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Home Cooking

by spud 

Posted: 26 November 2003
Word Count: 1088
Summary: This is a re-written piece. Those of you who read the original - well I hope this is a little more coherent!

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“Would you like to come back for tea tomorrow?” Fiona whispered, sitting opposite me. Would I like to go back to Fiona’s for tea tomorrow? We had recently moved house and I now had the tag of ‘new girl’ at the local school. I was desperate to make friends and here was Fiona Stewart, the most popular girl in the class, inviting me back for tea. Grinning, I nodded vigorously. “Great…” she mouthed, and then in another whisper, “…oh, and Mum wants to know if you like shepherd’s pie?” Hastily I scribbled ‘Yum, it’s my FAVOURITE!’ and slid the note across the desk to her. I hadn’t written that just to make an impression either. Shepherd’s pie really is, I think, the most wonderful food in the world. After school I floated home in a dream. I had been invited back to Fiona’s house. I would be eating shepherd’s pie at Fiona’s house. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

I got home, pushed the flap of the letterbox and shouted through it “Hi Mum, I’m back”. I could see that, as usual, Mum was in the kitchen. She came towards the front door and fumbled a bit with the latch before finally pulling it open. “Hi love. Good day at school?” Bending down, she pecked me on the cheek and gave me a quick hug. Her hands were dusty white with flour and the smell of freshly baked bread clung to her clothes and wafted along the hall from the kitchen. My mum is a fantastic cook. She makes the most delicious meals, bakes the best cakes and bread, and as for her puddings? Well, there aren’t enough words to adequately describe them. Excitedly I told her about Fiona’s invitation. “…and shepherd’s pie as well!” she laughed, “It certainly sounds like a recipe for a great afternoon. Tea will be ready in a little while. Why don’t you go upstairs, change out of your uniform and then you can tell me all about the rest of your day?” I took the stairs two at a time, changed quickly and went back down to the kitchen.

“What’s for tea tonight Mum?” I asked, flopping into a chair at the kitchen table. This was our regular routine; Mum making tea whilst we chatted or I did my homework. “Stir fry vegetables and noodles.” Didn’t I say that she’s a great cook? The water was bubbling in the pan ready for Mum to drop the noodles in. I love to watch the steam rise and condense as it hits the kitchen tiles, and then try to guess which of the water droplets will win as they race down the walls.
“So tell me about the rest of your day - oh and pass me a pepper and an onion will you love?” I reached across to the vegetable rack; you know the type, three-tiered, plastic, white, not very pretty but it does the job. “Catch” I aimed a red pepper over the table and Mum caught it deftly in one hand.
“We played netball in P.E. and I scored two goals. Mrs. Smith said I could try for the netball team.”
“That’s fantastic! Now, watch this.”
I knew what was coming – Mum’s party piece. She removed the stalk from the pepper and scooped out the tiny white seeds. Starting at the top, turning it slowly and working downwards Mum carefully cut through its smooth waxy skin. Then, flourishing one hand above her head and holding the top of the pepper in the other…”Da daar!” the rest of the pepper spiralled down and bounced in mid-air. Mum grinned broadly, gathered the pepper up in her hands and then proceeded to chop it into more manageable pieces.
“Here’s the onion Mum.”
I handed her a large purple one. She grimaced, opened the cutlery drawer, took out a teaspoon and clenched it between her teeth. I stifled a giggle. No matter how quickly Mum peeled the onion’s crinkled papery outer-skin and then sliced it, the teaspoon trick never worked. The onion retaliated as soon as it was cut into and Mum’s eyes began to stream.
“I don’t know why you keep trying Mum” I laughed.
“Well…” she said stoically “…it’s either that or chewing stale bread and I know which one I’d rather do.”
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands and placed the pepper and onion into a bowl of bean shoots and mushrooms. Kneeling, she opened a cupboard and took out the frying pan.
“So you’ve got your first invite back to a friend’s house and you’re going to try out for the netball team. Sounds as if you’re settling in really well at school.”
She moved to the cooker, turned the gas on and placed the frying pan on the hob.
“Yes. Fiona’s really nice. I can’t wait to go back to her house. She said we could make up dance routines, or sing along to her karaoke machine.”
Mum added a drop of oil to the frying pan and then tipped in the medley of vegetables. They began to sizzle and shiver in the oil.
“Pass the soy sauce love. Karaoke machine? Sounds as if you’re going to have a great time. Tea’s ready by the way.”
Mum was right, tomorrow afternoon was going to be great. I could just imagine it. Fiona and I singing karaoke whilst her mum cooked shepherd’s pie.
“Mmm, that smells wonderful Mum.” And it really did; a heady, spicy fragrance that made me realise how hungry I was.

The next day the hands on the classroom clock seemed to be on a go-slow. When they finally reached ‘end of school time’ Fiona and I raced most of the way to her house.
“Hi Mum, we’re back”, Fiona hollered.
“Hi you two. Good day at school?” Her mum, Mrs Stewart, was sitting at the kitchen table in a grey jacket and matching skirt.
“I’ve just got in from work. Why don’t you go upstairs for a while and I’ll let you know when tea is ready.”
I was half way up the stairs when her mum called after me.
“Fiona said that you like shepherd’s pie, is that right?”
I smiled and nodded.
“Great.” She sounded relieved.
As I started up the stairs I looked back towards the kitchen. Mrs Stewart had opened the fridge and was taking out a cardboard pack. From where I stood I could see that the words on the packaging read ‘Tesco’s Shepherd’s Pie – Family Size’.

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Comments by other Members

Bobo at 09:27 on 26 November 2003  Report this post
Hi Steph - really enjoyed this, tho' hadn't read the original so can't compare the 2. You've managed to put the voice of a child over convincingly - no mean feat as getting the balance right is tricky...all too often it can sound crass / parodied. The excitement of acceptance came across powerfully, and the ending made me smile - it conveyed the duality of modern women's role excellently.

Wel done!

BoBo x

spud at 10:56 on 26 November 2003  Report this post
Thanks Bobo

The original piece was a little stodgy - too much cooking, not enough about the relationship and the child's voice. Thanks to some helpful advice from other WW members I hoped that I would be able to rescue it. So you can appreciate that I read your comments with a sense of relief! Hope that others feel the same.


Spud :-)

Account Closed at 19:06 on 26 November 2003  Report this post
Yes Spud, the balance is definately better here and I like the dialogue in the kitchen. I'd still like to hear something about the dad or that good-cook mum has a flaw even a little one! She seems too perfect to me - puts all us other mums to shame!!!

spud at 19:23 on 26 November 2003  Report this post
Thanks Elspeth

I hadn't really considered a 'Dad' figure - suspect it harks back to my childhood - dad always arrived home just in time for tea. And as for the too perfect mum, well in the eyes of the daughter she is perfect, and it is written from her perspective. However, I do take your point.

Thanks for taking another look - I think I've had enough of cooking. Just about to order a Chinese takeaway!



Becca at 07:47 on 29 November 2003  Report this post
Neat story Steph, made me hungry. Your writing is fluid, I'd like to see more stories.

spud at 09:26 on 29 November 2003  Report this post
Thanks Becca, I really appreciate your comment. As to more stories - well they are in the pipeline.



Skippoo at 22:27 on 01 December 2003  Report this post
Hi Steph,

I'm coming to this fresh as I haven't read the original. I thought this was a really lively and readable piece - the sort of thing I'd read when I want cheering up.

I agree the child's POV is convincing, and well sustained. There's one slip, though: the description of the vegetable rack sounds adult to me (good image, anyway - made me remember the blue one in my childhood kitchen).

Fiona and Mum are so happy and enthusiastic! What an idyllic childhood! Do people really have childhoods like this? Because of that, part of me wanted a more horrible shock at the end than a Tesco ready meal. But that's because I'm a miserable/sadistic cow. I still thought the ending was a neat touch, though.

One small thing: Tesco's packing would not say Tesco's, but Tesco[/]!

Look forward to reading more of your work.



Whoops - sorry about the bodged attempt at italics!

spud at 07:55 on 02 December 2003  Report this post

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment - it's really appreciated. And I do take the various points you have made on board.

Just one minor point in return, the narrator's friend is Fiona, not the narrator herself.

As for the bodged italics - I haven't a clue how to even bodge them, so you are one step ahead of me!

Thanks again


Skippoo at 08:20 on 02 December 2003  Report this post
So sorry for the name mix-up (it used to really wind me up when people got my character's names mixed up in critiques and now I'm guilty too!).


Sue H at 09:09 on 14 December 2003  Report this post
This is lovely. You write in a very visual way and it certainly made me hungry! I agree with Cath though that it's too perfect. Maybe you should expand on Fiona's house and the difference between the mothers.
Really nice story.

darkstar at 21:52 on 12 January 2004  Report this post
I really liked your punchline, and it set up a great contrast between the two families. The child assumes that Fiona's family is just like hers, so that the shock of the ready meal is that much greater. The characterisation of the narrator is good too - you give her a sort of breathless enthusiasm that makes me picture an eager eleven year old.

However, I must admit when I was reading it, I did wonder when it was set, there can't be many women these days who spend all their time in the kitchen, although maybe she runs a catering business! And I'll echo others and say it did seem a little too perfect - but then perhaps that was partly the point?


spud at 23:27 on 12 January 2004  Report this post

Thanks for your comments. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised as I thought that this piece was 'done and dusted' in terms of other WW members commenting on it.

You got the idea of the narrator exactly. And yes, it does seem too perfect, but that is exactly how the narrator views her life with her mum - very simplistic child's eye view. It was inspired by my childhood memories of my mum, who always seemed to be in the kitchen when I got home from school, although in realaity she had been out to work, done the shopping etc. But of course I didn't see that part of her life at the time (being at school).

Thanks for taking the time to read it and to comment.



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