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.
— How are your feet? asks Fiona without turning around from the counter, where she’s preparing the sauce for butter chicken.*
He’s such an idiot, she thinks. What if the neighbours saw him running around starkers in the snow? How impressive.
— I’m fine, Luc snarls.
— That was quite the stunt last night, she continues. You could have slipped, you know, she says. You could have done yourself some damage.
— Well, I didn’t, so stop fretting, he replies. Where’s the aspirin?
— Hung? she asks.
— J’ai mal aux cheveux**.
— Serves you right. They’re in the cupboard above the phone.
She turns to him.
— I’ll never understand all the competitiveness between you and Georges. Where’s the enjoyment in that?
— It’s just the way we are. It works for us.
— It seems so superficial. Martin Amis says friendship has this mysterious power. “You show your friend your weakness, and somehow you are both stronger.”
— It isn’t all superficial, Fiona. Sure we have our share of pissing contests, but he confides in me too. About Giselle.
D’oh. He curses himself for bringing that up.
— He did break that off, didn’t’ he? asks Fiona.
— Luc shrugs and downs his two aspirins with a slug of tepid tap water.
— It’s like I said: he told me he would and that’s the last I heard of it. It’s really not my business.
— But we had a deal, Luc. Either he breaks it off or I tell Anne, before she asks me.
— I don’t want to bug him right now. You know he’s having problems at work, that lawsuit. Il passe un mauvais quart d’heure***. Besides, I think he has broken it off with Giselle, although he was pretty smitten.
— With her, or with the sex? She’s younger right?
— It’s one of the pitfalls of marriage, says Luc. It’s inevitable that the edge wears off and you fall into a routine in bed.
— Even if you’re not married? she asks.
— Same diff, says Luc. Long-term relationships, it doesn’t matter about the social construct. After a while the passion ebbs.
— Is that the way you feel about us? she asks.
— Be realistic, Fee, you know it’s the truth.
— We’re good, she says, softening.
— Yeah, we are, in general. But it’s not like it used to be, he says.
— Well, maybe if you’d let me take some initiative once in a while, it might spice things up a bit.
— What did you have in mind?
— I’d rather show than tell, Luc. Anyway, you know what I’m talking about. Every time I try to take some initiative….
— Take charge, you mean.
— Does it have to be competitive? Isn’t it just about the pleasure?
— Of course, and for me the pleasure is being a man.
— What does that mean? Of course you’re the man. Are you talking about some stereotyped, macho man? Is that what this is all about?
— Ah Fee, will you lay off. I have a screaming headache, and we’re both in a bad mood. I just want a quiet breakfast.
— Fine, she says, and turns back to the counter to finish the marinade. But I’m making an appointment with Dr. Foster for us.
I don’t want to talk about our sex life in front of her, thinks Luc. But he hasn’t got the energy to continue the fight. Later, he thinks.
— Do what you have to, he sighs, hoping she’ll forget.
*Chicken Makahni (butter chicken)
Serves 4 to 6
2/3 cup plain yogourt
1 teaspoon ginger paste (or finely minced ginger)
1 teaspoon salt
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup butter
1 inch cinnamon stick
6 green cardamoms
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed
2/3 cup 10% cream
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons ground almonds
1. Mix yogurt, ginger paste and salt.
2. Cut chicken into two-inch chunks.
3. Rub yogurt mixture into chicken and let marinate 8 hours or overnight.
4. Place chicken in an ovenproof dish and brush with oil. Bake at 375 °F for 40 minutes. Pour off liquid, if any, and save.
5. In a saucepan, melt butter and fry cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms and bay leaf for 1 minute.
6. Add sour cream, chicken liquid, crushed saffron and 10% cream. Cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.
7. Add chicken pieces and ground almonds. Cover and simmer for 4 minutes.
8. Remove from heat. Serve with naan, basmati rice and green beans.
**To be so hung over that your hair aches.
***He’s going through a bad patch.