A Recipe

by Barbara Black

You start with love, then you fry a fish. I know you can’t see right now how the two go together, but they do. You start with the hairs on the back of a man’s neck. You may not believe this, but the connection depends on those few tiny hairs which lie like filaments in waiting, primed for the electric moment. If the sun shines, you see them, lined up, their shafts illuminated, their tips curved ever so slightly. Touch this spot on a man’s neck and the world shrinks to one fingertip on one hair, a microcosmic charge. This is how it begins. Devotion, its pale cousin, comes later.

Take two fresh fish, strangled. Fillet. Drop in a frypan of sizzling oil. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the souls whistling their way back to their watery source. Once cooked, salt plentifully and slide onto a large oval platter, with their hot eyes glistening.

Later, you find yourself frying fish and crying at the bones, pulling out the translucent slivers. You fry the fish because he offered it across a frozen river that now separates you. Somehow, he hooked it from under the ice. He is resourceful. He sits at the table, waiting to be served. When the fish, fried and crispy, appears in front of him with its glossy eyes, he leans back and rubs his hands on the back of his neck. He doesn’t know that he does this. But that’s the connection. That’s what’s left of it.

Barbara Black was a finalist and double semi-finalist in the 2011 Writer’s Union of Canada Short Fiction Contest. Her writing recently appeared in FreeFall Magazine and Love in the Time of Predators (Leaf Press, 2012), a chapbook edited by Patrick Lane. The much anticipated release of the anthology Poems from Planet Earth will feature her writing. Currently at work on a poetry manuscript titled, “Authentic Fabrications of My Ancestry,” she lives in Victoria, BC, with her philosopher and cat.

 

What other recipe(s) can you share with us?

    The Best Way Book—which I inherited from my grandmother—sits on my book shelf, its no-nonsense advice taking pride of place among my less pithy literature. Check out its comment on:

    The Best Sauce

    “‘Optimum obsonium labor,’ says the Latin proverb, and that means ‘Labour is the best sauce.’ Therefore, when you read how to make delicious sauces and savouries, don’t say: ‘Goodness me, I can make sauce with half that trouble.’ So you may, friend, but it isn’t the best sauce because you have given too little labour to it.”

    from The Best Way Book, No. 3, 1200 Household Hints & Recipes (The Amalgamated Press Ltd., London, 1916)

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