The scene is the near-vacant interior of a vintage, chrome-sided and red-trimmed diner
, somewhere upon an unknown dusty road in a landscape that appears otherwise tumbledown and deserted. The creaky old oscillating fan and the athsmaticly laboring roof-mounted air conditioner provide the only respite to the hazy melancholy by animating the golden flecks of dust illuminated in the mid-afternoon sun.
To judge by the activity of the diner's two lone occupants, neither the griddle, the burners, nor the oven has been fired in some time. Behind the counter, a Busboy applies a rag not to his stacks of gleaming flatware or shining porcelain plates, but to the races of a small stack of bearings he has removed from a set of skate wheels. Back a little further, propped up on a stool against the oven, the Chef lazily thumbs through a textbook concerning the theories of Evariste Galois.
This spell of monotonous eternity now shatters by the disagreeable downshifting of a package truck's transmission and then by the crunching of tires upon the graveled parking lot. The occupants rise from their torpor, hopeful anticipation breaking upon their faces in the hope that the arrival of the UPS delivery person will finally herald purpose to their day's regimen.
Unexpectedly, the driver jams hard on the brakes, betraying a certain displeasure or perhaps an animosity. The wheels of the truck lock for a moment before coming to a momentary stop. The driver crassly tosses out a parcel onto the ground and then accelerates away onto the highway again, down the road in a cloud of dust. The gleam on our protagonists' faces darken to scowls. In turning to the other, the Chef exclaims,
"Fils de garce! Colporteur de merde! To think, that aftiar all zis time, zis fool refuses again to set foot into our diner!"
"Well, I guess that he still feels strongly that horse brains shouldn't be in his Meatloaf Special?"
"How is ze hell would he know! Zat is what is making it 'Special!' Crétin inculte!"
"Well..." continues the Busboy, sheepishly, "I guess it is best that he doesn't know that it was HIS horse then..."
"Shut you stupide face," splurts the Chef. "Just bring to me ze package already, garçon."
The Busboy steps out and retrieves the package.
"Hey, look Iwho!"
"Zat ees Chef IWho, you eediot!" interrupts the Chef.
"Right, sorry Chef," continues the Busboy, "but look see, the package is addressed to the care of our Chef NanceMuse. I wonder when she ordered it?"
"Or where eet comes from. She has not been to work for many weeks now. Hmm...What ees this sticker?"
"It says 'PERISHABLE.' I suppose we should open it and see what she ordered."
Opening the package reveals a five pound bag of Bloody Butcher red corn grits within.
"Hmmm, I wonder what she intended to makes with this," queries our French-accented Chef.
"Well, seeing how she lives on the coast now, I'll wager that seafood might be involved. Why don't we check her recipes to see?"
After spending some time rifling through a badly disorganized school desk, nearly completely obscured by various flotsam in the back corner, the Chef produces a pair of hand written notes, stapled together.
"I thinks zat she may have for planning on cooking Shrimp and Grits, garçon."
"Well, should we try the recipe? I am bored as hell and getting hungry too."
"Ah, yes! Nous n'avons rien à perdre sauf du temps, garcon. We shall make the best efforts to make prouds my Creole countrymen! Here, you prepare these ingredients."
The Busboy takes the notes and as he begins to read, wrinkles his nose in a grimace, "Aw, yuck! I hate bell peppers!"
The Chef turns savagely, "Vous inculte lourdaud! Ze bell pepper, she is sacred to Creole cuisine! How can you cook without her?!"
"Whatever, I hate them!" The Busboy counters, "If you want to cook them, you can do the cutting."
The Chef grumbles darkly, muttering under his breath before resigning, "Fine, be a fool. And don't use the chicken stock, use the mirepoix I make yesterday," as the Busboy begins to edit the lists.
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp thyme, chopped
- 8 oz.
- 4 oz.
Plain Yogurt (TANGY!)
- 12 oz. water
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 cup dry grits
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup zucchini, grated
- 1/2 cup shallots, finely chopped
- 1 tsb chopped thyme, fresh
- 1 lb large shrimp
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 4 oz. dry white wine
- 4 oz. lemon juice
- 1/2 cup tomato, finely chopped
- 1 tbs chopped parsley, fresh
The Chef leaves to fume while the Busboy prepares the ingredients from each list. When the former returns, the Busboy has already begun to melt the butter
in a large saucepan under medium heat. He then adds the salt
s the ingredients for a minute or two before he adds the mirepoix and water. Once he verifies that the broth is not at a simmer, he adds the yogurt
Once the broth begins to simmer again, he whisks in the grits and then lowers the heat until the grits are cooking at the slightest simmer so that the milk solids in the yogurt will not break and curdle. While the Busboy continues to whisk frequently, the Chef begins to cook the shrimp, which he had just previously de-headed, peeled, de-veined and then rubbed down with brown sugar.
The Chef selects a large skillet and sets it on a burner on medium-high. He adds butter and thyme and, once the butter is hot enough to produce steam from his wooden spoon, he sautés the sugared shrimp until they gain a golden sear on both sides, then removes them from the skillet. He then reduces the heat to medium and adds salt, celery, zucchini, shallots and thyme to the pan and continues to sauté the contents until they begin to show translucence. To the skillet he now adds white wine and lemon juice and reduces the contents until thickened. Lastly he turns off the heat before adding tomato, parsley and the cooked shrimp and stirs the finished dish for a minute until the flavors find their union.
Triumph in his eyes, the Chef turns to the Busboy only to find him still whisking away at the grits. The Chef's brow furrows and his face twists into a scowl,
"Quoi? N'êtes-vous pas terminé avec les grits? My shrimp are perfect and now I wait through your incompetence?!"
"Jesus! Slow your roll! These grits are stone ground and are taking a little longer than I anticipated. They are still too chewy and need to achieve more of a creamy consistency," the laboring Busboy protests as he thins the grits with a little water.
After what seems to the Chef to be an agonizing eternity, the Busboy serves his grits into two, wide, shallow bowls and then the Chef pours the contents of his skillet onto the grits. The two now emerge from the kitchen and sit down facing the panoramic front window of the establishment, now alive with the smells of purpose and artistry.
Taking care to blow carefully before tasting the hot meal, our protagonists sample the shrimp and grits.
"What is this sharpness?" puzzles the Chef, accusingly, "was the cream bad?"
"No, I used yogurt instead to give it some tang."
The Chef scowls for a moment and then blowing on his grits, evaluates another portion. "I am not sure about this...but eet is not terrible. What do you thinks NanceMuse would have served with this?"
"Sweet Tea probably. I happened to make some this morning."
The Busboy rises and retrieves two glasses full of iced sweet tea and then re-seats. Wordlessly now, the two settle into their meal and to the passing of the afternoon into early evening upon the listless, drowsy stretch of horizon on the other side of the road from The Everything Diner.