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 installment — and a tested recipe.
Fiona slams through the back door. He’s such an asshole, she thinks.
— Luc, she calls out, mustering her inner sweetness so she doesn’t sound as bitchy as she feels.
— I’m home. Luc?
— Be right down, babe, he calls from upstairs.
She plunks her heavy courier bag on the table and rummages through it, pulling out a letter. She takes it out to re-read.
— Asshole, she mutters.
— Hope you’re not talking about me, says Luc, coming in and giving her a kiss on the cheek. What’s up?
— I got this letter from Dad. At work no less, because after nearly a year he still doesn’t have our home address straight. Shows you how much I mean to him.
— Whoa, Fee. What’s up? What does he want?
— It’s a note really, and a copy of his will. Basically, Neil and I get nada. Nothing. It’s all going to wifey two.
— A few family trinkets. Neil’s getting grandpa’s piano for chrissakes. How’s he supposed to move that from Vancouver to Halifax? And Neil doesn’t even play anymore. It was Dad who was keen on that. As soon as he left, Neil quit. Basically, Dad knows nothing about us.
— What’s he leaving you?
— The family silver, which I suppose is worth something, but I’ll never use it. I hate it. After polishing it every Saturday morning for years and years. Never quite to his standards, mind you. I’d have to line it up on a cloth on the kitchen table for inspection and he always make a big joke out of rejecting a few pieces. But it was no joke to me.
— So some silverware with bad vibes, and that’s it?
— Yeah, that’s it. He says his first obligation is to Lorelei. We’re young and can look out for ourselves, but she’s got rheumatoid arthritis now so he wants to make sure she’s okay.
— Well, he does have to look after her. Especially if she’s sick. But his track record for truthfulness is kind of shaky.
— So what happens when she goes? I guess her kids will get everything. It’s so friggin’ unfair.
— A legacy of bitterness, says Luc.
— You’re so right. I’m furious. I mean what about Neil? He’s sick too. Doesn’t he even consider his own son? And there’s Mom, too. She’s not exactly rolling in it. He might leave her something. She is the mother of his children.
— How old’s your dad? Eighty-five?
— Eighty-four. But he’s healthy, as far as I know. He’s probably just getting things in order. I don’t know why he decided to tell us about the will now.
— Maybe it’s a trial balloon, to see how you’ll react. Wills can be changed.
— Or maybe he just wants to be mean, to bug us. That’s possible too, with Dad.
— I think you should go to a lawyer, or maybe a mediator. Get some professional advice on how to handle this.
— You mean figure out how to negotiate with him?
— Yeah. Let’s assume it is a trial balloon, that it’s not set in stone. I’m sure he doesn’t fully appreciate Neil’s situation. I mean it’s not like you’ve been calling with weekly updates.
— That’s true, says Fee slowly. Neil hasn’t talked to him since Christmas. I haven’t either.
— And does he know about our finances? How much we owe on this house? How much we’ve saved — or rather haven’t saved — for Gavin’s university? He might change his mind if you talked to him, if you opened up to him a bit.
— I don’t know, says Fee, shaking her head, he’s friggin’ stubborn. And cheap.
— But he does love you.
— I guess he does. Yeah, he does.
She looks up at Luc, grinning.
— How did you get to be such a smarty pants? Okay, I’ll go and talk to someone, work out a way to broach this with him so he doesn’t go ballistic.
— Stick to the facts. He’s a lawyer, he understands facts.
— Thanks, Luc, says Fee, giving him a full hug. My voice of reason.
— Chief cook and bottlewasher too. Shall I fire up the barbecue for the tandoori*?
*Grilled Tandoori Chicken
Note: Needs to marinate at least 8 hours.
1 ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup low-fat plain yoghurt
1 ½ teaspoon fresh ginger root, minced
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 ½ pounds chicken breasts, bone in
Juice of half a lemon
Place mustard in bowl, add oil, drop by drop, whisking until well blended. Stir in yoghurt.
Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind the ginger root, cumin, coriander seeds and turmeric to form a paste. Add lemon juice and mix well. Stir into yoghurt mixture with chopped chili.
Remove skin from chicken. Make very small cuts in the meat. Arrange in a shallow dish and pour the yoghurt mixture over. Flip to coat all pieces. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours (up to 24 hours).
- Barbecue chicken 15 to 20 minutes on each side (15 if the top is down on the barbecue), or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork. Watch carefully and turn to prevent burning.