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.
Luc puts the pegs into the starting holes and pops a few cashews* into his mouth while Fiona shuffles and deals the cards. She wonders how to start a conversation about their session that afternoon with Dr. Foster. They usually see her every six months, just to keep their relationship in check. Over the years they’ve discussed less volatile subjects: division of housework, differences in child-rearing philosophies, money. This time though, Fiona scheduled an appointment after their argument in January and they’d finally hit their hot-button area: sex.
Fiona finishes dealing.
— Do you think Dr. Foster was helpful? she asks.
— Mon dieu! Can’t we just have a game of cards? asks Luc.
They both fan out their cards and begin sorting them into runs and sets of fifteen.
— I thought it went well, says Fee.
Luc sighs and sets his cards face down on the table.
— Obviously you want to talk about this, he says grudgingly.
— I do, says Fee. She said we should. Dr. Foster said.
— And you obviously get to choose the time, he says.
And Foster says I’m controlling, he thinks.
— Okay, fine. You go first, he says. How was it helpful?
— You know, I was surprised. I always thought you were the one who liked to be in control, but in some respects it seems you’ve been reacting to me wanting control.
Eureka, thinks Luc, she’s finally getting it.
— I’ve been trying to tell you that, he says Why is it you’ll listen to her, but not to me?
— I don’t know, Fiona says, shaking her head. Maybe it’s having someone on the outside. It was the way she put it, I just finally got it. I’m sorry I’ve been obtuse.
— It’s not always easy, living with you. Tour est réglé au quart de tour.
— What does that mean?
— Everything runs like a Swiss watch. Lots of structure.
— I guess that’s true enough, she admits. Especially around the house.
Luc can see she’s struggling with this idea. Typical type A, he thinks, not unkindly.
— It’s me too, he says. We never have time in these sessions to really get to the essence of it. It’s like a magazine version of a self-help book. You and I both know where I’m coming from: seven older brothers and sisters all telling me what to do. And Dad at the head, bossing us all around. I have this gut reaction to someone — anyone — telling me what to do. I know rationally, intellectually that often you’re right and I should listen and all that, but then, well…. When I disagree with you, or assert myself, it’s usually just a reflex.
— So you regret it later?
— No, not always.
— I am right some of the time, but other times…. Well, sometimes I listen to myself and I hear my father. But then once I’ve taken a stand — well, I’m stubborn.
— You, Luc? says Fee, smiling.
— I know, he says. Hard to believe. I was thinking about it during the session. I think I get stubborn when you get bossy. If you’d take it down a notch, I think I’d be more amenable.
— I’m not sure what you mean, says Fiona.
— I think it’s not so much the asking, it’s the way you put things. So assertive.
— Omigosh, do you think I sound like my mother? Please say no!
— No, she’s one of a kind, says Luc, smiling at her. But you do know how to throw your weight around.
— It’s my nature I guess, says Fiona. I think it’s partly why I’m a good journalist. We’re paid to try to make sense of the world, to order the universe, tie it up into a tidy package.
— Yeah, but as Katharine Hepburn says in The African Queen, “Nature is what we put on earth to overcome.”
— How do you remember these things? asks Fiona. I couldn’t quote a line from any movie.
— My nature, I guess, says Luc, smiling at her.
He pauses, picks up his cards again.
— So, he says, avoiding eye contact, what about sex?
— What about it?
— You seemed to have lots to say to Dr. Foster about it. That I was controlling.
His eyes meet hers.
— Well, you are Luc. You know you are. I used to try to initiate but then you’d be turned off. You know what I’m talking about.
Luc recoils from this accusation.
— That was a long, long time ago, Fee. People change you know. We’ve changed. When have you tried to initiate lately?
— Why would I when it doesn’t work? And your rejection…well, it hurts.
— Fee, come on. You’re talking about ancient history. Yes, I used to be intimidated by you. Who wouldn’t be? You’re such a powerhouse. Back then, I needed to know that, at least in bed, I was in control.
— But not now?
— Not so much. Plus, we’re more settled sexually together.
— So I should try again….
— Wouldn’t hurt, he says. I mean after fourteen years, it might be nice to spice things up a little bit. I thought Dr. F had some interesting ideas for playing around.
— Soft porn? I don’t think so, says Fiona. But maybe art pictures….
— And toys? he asks.
— Well, it might be fun to go shopping, she says. Look around. I already have one.
— You do?
— Yeah, a girl’s best friend, next to diamonds of course.
— You have a vibrator? You?
— Are you telling me you never masturbate, Luc? I mean just because you’re in a relationship…. Well you know how it is. Sometimes I’m in the mood and you’re not, our vice versa. Or you’re tired.
— I guess, says Luc. I just never thought….
— What, that I had the libido?
— I guess.
— That’s because you don’t want to see it. You’d rather…. I don’t know what you’d rather believe. I guess that my sexuality is only in response to you.
— You make me sound like a monster.
— No, controlling. I do understand where you’re coming from. I think we should just put the past aside and get on with it. We’ve agreed to do a couple of things: pictures and toys. I think that’s a good place to the start, don’t you?
— Definitely, he says, winking at her. We could start now if you like.
*Spicy curry cashews
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound raw cashews
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Grind the spices and salt together with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder.
- Heat oil over medium in a sauté pan. Add spices, stir for 2 minutes to toast.
- Remove from heat, add cashews and toss until nuts are coated.
- Put nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until nuts are brown, turning once.
Thanks to Bob Bulmer’s The Surreal Gourmet for this delicious recipe.