It has been a while, hasn’t it? Thanks to @AnkleBuster (Mitchell Allen) for letting me know that the Creative Copy Challenge had been resurrected!
This week’s words: Act, Tougher, Quality, Contribute, Hockey, Soft, Sandwich, Colour, Hopeful, Nimble
See Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #344 for more details.
Culinary Arts and Letters
A Fictional Reality Show
Easton stepped up to the mic and scanned the hopeful faces of the eight young culinary artists who had survived the first five rounds of the competition. He calculated the odds of any one of them going on to become anything more than a sous chef and sighed. “Today’s challenge is to make a sandwich,” he announced.
Callista had been studying the judges, learning their tastes. Ms. Stanton would, no doubt, prefer watercress, Havarti, and a grainy brown mustard on a flaky croissant. Mr. Chance would shun anything that didn’t involve a generous hunk of meat – with Chance, it was all “Paleo” this and “caveman” that. Darius Brown looked as if he were staring down Death by Boredom and losing – for him, it was all about the olfactory and visual intrigue. “Food should tell a story,” he was fond of saying. Rumor had it that Brown had undergone a procedure and now had to take all his meals by gastric feeding tube, anyway.
In the first four rounds, no one had managed to please all the judges; Callista had survived by being merely adequate, and by failing to contribute to the judges’ collective disgust with some of the entrants’ offerings. The only thing they could all agree on was her nemesis, Lance Callaway’s, dessert. That would be a tougher act to follow.
At the market, Callista selected the freshest cilantro, ripe red tomatoes, piquant purple onions, and juicy pineapples straight off the plane from Lanai. She would bake the bread, herself, so that it would be the perfect balance of soft and crusty, toasted to the colour of warm caramel and dusted lightly with sea salt. In the kitchen, her nimble fingers worked a mixture of mashed black beans, quinoa, cilantro, onions, and pineapple, forming it into patties roughly the shape of a large hockey puck. She pan-fried, then lightly grilled them to produce little charred lines reminiscent of the Kobe steaks she knew Chance preferred. She garnished them with fresh sprigs of cilantro and a dollop of spicy mango-habanero aioli. The top of the warm, fragrant bun she left tilted like a jaunty beret against the patty, and she hoped that that, plus a tiny side salad of perky baby lettuces and herbs would, perhaps, whisper their story – which she hoped wouldn’t be too tragic – to Darius Brown. At least no animals were harmed in the making of this production, and Callista knew that would win her points with Ms. Stanton.
Easton watched the contestants as they worked. He thought back to the sandwiches his mother had made him, as a child – the endless peanut butter and jelly on Wonder Bread; the fried bologna and pickle; the fish sticks on stale rye. Whatever these kids were making, they weren’t “sandwiches.” He felt a twinge of unaccustomed emotion. Easton wasn’t sure if he longed for the familiar foods of his own childhood, or if he had missed out on something amazing. But it was fascinating to watch them transform the ordinary into something… something almost bizarre.
Callista, though, stood out from the others. It wasn’t her culinary prowess that attracted Easton’s notice, but her brilliant, calculated strategy. He was onto her – he wondered if the judges, self-centered as they were, caught up in their own little worlds, would even notice the effort. He hoped the quality was as good as the idea – because, all cleverness aside, they would have to taste good.
As the judges tasted the entries, they made little faces; their wrinkled noses, puckered lips, and raised eyebrows spoke volumes. But when they tasted Callista’s sandwiches, they closed their eyes, tastebuds transported in unison to Nirvana, from the looks of it – well, Chance and Stanton did, anyway. Darius Brown stared intently into the lettuce and nodded, quietly murmuring to himself and nodding, once, as if in accord.
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