A Quiche for Jennifer
Adam does make dinner, despite his wife’s claims to the contrary. Ramen with crudely chopped frankfurters, paninis, both eggs and bacon. And that’s all Quiche Lorraine really is.
Jennifer’s a doctor, who works past nine sometimes, while Adam stays at home. When they’d first moved in together, he was a list of aspiring things. His vlog, where he re-cut blockbuster bonanzas into art-house sleepers, had 100,000 subscribers. He was doing stand-up twice a week, even got paid sometimes. A few humorous essays were finding homes in university presses. One even got a glowing, personalized rejection from Tin House. He wasn’t rich, but made enough to pay rent and electricity, freeing Jennifer to focus on her studies. But mediocrity took its toll, and now he’s just unemployed.
Jennifer has always been the cook. He used to help, but after an incident involving Teflon and a metal whisk, he’s banished from the kitchen. Most nights, she comes home, cooks alone, and they eat in silence. They’ve adopted staggered bedtimes.
Not tonight though.
Tonight, she’ll come home to a fluffy, golden egg pie, then they’ll migrate to the bedroom, crumbs still lining their lips.
Quiche Lorraine is the only recipe from the sticky, flour-dusted tome that doesn’t require mysterious ingredients such as Brunoise, cornichon, tapenade.
He sets the mixer to slow, incrementally adding butter to the flour, amazed as two unlike textures join together in harmony. He mixes in ice water and it spins until it loses it stickiness. He cools it in the fridge, then goes to watch television.
He takes out the dough and rolls it onto the floured counter. Cooking seems easy.
But the crust has holes, sticks to his roller. The edges of the cake ring cut the dough. He folds the crust over the side, but it just reaches the rim. This can’t be disastrous.
Next, he pours in dried beans and bakes it. He laughs—this thing he made is now “full of beans”.
The crust shrinks, leaving just a small lip. He uses leftover dough to extend it, but there’s not enough to patch all the cracks. They are small, insignificant. He knows they won’t matter.
He fries the onions and bacon, shreds the cheese, mixes the custard with the magic whirling wand until frothy. Adams pours in the custard and places his quiche in the oven.
He takes a cloth and wipes random things, searching for invisible entities Jennifer calls “messes”. Five minutes later, he smells burning. But he can do nothing but watch through the grease-grimed oven window as the filling drips out the bottom. He figures it’s best to keep the heat in, let the custard set before he loses everything.
A practical man would collect what he can and pour it back over the top. A poet would recognize the afternoon’s tragic symbolism and mount a transformation of all that’s left. A humble romantic would remember their first date when they were both students, biking around the lakes, the whole open world before them, sharing a perfect Quiche Lorraine at that cute cafe on the shore—and serve what’s left under a candle’s forgiving light. They’d laugh together for the first time in months.
Adam is none of these things.
He watches it all drip away, smashes the crust, and waits for the mess to harden. Then he chokes down a plate of over-salted, black-speckled scrambles eggs, scraped from the bottom of the oven. When Jennifer comes home, he tells her she should just cook for herself tonight.
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Aaron Troye-White is a writer, beer sommelier, and restaurant manager. He has traveled the world a couple times and has collected copious images of temples and trees. His fiction has been published in The Tampa Review. Currently, he lives in Hungary with his wife. His seldom-updated, poorly-edited travel blog can be found at http://aaronaaa.blogspot.no