12 September 2010

Kitchen Spirits

There is an old woman crooked with age in the rust colored house overlooking the ocean.  She is standing in front of her trusted stove while the sun is bidding the sea goodbye and the wind whispering distant howls across the lush, rolling green of this place she now calls home.  Even when the light begins to fade and surrenders to the darkness of evening, she takes her time to prepare a warm meal to provide for what would be a chilling, starless night. The shadows have grown long and what used to be mere whispers of the howling wind are now bales of manic laughter dissipating against the imposing rocks of these ancient cliffs.  And yet inside this house the world is entirely different, everything is quiet save for the  gentle sizzling of garlic in olive oil now filling the entire house with its intoxicating perfume.  It is in fact considerably warm with the many candles she had lit in the kitchen and on the dining table which she, for some unknown reason, had grown accustomed to setting for two.  If it hadn't been for the shaking of the windows against the fury of the approaching tempest, you would be tempted to walk out into the courtyard to wish on the first of the twinkling stars.  But we already know there are none.  There will be none for a long, long time.

She turns back to the plump chicken pieces which have been bathing for a while now in the sultry, crimson-colored paprika that have been stone-ground and have journeyed from the deepest valleys of La Vera in Spain to her cupboards now as old as she was.  They are quietly humming in unison with the olive oil and the very salt harvested from the oceans below.  She caresses each piece and gently powders them with flour the way a woman gently powders her nose.  Not too little and not too much, just a little dusting to  protect and prevent the direct contact of skin and fire.  She turns the heat up of the pan where the slivers of garlic have been gently coaxed by the oil into giving up its very essence of existence.   She puts in the pieces of the chicken to brown and with the final dousing of the best Sherry she could afford, the spirits of chicken, garlic and paprika-- united in steam, rise from the cast iron pan to ascend and return to the home of the gods.  The pan exalts in glory  announcing that  this concerto of food, this symphony of sight, smell and sound has officially reached its denouement.

But as if by the command of an invisible Maestro, a knock was heard on the door.   The old woman was startled. After all this time, she still gets startled. She looked up from where she was standing  and saw the wind blow across her windows what appeared to be a coat of some kind.  She walked unsteadily to the door and opened it ever so slowly like she always does.  All those times this has happened, nobody was ever there.  But tonight was different. There is a man standing outside her very door. She recognizes him but wonders how and why he was there.  She tries to speak but instead of her voice  only tears spoke of all the things she would never find words for.  The old man trembled as he reached one hand to his mouth and the other to touch the  face of the woman he can't believe he was seeing now.  He was crying too.