This was written for the Two for Tuesday Challenge #8. Prompt: write a story that centers around food.
He knew the recipe by heart, and called on it like a friendly acquaintance.
Marcus tore some basil leaves onto the tomato sauce below, which was quietly gurgling in expectation. Its excitement became palatable as the sauce’s sharp smell attempted to take over the kitchen, despite the extractor fan’s best efforts. After a quick stir he left them alone, knowing they would slowly infuse together, and proceeded to inspect the plates and bowls arranged on the counter top.
The pancakes had wanted an extra splash of milk today. The mixture looked perfectly happy when he poured the first pancake, but as the edges started to curl and bubbles started to appear, Marcus knew the batter was in immediate need of a consistency change. Thankfully he had enough left to make a neat stack of a dozen pancakes which kept each other warm under a tent of aluminium foil, patiently waiting for their filling.
A white bowl was giving off the warm smell of nutmeg, which had overpowered that of the spinach, but try as it might, it couldn’t catch up to the tomato sauce’s redolence. Marcus tasted the filling yet again, added a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of ricotta, then went back to the sauce, whose gentle bubbling noises were reminding him that it was ready.
Putting the ingredients together was always the most enjoyable task for Marcus. It was as if he could taste the finished product just by being in contact with it, and so he took longer to do so than was entirely necessary. He removed the tent of foil from the pancakes and carefully unfurled the top layer, transferring it to a plate. He enjoyed its warmth for a few seconds before applying an ellipsoidal amount of green-and-white filling. Already the two sets of flavours seemed to merge in his mind; the soft and fluffy cover, giving a backdrop to the creamy mixture while keeping it in check. Marcus cut the edges of the pancake, turning it into a square, and wrapped the spongy square around the spinach interior, tucking it in safely, and the two were now allowed to cradle together in a large tray. He saved the edges of the pancake, one of the few parts of the meal he would be allowed to taste.
He repeated the process, placing each bundle with care and symmetry on the transparent tray, and turned his attention to the sauce. Now the oregano was competing with the basil and the sharpness of the tomato, the whole group waiting to take over the flavour of the rest of the meal. Marcus knew better; whatever the sauce might try, it only served to highlight the mildness of the spinach and ricotta couple. But he loved the sauce all the same.
Once spooned over carefully, he dusted the sauce with its friend, parmesan, who melted by way of greeting and proceeded to blend in as if he had been there all along. The oven was ready for all of them, and Marcus lowered them carefully into its depths, enjoying the wave of warmth that made him anticipate the dinner even more.
Marcus arranged cutlery, crockery and drinks on the table and immediately came back to watch his enveloped friends basking in the sauce, comforting each other and wondering what could lie beyond. He offered them encouragement until they were ready.
Marcus smiled as he greeted the tray again, recording the image in his memory before he carefully cut into it. The individual parcels separated softly, with only mild spongy resilience. Three were arranged in the middle of each plate, huddling together, keeping the middle one warm. Marcus carried the plates to the table, bowed at his spinach-filled friends and left, taking pancakes edges with him.
Word count: 626