Wine & Spirits

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: A chat about loyalty and affairs, plus Fiona makes delicious Sweet Potato Soup

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. 

Stormy weather

Luc has it out with Georges while Fiona makes delicious Sweet Potato Soup

While she’s waiting for the sweet potato soup* to cool so she can blend it, Fiona flips through her stack of city magazines from across North America, something she never manages to find time to do on the job: Toronto, Houston, Vancouver, New York. It’s not stealing ideas, she jokes with her colleagues, it’s appropriation, which is very hip in the artsy crowd this year.

The back door slams open and Luc rushes in with the pelting sleet.

—   Hey, I didn’t know it was so nasty out there, Fiona says, leaping up from her chair to look at the back yard.

The kitchen light illuminates the ice-covered lower branches of the apple tree, the slick surface of the deck. The rain had quickly eroded the snow, and now ice sheets their downtown neighbourhood.

—   It’s so pretty! Fiona says.

—   You say that every time, says Luc, smiling.

—   Well, it’s pretty every time.

He plants a kiss on her cheek.

—   You’re pretty, he says fondly.

—   And you’re a man of mystery, she retorts. What did Georges say?

Luc pulls off his boots and coat.

—   It was brutal. I could use a little night cap. Want a shot of Scotch?

—   That would be nice.

He pours them each a wee drink and sits down at the kitchen table.

—   It didn’t go well, he begins. Il a perdu la tête.**

—   Has Georges broken off with her for good? interrupts Fiona.

—   He says he has and, judging by his mood, I’d say he was telling the truth. He really doesn’t like being told what to do.

—   Well, I’m glad it’s over. That’s something at least. Anne will be glad.

IMG_4458—   I didn’t handle it so well. I was so pissed at him for lying to me. I asked him why he hadn’t kept his promise to break it off way back when, and he had some lame-ass excuse about needing time to get his head around it. Then I just lost it; told him he had put his marriage at risk and put us in an untenable situation.

—   Especially when Anne came to me the day she found out. I mean I had to lie to her. I hate myself for that. She’s already been betrayed once by someone she loves.

—   I know, says Luc wearily. Georges doesn’t know that I’d talked with you. He thinks you learned about it from Anne, and there’s no need for him to know the truth or he’ll just have a hate-on for you as well as for me.

—   He doesn’t hate you!

—   Let’s just say I don’t expect him to call any time soon. He’s looking for someone to blame and I seem to be at the top of his list.

—   Not that he would take responsibility himself! says Fiona. He can be such a jerk. It’s you who should be angry with him.

Luc nods and takes a sip of his Scotch.

—   What else did he say?

—   That it wouldn’t have come to this if I’d only agreed to cover for him on pool nights. He claims the affair would have played out soon anyway and no harm would have been done.

—   As if. The fact that he had the affair at all did plenty of harm. To him and to his relationship with Anne. Even if she never found out. How does that Leonard Cohen song go: If I have been untrue, I hope you know it was never to you?

—   “Bird on a Wire.” Yeah, I agree, but there’s no way I could convince Georges.

—   So how are things with Anne now? asks Fiona.

—   He’s definitely in the dog-house — he’s sleeping in the spare room — but he says they’re going to counselling.

—   Well, that’s good. I think it’s probably the only real way forward for them. I know that’s what she’d advise her patients to do. That reminds me: We have our appointment next week with Dr. Foster.

—   Oh, yeah. I saw that on my calendar.IMG_4287

I hope we don’t get into the sex thing, he thinks.

—   You and Georges could probably use a little counselling too, says Fiona.

—   We’re guys, we’ll grumble a bit but we’ll get over it. He already mentioned that the four of us should get together.

—   It’s going to take a while before that can happen, says Fiona. I’m so pissed at him right now.

—   I gave a vague answer on that one. I don’t think I could face Anne right now. And certainly not the two of them together, playing happy family.

Fiona sighs and sips her Scotch.

—   Though they may need it, she says. To sort of normalize the relationship. It’s all going to take some time. And it’s not going to be easy because they each confided in us separately, so we know stuff.

—   Yeah, it’s a definite rift.

—   You’d tell me if…wouldn’t you? asks Fiona.

—   I never would in the first place, says Luc.

—   No, I suppose not, says Fiona. Martin Amis says there are two types of people: those who can sleep, and those who have insomnia. I think there are also those who can have affairs and those who cannot.

—   I love you, Fiona.

She smiles at him across the table and reaches out to stroke his warm hand.

*Sweet potato soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon allspice

Pinch of ground cloves

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 pound (about 4) peeled and chopped sweet potatoes

6 cups vegetable broth (fresh or from cubes)

1 tablespoon lime juice

¼ cup fresh chopped coriander

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion and spices, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and potatoes, sauté 10 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add broth, stir and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potato is soft.
  5. Cool. Then blend in batches and return to pot. Add a bit more broth if needed.
  6. Add lime juice, coriander and salt and pepper.


**He’s lost his mind.