Chapter 9. The Secret Recipe Revealed
[Chapter 10 will be available on April 1, 2015]
Vanessa felt a tickle of excitement or was it dread as she waited for Jack to disclose the secret recipe which he was so certain would win the contest.
He opened a battered looking loose leaf notebook with loose leaf pages inside. “This has been in our family for more than fifty years. I know it is not very old for France, but it contains recipes that were recopied from even older scraps of paper and cards. I have made photocopies of each page, which now reside in a bank's safety deposit box and also in a very secure location on the cloud.”
I smiled. “It looks like you're covered no matter what disaster could occur.”
“Oui. You may think this a silly arrangement, but it is not when our family's well being resides on these recipes.”
I was beginning to get tired of hearing this litany of family, family, family. After all this was the 21st Century. Time to move on. “No, not at all. It's wonderful that you have been able to keep these safe through the years.”
Jack threw me a suspicious look, but moved on. “Here this is the recipe I will teach you in the next few days. And you will practice it until you could do it in your sleep.”
I took the notebook and looked at the page. I couldn't figure it out. For some reason I couldn't read it.
“It's in French, of course and using liters, etc. I just wanted you to see the original. Here is the translated recipe that you will work from.” He handed me two laminated sheets.
The first was entitled: “Lavender Pork Loin with Gingered Figs and Raisins.”
“It sounds tasty,” I quipped. “Something that might come from California.”
“Our climate and the climate of some regions of California are similar. So it is not surprising we have kindred foods. But you notice the first word is LAVENDER. That is what we are focusing on.
“The recipe methods are simple, but time consuming. There are three main steps: Marinating the figs, marinating the pork, and preparing the sauce. Then there is the actual roasting process and the construction of the dish.”
“What about lavender? Where does that come in?”
“We will get to that in due time.”
Jack was kind but firm as we went through the various steps of preparing the marinade. Tomorrow we would do the actual roasting and sauce making and it would be served for dinner. The family would all be there to judge the results. Although part of me was annoyed that I was the one who would be on the firing line, another part of me was rising to the challenge, thinking, by golly I can cook the pants off these Frenchies.
Unfortunately, yet another part of me was worrying about Charlie, my dog. Had I come all the way to France to lose the most precious person (yes, he was a person to me) in my life.
After a delicious lunch which Jack had thrown together with cheese, day old baguettes, cornichons, and truffle oil, I sat in my room. Charlie was snuggled across my lap. I opened the letter from Dumpy Dan.
“I was surprised you did go to France. Sounds like a boring trip to me, but to each his own. I'm writing to give you a heads up, as an old bud. You must have lost your cell phone, cause none of my tweets are going through. I got a call from an old bird, name of Jacob Lay. He's looking for you says it will be to your advantage. I gave him your address in France, got it from your bud, Sylvia. Well, to tell the truth he gave me 100 dollars—that's full disclosure, sweetie. I figured why not make some money. He's not going to kill you, right. Well, have fun in moldy old France if you can. Love, Dan.”
I shook my head. How had I ever considered a future with this guy. He sold me out for $100, not that it mattered cause I'd told the vet's office it'd be OK to give Lay my address. Of course I had no idea he wanted Charlie.
Again, he whimpered. The white fluffy pup must be psychic and could read my mind.
I had to disturb him as I got up to answer a soft knock on my door.
It was Lucy “Hi, I hope I didn't wake you.”
“No, I was just reading.”
“I just wanted you to know that I got in touch with Claude, my lawyer friend, and he said he'd look into dog ownership laws and get back to me. He said you shouldn't worry. French laws are very strict regarding animals and they usually weigh on what's best for the animal.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate that everyone is being so nice to me.”
“Well, you're doing a lot for us. And to partially repay you how about a little road trip?
You haven't been anywhere except this old chateau and the grounds.”
“Jack did take me to the local markets which was very interesting.” I'd never been that interested in raw food before. But there must have been twenty different kinds of mushrooms, and more than a hundred types of cheese.
“Get, a jacket and be sure your wearing walking shoes. We'll take a tour of the countryside. Oh, and bring Charlie. If he likes car rides.”
Charlie's ears perked up. He'd been standing, looking from one to other of us. I swear he could understand. He scampered to the door and whined.
“Well, as you can see he won't be left behind.”
“See you downstairs in 15 minutes, OK.”
Lucy drove a colorful purple and pink car. I guess she could afford a custom paint job. When I admired it, she said. "I spend a lot of time in my car and if it's not fun, what's the point."
She took me into the small village that held the market but we stopped on a different street and browsed in several very small shops were about as wide as their door entrance. Lucy whispered, “It's best if you don't touch anything. If you want to see something close up, ask the clerk. They don't want their merchandise to get 'shop worn'.
There were beautiful fabrics and china, but as I had no home back in the streets I had no use for them. I” d been staying in my folks' condo while they were in Thailand but I'd have to find a place of my own when I returned. A place that allowed dogs, of course.
I was entering a shop, when a slim, blond haired man about thirty-five, blinded by the southern sun tried to to exit, jostling me. “Sorry, almost had a naval engagement there.” he apologized. I was surprised to hear an expression my former sailor father used to describe 'bumping belly buttons'. I smiled and stepped aside so he could step out. He grinned until he saw Lucy. “Oh, it's you.”
“Hello, Ricard,” Lucy said coolly and pushed me into the store.
“What's the matter?” She was usually so friendly I wondered why she didn't stop to chat.
“He's your competition. His family owns a neighboring lavender farm and they will be participating in the recipe contest.”
“But if he's a neighbor, you must have gone to school with him. Isn't he a friend?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Perhaps Jacques did not explain. This contest is called 'The Lavender Wars.' And we do not fraternize with the enemy.”
To be continued on April 1, 2015