Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald, a novelist and award-winning journalist and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.
— Luc? Are you home? Luc?
— Upstairs, Fee. I’ll be right down.
Fiona puts down her panier and takes off her biking shoes. She notes that her heart is still pounding. The smell of cauliflower soup* flooding the kitchen — a smell she would normally love — makes her feel nauseous.
— Hey there darling, says Luc, giving her a kiss. He pauses to peer at her pale face. What’s wrong?
— I just got flashed, she says.
— You what?
— Flashed. Well, more actually. I was biking home on the path just past the bridge and I saw this bright colour in the shrubbery across the river. So I glance over, then do a double take. There’s this man standing there, holding his turquoise T-shirt above his head with one hand, but peeking out of the head hole. And with his other hand, he’s handling himself.
— Pervert! Did he see you?
— I’m sure he did. He turned toward me and then dropped his thing. It was flaccid, so obviously he wasn’t even having that much fun. He was a young guy, too, and in good shape. Flat stomach.
— What did you do?
— Well, I sure as heck didn’t stop. I was astounded. Is he a perv? Is he a university student on a dare? Then I started to laugh. I mean it was just too ridiculous. He obviously wasn’t turned on. It’s pathetic. Then I started to think that maybe I should call the cops. I mean it’s okay for me, I couldn’t give a toss, but what if he flashed a young girl or an old lady? Do you think I should report him?
— Yes, definitely. It’s against the law. You don’t need to call 911 though. I’ll find the general number.
He starts tapping on his phone.
— I’m just glad he was across the river, Fiona says. I mean what if he’d been right in front of me?
Luc wraps his arms around her, bringing her in close.
— I’m so glad nothing happened, Fee. Sit down darling, let me find the number.
His anger rises. What if the perv had confronted Fiona? What if he’d tried something? Bastard! Luc thinks. If he’d touched her…
He finds the number.
— Here, he says, handing Fiona his phone.
The police officer thanks her for the report. She says they’ve had a lot of incidents along the city’s bike paths — men exposing themselves, saying indecent things, even attacking women.
— It’s not flashing, Fiona says to Luc after she’s hung up, it’s public indecency. I’m glad I phoned. I had no idea it was such a problem.
— Me neither, says Luc. People probably don’t call it in.
— Yeah, she says.
— What if there’s an I.D. line-up? says Luc. What would they say? Okay, drop your pants.
— And if they ask how tall he was, says Fiona, giggling, I’d say, oh, about six inches.
— So you were looking, says Luc, grinning at her.
— Who wouldn’t? I mean how often do you get the chance to gawk? What I don’t get is why someone would do it?
— The thrill of upsetting someone, of being seen but being anonymous at the same time.
— Maybe it’s a chance to be sexual without the risk of rejection, Fiona says. Have you ever…?
— No, but a friend of mine did when we were about 13. We were playing Truth or Dare, Gerard, me, and this girl Danielle, who was in the next grade. I had a big crush on her. She had this long brown hair that was all curly and she had immense breasts.
Breasts, thinks Fiona, it’s always the breasts. Despite herself, she feels a surge of jealousy for this distant, adolescent crush.
— We were in Gerard’s rec room. Most people in Portage didn’t have things like rec rooms, but his parents were relatively well off. I forget what his father did for a living, something at the mill. He was an only child, so maybe that’s why they had money. Anyway, Danielle asked him if he’d ever touched himself while thinking of her. He refused to say, so she dared him to drop his pants, and he just did it, without even thinking. And his penis was so pathetically small and shrivelled. She started laughing and pointing and laughing. I’m sure he’s still traumatized about it. I didn’t like her after that.
— But that’s not really the same as flashing, because she was right there and it was consensual. In fact she asked to see.
— Yeah, but it seems related in my mind, because we just watched. And he was so willing. It was very weird.
— It’s a sad state of affairs, she says. So many people looking for love in all the wrong ways.
*Gobika soup (cauliflower)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped roughly
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 medium potatoes, peeled, and diced into 1/3-inch pieces
½ pound (2-plus cups) cauliflower, washed and broken into florets
5 cups chicken stock (can make from bouillon cube)
2/3 cup cream
1. Chop onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle on spices and heat.
2. Add potatoes, cauliflower and stock.
3. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the potato is tender.
4. Blend soup in blender in 2 batches (carefully, it’s hot).
5. Pour back into pot, add cream and heat gently.
Can be frozen without cream.
Thanks to Josefine Lami for this recipe.