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.
Fiona’s fed-up with Trish. She’s cancelled their last three dates; twice less than an hour before they were supposed to meet. It’s not like this has never happened before, but three in a row…. Fiona knows Trish is a bit of a flake, but she hates these last minute cancellations. It throws off her interminable scheduling and makes her wonder why she stays friends with Trish.
— I only have so much time for socializing, she complains to Luc.
— It’s disrespectful, he says. But you know what she’s like, and she is a hoot with all her misadventures. Her life’s a soap opera.
— I know, says Fiona, but she’s annoying too.
— You do have a choice. You could stop being friends.
— That’s so complicated. And so final.
— I guess I just have to realize she’s not reliable and not feel bad when she cancels on me.
— Or you could call her on it, says Luc.
Fiona says nothing. She’s used to being assertive with her freelancers and publisher, but a friend? Her stomach jiggles at the prospect.
Finally, she gets together with Trish for Saturday lunch; Gavin and Luc have gone to the science museum. Trish bursts into the kitchen, announcing she has “big news.”
— Guess, she says. You’ll never guess.
— You and Craig are getting married.
Trish has been gushing about Craig for two months now. Of course compared with Charles, almost anyone would be a saint, Fiona told Luc. But she’s happy that Trish has someone who treats her well.
— Nope, says Trish. Well not yet anyway, but maybe. I’m pregnant
Oh no, thinks Fiona, oh no. The poor kid. Trish is way too unstable to be having a baby. But Fiona’s too discrete to say it outright; besides, its Trish’s decision.
— So, what are you going to do? asks Fiona.
— What! No congratulations or best wishes? says Trish.
Tears are filling her eyes.
— A baby is a joyous event, says Fee carefully, but I’m wondering if this is the best timing for you.
— You had a baby at my age and it worked out okay, says Trish.
— Yes, but Luc and I had been together for a year and were already living together. I still think the timing could have been better for us, if we’d waited another year or so. But you can’t always plan these things.
— Exactly. I mean I wish Craig and I had been together longer too before this happened, but we love each other. That’s what matters, isn’t it?
— Of course, of course. But two months? You’re still in the limerence stage.
— The what?
— You know, the hormones are raging, the novelty is in the now, the sex is stupendous. Then things normalize, you detach, you slow down, the sex is more routine…you see more clearly. That’s the test.
— I’ve never heard that before. I suppose it makes sense. But then you hear about lots of people who married quickly and stayed married for decades. War brides and that.
— Yeah, but what choice did they have? They were parachuted in from overseas and had very little to go back to…. When I was a kid, the mother of a friend was a glam nightclub singer in London and she got wooed away by a handsome Canadian pilot. Promised all sorts of things, but she ended up in Renfrew, a small town for goodness sakes! And her husband worked in his father’s accounting business. Eventually inherited it, but still. She was chronically unhappy, depressed even. She kept mail-ordering these exquisite evening gowns, even though she had no place to wear them. Ended up wearing them to do her groceries. It was quite the sight. Anyway, I digress. What does Craig say about all of this?
— He wants to keep the baby. He says we’ll rent a small house, so we can have a garden and a yard. He’s being so sweet. He says he’ll look after us and I shouldn’t worry about anything.
Playing happy families, thinks Fiona. Sounds just like Luc when I told him about Gavin.
Trish is fiddling with her napkin.
— I haven’t decided yet, she says quietly.
— What does Craig say about not keeping it? asks Fiona.
— He says it’s up to me — it’s my body and all that — but he’d like to keep it.
— And your mom?
— I haven’t told her yet. She’s Catholic, after all. I’d be committing a grievous sin and would be bound for hell. Probably already am, come to that.
There is a pause; the wind rages against the kitchen window.
— What do you think I should do, Fee?
— It’s your decision, Trish. I’m reluctant to say one way or the other because you might hold it against me later on.
— I won’t, promise. I value your opinion, Fiona. You think I should have an abortion, don’t you?
— You should think about it. You want to have security and a loving home for your child and it’s too soon to know if Craig and you can provide that. You need to be sure of each other first.
— I feel sure. He’s been very kind to me.
— Compared to Charles, yeah. It’s all relative.
— Something smells good, says Trish. I’m starving!
— One of your favs, says Fiona. Tomato flan.*
— Oh yum! Anything I can do to help.
— Maybe make the tea, she says, getting up to make the toast.
*Tex-Mex tomato flan
Serves 2 generously
2 large tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup minced onion
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/4 cup 2% milk
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped green onions
- Preheat oven to 450 °F.
- If tomatoes are very juicy, pat dry. Layer tomatoes in a buttered, 9-inch pie pan and sprinkle with onions and jalapeno.
- Combine eggs, milk, and salt and pepper. Pour over tomatoes.
- Bake at 450 °F for 10 minutes, and then lower temperature to 350 °F. Cook 30 to 35 minutes or until custard is set.
- Top with sour cream, cheese and green onions.
- Serve with multigrain bread and a few greens or fresh fruit.