“Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory. Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.”
I am sitting at the table with my siblings. The door leading to the courtyard is open and the cooing of pigeons mixes with the buzz of traffic and swoops in like an uninvited fairy godmother. There’s a plate of French fries on the table. We’re not supposed to pick any before we’re told to, but the temptation is strong within us. We’re eyeing grandma by the stove. She’s putting the finishing touches to the steaks; a bit of salt here, a bit of pepper there, and then she flip-flops the meat to make sure it’s browned just right on both sides. The smell of the fat popping in the pan has me fidgeting on my seat. I look at the French fries again. They’re smoking in the plate in thin, flavorful volutes. God, I want to shove my face in them so bad! They’re the small potato type too; quarted and unpeeled, peppered with salt and fresh Provencal herbs and barely sautéed. I know the skin is going to be crunchy and the middle tender. I really want one.
As if reading my mind, grandma throws a look back at us.
“Almost ready,” she smiles.
A car honks in the street below and I tap on the side of my plate like an addict waiting for his fix. It’s a slow tick beating to the crackling of the steaks. Soon my tick is accompanied by the tack of my older brother flicking his fork against the tabletop. My younger brother, fork and knife in his tiny fists, joins our rhythm. My sister follows suit and suddenly we’re sounding like an army marching to battle.
“Enough!” Grandma shouts.
We go quiet.
“It’s almost ready, I said.”
She’s trying to look severe but her eyes are smiling. She knows the routine.
She lifts the pan from the stovetop and slides the steaks on a plate. I grab mypaper napkin and start methodically tearing it into small rectangles that I hide under the lid of my plate.
Grandma finally serves us. She puts a steak in each of our plates with a ball of butter on top. The butter starts melting right away. I roll it around the meat with my fork. I like it when it’s evenly spread. Then I cut my meat in small cubes while granda give us ladle-fulls of French fries. When she turns around to get the water from the fridge, I wrap one of my cubes of meat with a piece of paper towel and pop it in my mouth.
“Eew,” my sister says.
I give her a big smile mostly full of teeth, fork a French fry in my mouth, and chew with abandon.
Best. Meal. Ever.
I guess I was a bit weird as a kid.
Cyril Bussiere 06-13-2014