A stubborn tear
paused on my eyelash. Then another one. And another. Blinking furiously,
I raised the knife and hesitated. Unknown identifier? I thought.
Had I remembered to declare the index? I put down the knife and
headed for my study. The screen had already switched itself off.
I clasped the mouse and scrolled to the top of the program. Damn.
Since the beginning of the year, two things had happened. I changed
jobs - trading a high-stress corporate environment for the relative
tranquillity of a home office, and my father died. Although months
had passed, I could get used to neither.
As far as the new job was concerned, I should have been happy. Better
pay for less hours, being my own boss, flexitime. But after the
initial liberation of getting to my computer ten minutes after getting
out of bed, without the daily ritual of makeup and the morning traffic,
I began to miss my non-crease skirt and the buzz of the office.
computer beeped. I stared at the familiar Unknown identifier message,
then sighed and returned to the kitchen. Have I washed the tomatoes?
I must have. Staying at home presented other negative points. I
found it difficult to concentrate on programming when there were
dirty dishes in the sink, for example. Chocolates began to disappear
from the fridge at an alarming rate. Not to mention the fact that
suddenly I was expected to do all the housework. After all, I sat
at home all day, didn't I? Again I raised the knife, this time letting
the teeth sink into the soft red flesh. Staying at home was testing
enough. My father's death - this one took even more adjusting.
To begin with, I had to believe it. That somebody who was always
so full of life, who never suffered from any ailments: "your head
hurts? don't be illogical, darling, how can a piece of bone hurt?",
somebody who, at the age of seventy was planning to retire "in twenty
five years' time", that somebody who was always there could suddenly
be no more, was inconceivable. And once I believed the unbelievable,
I had to accept it. Accept the fact that I wasn't anybody's little
girl anymore. Accept that I would never again be spoilt with presents:
"you like both coats, precious? Fine, let's take both, the blue
one and the red." And that nobody would ever again try to meddle
in my life, suggesting which young man is the most appropriate to
accompany me to the dance or insisting that Economics had a better
future than Computer Science. I had to accept all the words I had
in my heart, all the words that would now never be spoken. Accept
that time is the old cliché, the one-way street.
And finally, I had to deal with the memories. The good, the bad
and the non-existent. Does it only take six weeks to forget the
timbre of somebody's voice? The watch they were wearing for the
last ten years? And that thing they did with their teeth, that sucking
sound that made you clench your fists and look away? Why is it that
I couldn't recall his formula for happiness, the one he insisted
on repeating to me, the one I insisted on ignoring? Why is it that
off all the things he's taught me, the one I remember best is -
25 g butter
0.25 kg Russians
(or Polish sausage or salami)
5 whole capsicums
with pips but no stalks
6 large tomatoes
30 ml tomato concentrate if the tomatoes are
taste (at least 10 ml)
I'll say it again: NO WATER
Slice the sausages. Slice the capsicums. Dice the tomatoes.
In a large pot (heavy-bottom is best) melt the butter, then
fry the sausage slices until golden brown. Add the capsicums
and fry until glassy. Add tomatoes and the spices (the tomatoes
will make the mixture more liquid, so the process will change
from frying to boiling). Bring to the boil, reduce the heat
and simmer until it's thick - at least 20 minutes - stirring
from time to time.
It's even better reheated the next day!
The soup had been my father's invention, the result of a hot day
of travelling in Bulgaria with a kilogram of green peppers.
"They're on their last legs," remarked my mother. "All wrinkled
and soft. Let's throw them away. We can buy fresh ones tomorrow.
Except that this time we'll ask for two, not two hundred."
"Wait," when there was a bull, my father insisted on grabbing
its horns. "What if we cut them all up and cook them with some
sausage and tomatoes?"
"We'll add lots of paprika and garlic for taste. Come on, let's
cook. Cut up the peppers."
"And you? What will you do?" "Think up the next step,
of course. No, don't get rid of the pips, they're going in!"
And so my father cooked his first paprika soup. The way he would
always cook paprika soup from then on. By relaxing in an armchair,
having told my mother to cut up the ingredients, and popping into
the kitchen for a final tasting.
Over the years, I tried to improve on his recipe. I experimented
with adding onions, chicken stock, thyme and saffron. I tried removing
the pips and substituting pork sausages with something more politically
correct. It just wouldn't work. It was either my father's recipe
or something even my gluttonous dogs would spurn.
I wiped my cheek and added the tomatoes to the gurgling pot. It
now had to cook until my father entered the kitchen, lured into
the alien territory by the smell of stewing peppers, and pronounced
his dish ready to eat.
I returned to my program. What was I doing wrong? Nothing, I could
almost hear my father's voice, nothing wrong at all. Computers are
not for females, and they can sense it.
My father was a chauvinist. He would have been an antifeminist too.
Would have been, if only he could comprehend that the feminist movement
was alive and, if not exactly kicking, at least breathing. But the
way Queen Victoria denied the possibility of a woman desiring another
woman, so my father simply could never believe in feminists. He
couldn't comprehend that there were women out there who weren't
satisfied with their lot. He refused to acknowledge that they would
want to burn the sexiest piece of their underwear, insist on paying
for their share of the meal, and prefer managing companies to breastfeeding
babies. Worst of all, he never even noticed that his daughter was
The computer beeped again, a more friendly sound this time. I found
the bug, fixed it and began to test the program. Enter the number
of participants. The smell of burnt sausage brought me back to earth.
Now where was my father when I needed him? A stubborn tear paused
on my eyelash.
[Editors note- a few Australian
to American translations:
capsicum = bell peppers, from what I understand
25g is 4 oz
0.25g = approx 1/2 pound]
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us about it. The Fat Man's Kitchen