My late husband could never learn the word vegan; he always said veegen. So the cook’s pronunciation is in memory of my dearest love.
No actual roast beef was involved in the actual meal I made, which is detailed in today’s story.
Stay Out of the Kitchen
by Marian Allen
It was scorching hot on deck. It was brutal down in the galley, even with the electric fans going. All they were doing were blowing hot air, just like the captain.
The two youngsters, the newest members of the crew, were as pale as their different colorings would allow, with heavy flushes up their necks and into their cheeks.
“Drink that water.” The cook, who was training them to replace himself, pointed his chef’s knife at the one-liter plastic bottles in front of them. “That’s what I give them to you for.” He went back to cutting carrots into lengths and quarters. “Gotta keep hydrated. The heat’ll kill you if you don’t.”
The young men, side-eying each other and the large man with the knife, uncapped the bottles and drank deeply.
“Now, the captain,” the cook said, “says he wants a better class of charter. Says fish and frybread and canned peas and such is low class. Right? He tell you that?”
The youngsters nodded in tandem, one chopping parsley and the other crushing garlic.
“Naw, naw, naw.” The cook instructed each of them how to do the job better, more quickly, more efficiently, more neatly.
“So,” the cook said, “I quit. Food ain’t nothing but food, and anybody that thinks just-caught fish and canned veg ain’t real food ought to stay inland.”
The trainees kept their heads down, afraid they’d be expected to agree. They didn’t agree. They’d been chosen to train for the galley because they had complained about the sameness of the grub on board.
“Okay,” the cook said. “Captain wants us to make one of his new fancy meals. Here we go.”
The taller trainee looked around and said, “Where’s the cookbook?”
The cook screwed up his face. “The what?”
His foot already in it, the trainee said, “The recipe.”
The cook snorted. “That’s funny.”
He got out a huge sheet pan and turned on the propane oven. “Like it ain’t hot enough in here,” he said. “We prolly could just put this out on deck and cook it as quick.”
He rummaged in the refrigerator and pulled out a couple of containers. “Captain laid this stuff in before we left port. Got yer bristle sprouts that look like baby cabbages, got yer shit-talky mushrooms.” He washed the produce and spread it on the sheet pan, adding the carrots. He reached for his can of bacon grease, then slapped his own wrist. “Gotta use the virgin olive oil. Old whore bacon grease ain’t classy.” He sloshed olive oil over the vegetables on the sheet pan, read the labels on the spices the captain had given him, and chose Everything Bagel Seasoning. “Gimme that garlic and parsley.” He added those to the pan and tossed everything together, then spread it out in a single layer.
“Where’s the fish?” the shorter trainee said. “Or the meat?”
The cook brushed the side of his bald head with the edge of his hand, as if pushing long hair behind his shoulders. “This is for veegens.”
“Vegans,” said the taller youngster, before he could stop himself.
The cook ignored the correction and slid the pan into the hot oven.
The taller trainee took another slug of water and forced himself not to throw it up.
“Cookie,” he said, “I need to go up top.”
“Me, too,” said the other.
Cookie raised his eyebrows and looked from one to the other and back. “You don’t leave the kitchen while stuff is cooking. What’s wrong with you?”
He meant How could you be so ignorant, but what was wrong with them was heat exhaustion.
Just as the captain walked in to check on progress, first one and then the other trainee folded up and collapsed on the deck.
The captain had them taken to the infirmary and cooled down.
“Cookie…,” the captain began.
“Not everybody’s cut out for this,” Cookie said.
“Do you think…,”
“I might could stay.” The cook went back to the icebox and hefted out the huge beef roast he’d made the day before. As he sliced it paper-thin, he said, “But not everybody’s veegen.”
I served this over quinoa and (obvs) topped it with chopped green onion.
MY PROMPT TODAY: This dish.