Wine & Spirits

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Georges and Luc’s friendship rekindles PLUS Bistro Onion soup for blustery days

Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald — novelist, award-winning journalist, and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.

Mending fences

—   Hey, Georges, says Luc. Good to see you.

—   Ditto, says Georges, extending his hand.

They shake quickly, cautious of this contact after so many months. They’ve exchanged a few emails since their blow out, but this is their first meeting face-to-face. Luc arranged it, of course, but Georges seemed willing enough.

—   Beer? asks Luc.

—   Definitely, says Georges I’m parched. It’s actually getting hot out there.

Kitchen-Chronicles—   Harbinger of good things to come. What a brutal winter.

—   Not just the weather either, says Georges. It’s been a haul. Have you talked to Jacen recently?

—   Yeah, we had a coffee last week. He’s doing okay. Work’s still a bit up in the air, but he’s more stable on the meds. And he’s found a support group.

—   That sounds good.

—   Yeah, it’s sort of informal. He’s only gone to one meeting but he says it’s good to talk to people who get it. He was really afraid of being ostracized.

—   He doesn’t tell me much, says Georges, but I figured he might have a problem that way. You need your buddies.

There’s a moment of silence between them.

—    And I’ve missed our pool night, adds Georges.

Luc is surprised Georges has mentioned this. Maybe he is changing, Luc thinks.

—   I’ve missed them too, says Luc, handing him a bottle. And we’ll be able to go hiking soon too.

—   Bonus. Anne says it’s time we made up.

—   How’re things going? asks Luc.

—   I hate the therapy — knew I would. The shrink thinks he has me all figured out: poor role models in my childhood so I don’t know how to be a partner. I mean I’m not saying that isn’t part of it, but there are so many factors. It’s not ALL about what happened to me before I was sixteen.

—   True… but a lot of shit starts then, before we have that thick skin.

Georges shrugs.

—   The part I’m finding useful is the behavioural therapy stuff. She’s pretty good at that.  We’re going on regular date nights now, Anne and I, not the therapist! Thursdays. We aren’t allowed to go to movies or stuff like that. We have to do things that force us to talk, to interact. I thought we’d end up talking about house stuff, you know what brand of toaster to get, but we have these cue cards with prompts. Mostly ethical decisions, like would you pull the plug if x, y and z. Good topics, intellectual. I’m liking it.

—   And Anne?

—   Yeah, she’s coming around. I’m out of the spare room at least. And the sex is back.

—   Hey that’s great news! Fee and I are making progress in that department too.

Kitchen-Chronicles—   You guys? I thought everything was great.

—   We have our ups and downs like everyone. We went to see our therapist a couple of months ago. You know we go every so often, but we’d never talked about sex before. I was reluctant, but I have to admit it was helpful.

—   So now you’re talking?

—   And a lot more! says Luc. Here’s to matrimonial bliss!

They clink bottles.

—   Yeah, I missed Anne more than I thought I would. I guess I was just thinking with my little head.

—   You aren’t the first, says Luc.

—   Well, it could’a ended really badly. I have you to thank for making it alright.

—   After I’d banged your head a couple of times.

Georges grins.

—   Yeah, well the penis can be a pretty powerful persuader…. I think the hardest part for me, maybe for all of us, is how to make love last. I mean after the sex no longer sustains it. I mean there’s friendship…

—   I think you have to work at it. Fee lent me this book, it’s chick lit, but she said I should read it, The Book of Love: Guidance in Affairs of the Heart. It’s sort of lightweight, but in a fun way, and it has these tips at the end that are pretty sound.

—   Maybe I should borrow it.

He glances at his watch.

—    Dèpêche!* Time to whoop your butt.

—   Just let me put this soup** in the fridge.

*Means let’s go!

**Bistro onion soup

Serves 4 or so

10 medium onions (1 ½ pounds)½ cup butter
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
355-ml bottle beer
4 cups beef broth (from cubes or canned)
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon leaf thyme
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
8 very thin slices French bread, toasted
3 cups grated Gruyère cheese

1. Thinly slice onions (about 7 cups).
2. Heat butter in a heavy large saucepan and sauté onions over medium heat, stirring often until golden, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in garlic, beer, broth, mustard and seasonings.
4. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
5. Remove bay leaf. (If not serving immediately, the soup can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen).
6. Preheat oven to 425 F.
7. Ladle hot soup into a large casserole or individual oven-proof bowls, leaving a 1 inch space at the top. Place bowls on a heavy baking sheet.
8. Add a layer of toasted bread on top of the soup. Cover with half the grated cheese. Top with another layer of toast and the remaining cheese.
9. Bake in centre of oven until cheese is golden, about 10 minutes.