500 Words—Undiscovered Genius

When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it.

I stood with the wooden spoon in my hand, not quite ready to stir the custard for the Champagne torte, and wondered how best to use this gift I had developed, the seemingly magical ability to draw people in with my cooking skills.

Towns people would hear that I was planning a dinner party with roasted salmon and butternut squash and the creamiest risotto for miles around followed by a flourless chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream made with beans fresh from Madagascar, and they would hope to be one of the blessed few to be invited. They would sample my macaroons or lemon-glazed scones or blueberry tarts at the coffee shop counter and beg for more.

“Please, sir, tell us how to order more of these scrumptious morsels. We must have more. Our appetites have been wetted, and now we are insatiable.” And the coffee shop attendant would wave them away with a gesture of annoyance.

“Peasants,” he would say, “The culinary maestro can’t be bothered with your petty requests. Remove yourselves from my establishment.”

They would go away unsatisfied, and I would be left with the decision, now a moral one, to meet their common desires with my masterful creations or to leave them hungry. There will soon be a line outside my own personal door, and people will be waiting with money in hand, eyes closed and mouths salivating as they anticipate what wonders might emerge when I finally open my kitchen door. I will have a tray filled with small plates of the most deliriously appetizing delights—walnut cakes with caramelized apple compote, raspberry trifle with Grand Marnier cream, dark chocolate cups filled with silky mousse topped with edible gold shavings, generous slices of white chocolate cheesecake with sugar cookie crust and a modest drizzle of chocolate ganache.

The eager and impatient patrons will hold out their money with one hand and beg for samples with the other, and they will say in unison, “Aaahhh, look at the wonders she has made.”

As I peer into their adoring eyes, I will say, “My dears, no. Please put away your money. I couldn’t possibly take cash for what I am presenting to you. Take it. Please, with my good wishes.”

And in complete awe of my openhearted generosity, and with some amount of disbelief, they will put away their dirty cash and delicately select their favorites from the grand array. And they will thank me for making their otherwise gray and tasteless day one of bright colors and vibrant sensory satisfaction.

“Idiot line cook!” I hear bellowed from the swinging galley door. “Stop your daydreaming and stir the damned custard already. You’re going to curdle the eggs, for godsakes!”

I am shaken from my delirium, and I dip the wooden spoon into the custard. Minimum wage. Undiscovered genius. My talents are wasted.

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