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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Comedy · #2222994
Beth attempts to make her grandmother's stew, a recipe handed down for generations
Write a story 1000 words or less or a poem 40 lines or less about a character who is attempting to follow a recipe they've never made before... what happens?

Beth stumbled into the kitchen, her arms full of grocery bags. After years of waiting, she was finally going to make her grandmother's homemade stew! She had been begging Gran for the recipe ever since she was a child, but the older woman had steadfastly refused to share the secret sauce.

She still felt a small twinge of guilt at how she had manipulated the recipe out of the near-senile old woman. Earlier that day, she had visited her grandmother in the retirement community and convinced her that she, Beth, was actually Gran's grandmother. The poor old dear had insisted on copying down the worn, frayed index card with the recipe on it. Beth had waited impatiently for Gran's trembling hand to etch the last few lines down, then found her own hand was trembling when she reached out to take it.

After a rushed trip to the grocery store, Beth was home at last and ready to make an incredible stew, perfect for a cold winter's day. The fireplace in the living room was already set with logs, and Beth only needed a few minutes of fussing to coax a fire to life. Gran had long eschewed cooking the stew on the stovetop, insisting that the smoke improved the taste. The recipe had been developed generations ago, by women who slaved over their fireplaces, and Gran was certain that added an important element to the taste and consistency. Beth would likely cook the stew more traditionally the next time she made it, but for her first attempt, she felt it best to follow the recipe exactly.

As the fire slowly began to devour the wood, Beth returned to the kitchen to look for the best cooking pot. Of course she didn't have a cauldron like her ancestors, but perhaps her Amoretti Brothers pot would be sufficient. She filled the large copper pot with water and lugged it over to the flames, then frowned. Her grandmother had installed a swing-out hook like her ancestors used, but Beth was not so fortunate. She finally decided to use the poker to knock the wood into a rough circle, then tuck the pot in the center.

The first two ingredients, intestines and a round rock-sized piece of meat, had to be boiled before the rest could be added. Beth put them in the pot, stirred them around, then returned to the kitchen to unpack the rest of the meats that she had purchased. She would have had a difficult time finding some of the ingredients at her regular grocery store, but she had wisely gone to Gran's old neighborhood. The butcher there had been serving her family for years and had several eclectic slices that were difficult to find.

When the pot was bubbling vigorously, she added the thinly sliced filets, barely the width of her fingernail. Several round, ball-like shapes were dropped in next.

Instead of dropping the entire frog legs into the pot, she easily snapped off the tiny toes and dropped them into the pot, like snapping fresh green beans. Perhaps she could whip up some grenouilles for tomorrow, she thought. She remembered all the times she had sat on the front porch of Gran's house, snapping frog toes into a pot. She sniffed a little bit, then stirred the mix together.

She gathered up the stringy collection next. It reminded her of the hair from an ear of corn on the cob. She wryly remembered picking the stringy stuff out of her teeth in her childhood, but the flavor made it well worth the effort.

She hummed as she tossed bits of tongue, leg, and wing into the pot. The soup had begun a slow boil, and the scent was making her mouth water. The most demanding part was the stirring – twice clockwise, then once counterclockwise. Gran had been very specific.

Back to the kitchen to grab the hard bits, some smooth, others rough and jagged. A touch of green added color as well as vegetables. The next few ingredients, well, she was just lucky that her butcher didn't ask any questions. Nose, lips, and fingers were all difficult to get, but they thickened the stew nicely.

More stirring, round and round, humming all the while. Finally she was ready to scoop out a spoonful to taste. But the brew was too hot and burnt her mouth.

Silly! She had forgotten the last and final ingredient. She hurried to the refrigerator and pulled out a pitcher of a thick red liquid. It settled the stew nicely and cooled it as well. Mix in the pot, and the bubbles died down somewhat.

With a happy cry, she scooped out a bowl for herself, then snuggled into the couch in front of the fireplace. Memories of her childhood danced through her mind as she tasted the delicious broth. It was everything she had remembered and more.

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights hast thirty one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Double, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

-Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

980 words
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