Wine & Spirits

KITCHEN CHRONICLES: Kitchen wrestling

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.

Kitchen wrestling

—   What’s for breakfast? asks Gavin.

Fiona looks up from reading about the latest Embassy party, takes in Gavin standing at the kitchen door, practically blocking all the light. How did he get so big? she wonders for the hundredth time. He’s got her dark hair, her father’s height, but Luc’s nose.

—   Coffee, buddy, says Luc, raising his cup.

—   No way José, I don’t want to be a shrimp like you, says Gavin with a grin.

The offer is an old joke between them, dating back to when Gavin first started talking; now he’s thirteen.

—   There’s muffins and eggs and stuff in the fridge, says Fiona. Do you want me to fix you a gashouse egg*?

—   There’s a diner down the block, says Luc. My treat. Let’s check out the ’hood.

—   Bacon, bacon, bacon! chants Gavin. This is like camping, only better.

—   Better? asks Fiona.

—   No bears. I’ll get dressed.

Another delay, thinks Fiona. Now we won’t get started until late morning, if we get started at all.


—   Fee, says Luc, I didn’t mean to be short. It’s a new house, I want a fresh start. You always set the agenda at the old apartment: Saturday morning cleaning, wall colours, new stuff. It worked, don’t get me wrong, but I want it to be different here. I want a say in when and how we do things: what we buy, what renos we do — especially because I’ll be doing them.

—   Are you saying I’ve been bossy? she asks.

And she thinks: nothing would have got done if it were left to him; he’s always been so busy — school for years and years, now work.

—   Yep! Tu me mènes par le bout du nez!** But in a well-intentioned way, he says, grinning and grabbing her hand. I’ve been busy for years with school and working overtime. Too busy to take part and you wanted to make a nice home for all of us. And you did it.

—   And now? Now what are my motives? she says, taking her hand away.

—   I’m not saying they’ve changed, Fee, I’m only saying that now my circumstances have changed. I’m finished school, so there’s just work and I want to share this with you. I want to feel this is my house too.

She flips the page in her newspaper, pretending to read. What he means is he wants the control, she thinks. He already controls all the action in the bedroom, the when, what she should wear, how to do it. But she’s wary of starting that argument. I must talk to Anne about it sometime. She wonders if she has to give in on the household front as well. Where’s my little corner of control?

—   Look, she says, couples have to divvy up the responsibilities, right? You look after the finances, and you take charge in the bedroom.

She smiles so he knows this is a friendly reference, something she’s happy with, even though it’s not.

—   It’s not that I’m bossy, she continues, I just see the household stuff as doing my share. Taking on my portion of the burden. You do most of the cooking.

But as she talks, she’s thinking that maybe his way is better. Making all the decisions about the house is a burden — especially now that they own it. It would be a hell of a lot easier to share it … but make him think he’s winning, so that she gets the points.

—   But, says Luc, it’s different when you own a house. I’ll be doing the renos. I should get a say.

—   I guess you’ve got a point, she says. And it would be fun to do it together.

—   But not today, says Luc. I’m beat. And I have to work tomorrow — no choice there. So do you. Can’t we be happy for the day? Imagine all the things we’re going to do: the painting and where to put art and shelves. How to arrange our office spaces. Where to put the television, living room or the basement? A day of imagining, it’ll be fun.

Fiona knows how this can go. No matter what she says now, Luc won’t change his mind. Why am I pushing? she wonders. We’re going to be here for years; there’s loads of time to do stuff. Despite this rationalizing, she blurts out:

—   But we’ve already discussed most of that stuff. I’d like to go ahead and start doing things. Start with Gavin’s room anyway.

—   I’m doing my own room, announces Gavin. Come on, I’m starving.

Luc grins at her.

—   It’s a family conspiracy, Fee. Tell you what. I’ll put up the curtain rods in the bedrooms.

—   Okay! she says, quickly.

At least it’s something, she thinks, but she feels offended, realizes he’s just throwing her a crumb to get her off his back. Now he’s wrested control and she’s gained nothing.
Gashouse eggs
(per person)

Butter, soft
1 slice of bread
1 egg
Salt and pepper

  1. Lightly butter both sides of the bread. Use a paring knife to cut a two-inch wide circle in the centre of the bread.
  2. Heat skillet over medium heat.
  3. Place the bread slice in the skillet (you can fry the cut-out bit too, it’s delish). Put a dab of butter into the hole and crack the egg into the hole.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and fry until the bottom side is golden and crispy.
  5. Flip with a spatula and cook until done.
  6. Serve with the cut-out bit for dipping into the yolk. 

** Means to boss around.