The Drama Chef

Prose – Travel – Recipes

Category: Recipes

Basil Walnut Pesto

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She loved plants. Every time she was going to the market, she would come back with a small pot of green joy. In March it was tulips, in April small strawberry plants, in September chrysanthems. They weren’t all surviving for long, most lingered for a week or two and then faded away. Too much water, not enough water, too much sun in this corner of the house, not enough sun in the other room. I tried to explain her so many times that it was a waste of time, a waste of effort. She wouldn’t listen. Her small garden was taking up half of our living-room, we had to manouevre through the colourful pots and pick up dried flowers every hour of the day.

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Last week she came home with a fluffy pot of basil. She had tried to keep basil alive three times before and failed over and over again. I am going to cook him directly, she said in an apologetic voice. Pesto pasta for dinner?

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Walnuts and fresh basil leaves. Parmesan and olive oil. Pasta al dente. Extra parmesan on top. A leave or two for decoration. A walnut or two, for the show. The windows wide open, spring air heavy with singing birds. I’ll do the dishes I said, leaving her caressing the thorns of her small cactus. In the kitchen, a small plop of the basil was left in the pot. It still survives.

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Women’s Kumquat & Lemon Cake

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You live in the western world, in a highly privileged country of Central Europe. Economy is doing great, transportation is excellent, it is safe, it is pretty. You are a white, highly educated woman. You are employed. You have great carreer prospects, possibly a bright future ahead of you. But.

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Do you have a long-term relationship or are you one of these polygamic monsters? Or even worse, are you homosexual? Are you older than thirty and still unmarried? Oh poor thing, your boyfriend just won’t propose, will he? If you’ve been married for some time, why don’t you have children yet? If you have one child, why don’t you have another – don’t you know only children are lonely and miserable? Do you cook and prepare snacks for your familly? Don’t you know their health depends on you? Oh my God, you look so tired today, why aren’t you wearing make-up? When was the last time you got a manicure, you should not neglect your looks like that. Why do you care so much for your carreer, a woman’s destination is to have kids. Have you put on weight?

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If you are ambitious and hard-working, you are a bossy cold-hearted bitch. Women should be tender and sweet and understanding. You should always give up your wishes and dreams, you should not complain, you should not exagerate. Honey, that’s just not what good girls do. Yes, your male colleagues are much better paid than you for the same job. You should be thankful you even have a job, you should be thankful you can vote. So what if your boss made a sexistic comment on your clothes, what if one of your co-workers just won’t stop harassing you until you go out with him. A woman’s no can be a no, it is a maybe. Come on now, you know you want it, you wouldn’t wear these slutty clothes if you didn’t. You had it coming. Why are you screaming like that, are you a hysterical feminist? When was the last time you had sex, that should calm you down, that should shut you up! Shut up, shut up!

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How many of these lines have you heard yourself? How many of these things have you told other women, or have you thougth of? Take a moment to think today, take a moment to censor yourself and your words before you attack a woman next time. Take a moment to talk to the men and women in your life about sexism, discrimination, inequality, solidarity. Read and think and read again. Protect yourself, protect other women. Help and support and stand by each other. And let’s have some cake now, not to leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth.

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Strawberry Coconut Parfaits

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This is Part III of Erica’s short story (Part I; Part II).

“Pass me the scones darling. Ted, don’t you hear me? The scones!” I gave her the white plate with the reindeer decorations with an awkward smile. “You don’t like them? I can make you something else” she said. I nodded no and started eating. The sooner this festive breakfast would come to an end, the better. Dad was not talking for a while now, avoiding eye contact with a generic soft smile on his lips. I was sure he wished he could be somewhere else too. I wondered where. Sally and Mom where talking gleefully, what will Santa bring this year, did you like the Cookies darling?

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Christmas. Our sad plastic tree on the corner, lit with electric lights, the ornaments scratched and outdated. Red candles on the table, stars on the napkins, glitter everywhere. Dressed in our nice clothes that didn’t fit properly anymore. Carrols on the radio. Boredom. Forced joy. Presents. Crowds in the malls. Red and golden and silver. Women with too much makeup. Men drinking too much and laughing too hard. Happy families. Kids with pink cheeks and santa bonnets. Give me a break.

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Chanterelles Sausage Risotto

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I used to walk every day during the lunch break. After eating out of my tupper, in front of my computer screen, trying to avoid the boring discussions with colleagues in the cafeteria and the standard gossiping about each other’s lifes. I’d put on my coat, button it up carefully, brush my hair a bit, refresh my lipstick and walk out of the dark concrete building.

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I’d walk aimlessly by the river’s banks, staring at the fallen autumn leaves, at kids being forcefed by nanies and grammas, or surprisingly young mothers. Sometimes, I’d have a coffee sitting outside, enjoying the rare and much-welcomed rays of sun at an otherwise foggy November, almost purring like a cat. Almost.

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At the good days, I’d walk until the farmers’ market, at the town’s centre. Piles of vegetables and fruits, local cheese production, flowers. Sparrows flying allover, stealing cheese whenever they got the chance, at the rage of the sellers. Most of the times I’d just have a look, not buying anything I’d have to bring back to office. But every autumn, the fresh mushroom picked up from the region’s misty forests would win me over. Colours and textures. My favourite were the chanterelles, elegant golden wavy umbrellas. It was impossible to resist them. I’d hide them in the depths of my bag, along with pieces of notes, used tickets and old chewing gum.

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Peach Lavender Vlaai

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I am walking at a narrow plastered alley, on a cold Monday morning. The air is crisp and the skies are pale blue. I have half an hour until my meeting, so I choose to wander around aimlessly, looking at doorsteps, windows and rooftops. A small bakery looks really busy, people going in and out, holding big bags. I stop at their window. Piles of cookies, bread of all sorts, cakes and croissants and mini pizzas. But most of all, pies! Fruit and cream and custard pies of all sizes and decorations. Small explanatory signs in Dutch: Vlaai.

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Rijstevlaai, Kruimelvlaai, Kersenvlaai. Vlaai, vlaai, vlaai. What is this???

I go in the bakery. I come out holding a box with 3 different Vlaai pieces. I sit on a bench at the church park nearby. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in my life: The Dutch Vlaai!

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Coconut Cookies!

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Oh, coconut. This post is a love song, a desperate ode, a passion poem. To coconut, my long-lasting love. Its fluffy, white, exotic, playful beauty. And to the ultimate coconut cookies. 4 ingredients, that let coconut’s glory shine on. These are so good that I can’t even write a short story to go with them. Fluffy, airy, not overly sweet, with a crunchy crust. Coconut perfection. Enjoy!

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Feta Phyllo Pie (tiropita)

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Her hands are white. The sound of fingers rubbing flour makes all the hair on your skin rise, in a wave. This is the worst feeling you’ve ever had, in your uneventful life of five years. “Come help me, so that you can learn how to make a pita to your kids one day”, she says every time. “Your mother never wanted to learn, that’s why she buys all these horrible things from the bakery”, follows after. Sometimes not, if mama and her didn’t have an argument that week.

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Erica’s Lemon Pancakes

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part I is here: Erica’s Strawberry-Vanilla Jam

She was working as a translator. Grew up in France, then moved to Spain, then Germany, now Scotland. Never met her father, her mother here and there, they don’t talk anymore. Her teeth didn’t show when she smiled. She had 7 beauty spots on her right shoulder and 3 on her left palm. She hated dogs and loved lemon pancakes.

She talked to me. She really talked to me like if I was an adult, for the first time in my life. She gave me books and CDs, she chose the movies we watched. I was holding her hand in the dark, she was grabbing my ass in the elevator. It was too good to last.

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Fake Paella Mixta

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She knew it. A real paella is cooked on fire, in the special pan, with bomba rice, with fish and shrimp that was fished early the same morning, with ripe tomatoes cut straight from the garden. Served by the sea. She knew the real paella, she had eaten the real paella. Yes, by the sea, the salt still on her skin after swimming, the sun shining hard on a cloudless sky whose light made her eyes tear. The sea she was dreaming of in the long, gray, rainy days of northern summers, that were summers only in name. At their best, they were more of a Mediterranean spring: it was glorious, but it wasn’t summer!

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Erica’s Strawberry Vanilla Jam

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“T’es beau”. I turned my head and looked at her. Around 30-35, long, messy hair, flowery dress, leather boots. “T’es beau” she repeated, staring at me straight in the eye. My heart started racing in my chest, I was just standing there, looking at her, unable to smile or move or speak. She reached in her pocket, took out a cigarette, put it to her lips, lit it. Staring at me. No words. “A demain” she said after an eternity; she turned and walked away moving her hips dancingly.

I could not think of anything else for the whole day at school. I messed up the math test. My friends lips were moving, I didn’t hear a world. Nausea and stomach cramps. Flashes coming and going. My palms were sweating, my heart kept pounding when I tried to imagine how she smelled. What was her name? Marie, Héloïse, Anne?

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Double Potato Fritters for One

IMG_3384He used to send her flowers at work. Every Monday morning a bouquet would arrive, no card. Sometimes they were lilies, sometimes daisies or lilacs. Never roses. She remembered a small bouquet of red tulips, on her birthday. And a basket of sunflowers after their first holiday together. She would keep them in her office for the week, in the same crystal vase an old client has brought her. Until the next Monday, when the new ones would arrive. Week by week, bouquet by bouquet, months were passing, and the cleaning man was smiling every Friday night at the sight of the new flowers, slowly fading at the corner of her desk.

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Coconut Chocolate Bread

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He said he would come by around 10. They had their first group assignment at the University, he was sitting across her at the tutorial room. The rest of the students knew each other, groups formed quickly. At the end it was only her and him left, the newcomers, the foreigners. She was blushing, she could feel her cheecks changing colour, her voice was trembling slightly. Yes, sure they could work together. Hi, Lydia. Nice to meet you, I ‘m Boris. Firm handshake, hers was always weak and sweaty. On Saturday morning. No, the library was too crowded. He had two flatmates, it was always noisy in his home. Her place? Kate was going away for the weekend, she would be alone. Sure. Can I have your number, just in case I don’t find it? She had to look her number up in her mobile, she could never memorise it. Made him laugh. See you on Saturday then.

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Mushroom & Moscato Risotto

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Lila was hangovered. Her headache was banging in her head like a bullet, bouncing from one corner to the other. Her feet were hurting; the new heels have been less comfortable than promised by the sales girls. They were nice heels, expensive heels, but they were made for girls that would go from their apartment down to a car -or at least a taxi- waiting on their doorstep, then to an expensive restaurant, sitting comfortably on a red velvet stylish chair, high back and golden details on the wood. A dance or two, nothing difficult. Then back in the car, then at the building’s entrance, a good-bye kiss or two, or maybe you wanna come upstairs for a last drink?

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Raspberry Vanilla Cream Rolls

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It all happened randomly. I found beautiful, red, fragrant raspberries at the market that day. It had just rained, everything smelled freshly washed, a light premonition of spring floating above freshly-cut tulips and roses, arranged next to the piles of fruits. The clouds still hanging above us gray, mooving lazily some meters, then coming back to place. Not a ray of sun touched us that morning.

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Vanilla cream pie/bougatsa hybrid

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You are six years old, on a sunny Sunday. You are walking in the quiet streets, holding the hand of your gramma that looks huge and wise and smiles at you. The world is bright and safe, for you and for the street cats that lie on the cars, stretching in the sun or sitting in a Sphynx position, their eyes like slots, almost roaring but not quite.

You visited your aunts today, to show them your first drawings. You are six now, so you go to school. They are real drawings, water colours and everything, with your name written on the right-down corner, the letters big and uneven, going slightly downwards. A grown girl they say. You blush and you look down at your Sunday shoes, black with a silver buckle, already a bit dusty from a short run in the park. You wanted to pick up daisies, but gramma said you shouldn’t. Grandpa is softer; he lets you pick flowers and laughs at you when the tip of your nose gets yellow from the pollen. My little bee he says. Sometimes he catches a butterfly for you, but not often. When you ask why he says that when you touch too much a butterfly’s wings you destroy them, and they can fly no more. So you never ask for a butterfly again, but you always go and watch them close when they are sitting on the flowers – not touching.

“What are you thinking little one?” She looks at you from above, half-concerned, half-amused. Not waiting for the answer – “are you hungry? Let’s go and get something sweet. But you won’t tell mama or grandpa, deal?” Deal.

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Paprika Oregano Feta Bread

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The things you miss away from home are unexpected.

It’s not only about family and friends and loved ones, it’s not only about the places you grew up at, your school yard, the familiar park around the corner with the dry flowerbeds and the high, dusty trees.

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It’s the way the light falls through the kitchen windows in the afternoons and how the roses swing in the breeze out in the balcony. It’s the smell of the neighbourhood cooking in the mornings, windows open and low voices chatting. It’s about cats that lie eternally on the car tops or chase each other playfully. It’s the sound of your parents talking over coffee in the mornings, having always an argument about something trivial, keeping their voices down not to wake you up. It’s how you run answer the doorbell and hang around the hall till your brother comes upstairs and you jump up to hug him. How your stereo still has the same radio frequencies memorised as 15 years ago. And yes, it’s about flavours too, flavours that chase you everywhere you go, but only really taste how they are supposed to when you are there, sitting among them and fighting over the last piece of whatever was baked today.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Love Cake

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A cake full of chocolate and hazelnuts (and loooove!) in all possible ways. Chocolate powder and grated hazelnuts, mixed with vanilla and buttermilk, make this cake incredibly rich but in still tender and light. The dark chocolate glaze adds another dimension of chocolate depth. The hazelnuts on top add the crunch and some character. A cake you will love, forever and ever. Till your diet do you part.

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