civilians out onto the water for the festivities. As I wrap my arms around his neck, the brine and anxiety mingle. He tastes of Hemingway burgers. Gunpowder wafts on the breeze as the fireworks displays are arranged.

“Nothing will happen to me,” I soothe. “Please stop worrying.”

“I can’t.”

“I know.”

He tugs on my hair and smashes his face to mine. “You can put it up, but please take it down if they ask you to.”

“I will,” I say, but in all honestly, I am disgusted at the thought of being at anyone’s behest. They know this. They know I will not bow out so easily, and they are right to fear my reply should they argue.

“Let’s stay here. This is a good place.”

The lot has begun to fill with other onlookers carrying lawn chairs and children. The sun has dipped below the water and the sky has darkened. Soon there will be sounds that put the canon fire of my youth to shame.

Strange that humans should celebrate their unions by blowing something to pieces.

Imagery

“Writing is collaborative. You’re not just perfectly rendering a world. You’re making a pact with the reader, and it’s a new agreement, every time the book is read, even with the same person. Also…If you’re still worried about your personal safety, IMHO it’s better that you don’t do it, since the readers’ image of you is always fuzzy and changes all the time.”

I stare at the words for a long while. I wonder if I can agree.

I often wonder this. Every time I confront an opinion on the internet with which I strenuously disagree — modern political discourse comes to mind — I stare at it and project forward several decades. I contemplate the world, still carrying on, after the offending individual is little more than a pile of dust. And I like Kali-ma am treading the bones on the battlefield and smiling that somewhere among all the putrid rubble of humanity, my editor is being crushed underfoot.

Chef glances at my stern face and lowers his ordering paperwork. “What’s she nit-picking now?”

“My face.”

“How can she do that from two states away? She’s never even seen you! You haven’t started putting up photos have you?”

I would never do something so rash. He knows my fears about facial recognition software, databases, and meta-data. He knows I value his privacy as much as my own, and while he will sometimes steal my phone and annoy the readers who converse with me, he prefers to keep his distance. This is my experiment or personal search, and while he respects it, he is only a tertiary part of it.

“I have considered commissioning a portrait.”

“Why the hell would you do that?”

I stare at him narrowly as I swivel my chair. “People continue to ask for pictures of me.”

“Fuck them.”

While succinct, his criticisms are not quite perspicacious. “Kristina’s argument is a trifle less derisive of my fans. But I disagree with it similarly.”

His mouth falls open and he regards me blankly. “You’re still pissed about all those big words she made you change, aren’t you? Whiny Emo kid.”

Stretching as I rise, I surreptitiously roll my eyes upward. “You only say that because you have no idea what those big words mean.”

“Like trying to suck face with a god damn thesaurus,” he mumbles. “Mouth full of paper cuts.”

“Self-inflicted, you overgrown infant.”

I wander into the bathroom and stare into the mirror. I glance over my features, those odd things I cannot seem to capture when I attempt a self-portrait. I stare into my dark eyes and let the white light sculpt my cheeks and chin.

“Would it augment their experience, or detract from it, I wonder?”

He appears behind me, arms crossed. I know the look on his face; he worries any time I change the rules. He treats it as if he will be one of the things excised by the press of time as I squeak through.

“You don’t owe them anything. They paid for the book, that’s all. Next thing I know, you’re going to be making an appointment on some national television show to have your guts exposed.”

He is adorable in his distress, his eyes shimmering and his face like alabaster, but he needn’t be so concerned. I have no intention of being the first to step forward. It would be betrayal to my cousins, who choose to live in anonymity. It would make their masquerade impossible, our disagreements notwithstanding.

“Even if I did, it would be considered a massive hoax, or did you not hear of the Alien Autopsy debauchal?”

“Yeah, but with inconclusive non-human DNA and an X-ray of your weird ass organs?”

“David Blaine can fly, and before him, Dan Brown could read minds, and oh, yes, there was Houdini and his water tank. I doubt anyone would even take my call.”

I open the plastic case for my eyebrows and lashes. They are handcrafted of mink and cost as much as a new laptop. Their application would be daunting if I had not done it a thousand times. The glue becomes tacky as he stares at me with those uncannily penetrative eyes.

“Where are you going?”

“For a drive.” But that is a half-truth. He follows me down to the car. As I extricate myself from the eager mutt, and slip into my seat, he scrutinizes me. After I have driven away, I receive a text. In my car’s female voice, it sounds strange.

“I love it when you lie to me.”

I shake my head. I know what the next message will be. Chef enjoys being lascivious whenever the opportunity presents itself. You might be tempted to think this is because he cannot accept me and is overtly compensating for my dearth of emotion, but I know that this is not true. I think perhaps, foremost on this earth, he is a person who truly understands me.

“When you come back I’ll be waiting for my apology.”

I park in front of the bank and fish the tiny key from among its many fellows. The manager jumps as I knock on his door jamb. Whether or not he realizes it, I have been a customer of this bank since its founding. I have funneled my assets from place to place for centuries, turning them over like one tills a field, rotating stock and bonds, planting wealth in fertile soil. I am here often, and the entire staff knows me by name.

“Mr. Alkenmayer! Do we have an appointment?”

“No, forgive me. Today I’d like to visit.”

He sees the key in my hand and raises his own in salute.

I almost never come to my safety deposit box. Most of my belongings are more secure in a safe in my own home. Only a few get shoved away, put in the hands of mortals. Only a few things would ever mean anything if they were found to be in my possession, but if hunters ever do come to my door, they will miss me. I will be here, collecting these few things, readying myself to move along.

I follow behind him, my mind tracking his peculiar lumbering gait. I knew his grandfather. The man was stocky, built like a lion, but with the most graceful sea legs. He could run across a heaving deck in the slick of a storm and pull a full net better than a pack mule. That his lineage have become skip-stepping bankers is an interesting development.

“Your diet is doing you good.”

“Thirty pounds!” He looks back at me. “I’ve started jogging!”

He removes my box from its sconce and gives it to me with a curious and eager smile.

“Please tell me you’re about to pull out another ancient promissory and make my week.”

He can count the number of times this has happened upon one hand, and finds my constant, dragon-like obsession with my wealth to be amusing. That is because he has no idea I have witnessed the rise of banks and still find them terribly bizarre and untrustworthy. I haunt them lest the numbers dwindle, a kind of fiduciary phantasm.

“I’m afraid not.”

With a shrug, he vanishes, but I know he will be hovering right outside.

I open the lid. The book is on top, tightly wrapped in gauze. The leather binding is nearly a century old, and the paper is yellowed with age. I crack the spine and leaf through the pages, falling through time.

My fascination with technology is as old as the subject. From the tinder box to the electric coil, from the fire iron to the washing machine, from the telegraph to the internet — I have tinkered with them all. Photography has not escaped my notice.

I stare down at the turn of the century hat, the unused side arm, the beaded ballgown I wore to a local charity event in the mid thirties. Me after me, in many forms, all assiduously collected and curated, for no one other than myself.

In the Old Age, certainty was easy. I could control exactly how and when I was seen. Now it is almost impossible, and I have given up the fight, or rather, taken it to a different front. Now I cheat time with makeup and prosthetics, human assumptions and easy gender transformations, such that even should I walk right into the manager’s grandfather, the salty dog would never know me.

The photograph I seek is on the last page. I remove it carefully and tuck it away.