Her head was back, blonde hair fluttering in the breeze that swept in from the sea, high above the roads and trees, over the little dotted lights of his city, banishing the heat from the balcony and the bed room. She sat on the metal box of the air conditioner that was fixed to the concrete of the balcony; smoke drifted softly from her open mouth, and the cigarette glowed in her fingers.
“Not any more,” she said, with an amused tangle in her voice, head turning up, cheeks creamy, touched with pink.
“I’m ravenous. I don’t think I ate much dinner.”
“Oh!? And what about the crab?” she was laughing now.
“I was so focused on showing you how to eat it right, and that I just barely ate one.” He nodded, stopping from saying more.
“So that was a demo one then?”
“The crab or the eating?” He kept his voice light, but now it was getting harder to do that.
She got up and kissed him, full and on his mouth. He tasted the arid, acid taste of used tobacco on her lips.
“I’m going to have dessert. Its in the fridge; I made it yesterday.”
“Oooh. What is it?”
“It’s a strawberry cream thing. I call it strawberry orgasm.” He’d called it that, way back when, after he had first made it after experimenting for weeks, and got it right, because he had thought it was cute at the time, and it had just rolled off the tip of his tonge, when he was cooking for friends, and laughing with them, but now he felt embarrassed as he said it.
His eyes dropped.
It was later, when she had shared his one, and scraped the delicate glass clean with the tiny spoon, that she asked with a sigh, “So how do you make that?”
He started off, glad for the simple question. “You wash your strawberries, and then slice them up really thin. Drop a forkful at the bottom of each shot glass, and then reduce about one, well one and half, cups of strawberries with a cup of vodka.”
She listened, still and quiet. Out side, the breeze dropped, and he could hear the roar of the sea, deep and strong and bitter.
“Add a little icing sugar as it thickens, and when it does, strain it, it should be very thick, but you can reduce it a little more in the micro wave…” He waved at the silver box on the black granite counter, as if to say, ‘there it is’ - like it mattered. “And when it is syrupy, add a little more vodka, mix it though and pour into the shot glasses, so that the strawberry slivers are just covered.
“You did all that? I should write this down.” Her voice trailed off.
“Yes, it’s a bit of work. Then you take the pulpy strawberry mess, that didn’t strain through, and you puree it, as fine as you can, straining it with a coarse mesh thingy again, at the end, not a fine one that is - and then I like to add cream or coconut milk, and gell it, like a panna cotta, over the vodka syrup at the bottom.”
“Wow,” she said. “Yeah, those layers are really some thing.”
“Then when its set, a few hours later – or the next day, add fresh whipped cream, and more slivers of strawberries on top.
“It was soo good!” she said, but already he wasn’t listening.
In the distance, but louder every moment, he could hear Siddha’s voice, high, lilting, lips red with strawberry syrup, saying after he had made it for her and Iqbal, of course, for the very first time,“It's tasty Krishna, but next time, you should put more sugar, no?– and don’t call it this funny name. How can I make it and tell?”
Iqbal had roared with laughter. “Just make it and tell darling!” He guffawed on, slapping Siddha’s back like she was a guy.
Excerpted from the unwritten chapter,
“Strawberries After Crab,” from my novel (in progress)
Plains Like a Calm Sea.
Publisher inquires are welcome.