Short story – Dodaveha


Dodaveha: The Sound of Infantile Laughter

The train seemed to have been creeping smooth into the station but then it halted suddenly. David’s momentum lightly tossing him against the wall near the carriage exit. Its pressurized door ‘fssshed’ open and clicked into place. He stepped down onto the platform and moved aside, setting his luggage on the dirty gray pavement to let the other arriving passengers move along unobstructed.

A conductor passed by and David followed him with his gaze into the swirls of people flowing into and out of the station’s main hall.  It was filled with serious, gray-suited men scampering about with harried looks; young blue-jeaned students slouching against hard cement columns; elegant middle aged women strolling leisurely from one train to another in moderately expensive clothes and, sitting on the few benches off to the side; shabby, dark-skinned gypsies and other word immigrants. The whole place reverberated with the rumble of engines and footsteps and garbled announcements that bounced up to the various shops, bars, newsstands, fast-food restaurants and many, many publicity screens advertising practically everything in big, photo-shopped images. From the dark metal girders high above, collected dried grime, thick and mud-colored, flaked off at irregular intervals and drifted below. It smelled faintly of rust and oil and old books and seemed to fall as a thin black veil over everything and everyone.

David’s eyes followed one flake’s descent. As it landed he noticed a small bird on the tracks a few meters away. It looked back at him, the little brown and white speckled thing, a crumb of bread in its beak. A breath later it fluttered its wings furiously and swept itself up and out of the station. Its suddenness startled David. A little. He smiled.


An electric cart buzzed up from behind. David picked up his bags and followed it into the bustle at the end of the tracks. There, he forced his way into one of the streams of people moving left toward the center exit then leaned out of the way after 30 meters or so, drifting into the eddy of stationary faces all looking up at the departures screens. He zigzagged down the list. Amsterdam, Paris, Brig, Venice, there, near the bottom – Berlin. In red the word ‘delayed’ was written next to an estimated departure time of 18.55. David glanced at his watch. 2:10. 5 hours.

A sudden yawn took up. He stretched his body as it did. His legs and back were stiff after the long ride through the Alps even if the new seats in first class were actually quite comfortable. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboros, lit one and breathed in a long pull. 5 hours, he considered again as he let the smoke weave away from his lips into the air, wondering how he might avoid what was becoming a tedious afternoon.

Between pulls he puffed his cheeks and let out a muted sigh. Apparently all the unrest was having consequences even here, Europe’s forbidden city, David called Switzerland, like everywhere else. An announcement, something in German about strikes, delays, an apology for any inconvenience, confirmed what he’d already resigned himself to. After reviewing his options he decided to go for a walk around town and find a bistro in which to pass at least the next couple hours. He flicked his cigarette, picked up his bags and strode past the eyes looking dutifully up at the departures screen, waiting.

He carried the bags to the storage lockers, slipped 5 francs into number 63, placed them inside and turned the key until the small led light turned green and clicked. Then he looked around for the bathroom sign, thinking that a splash of cold water might refresh him a bit. He rubbed his face, trying push away some of the staleness that had begun to creep into him of late, a bit too often, he admitted. Afternoons. And after dinner. An odd stagnation that crept into his body first and then mind and took him, like a long yawn. Why shouldn’t it, after all? Routine. The same classes more or less taught to the same select group of privileged young people with almost predictable tiny variations from one year to the next, the same subjects, the same dumb theories masked by high-flying new studies, the same colleagues, the same houses, the same bankers and sit-ins in various TV shows, ‘Professor, would you explain to our audience what ‘spread’ means…’, the same houses, the same parties. The same quiet bed. The same whores. Everything planned. His life had become… riskless. Routine.

He remembered one summer afternoon – decades ago, already –  deciding to head north on a whim. To Sweden, past the Arctic Circle, at least as far up as he could go. He’d shoved a few things in a duffel bag and jumped onto the first train heading in the right direction. So easy. Quick. Light. He’d only made it as far as Goteburg. Katja. Her bedroo….

images (1)

Someone bumped into him, or vice versa David wasn’t sure. Looking up, he was surprised to find himself in front of a pair of dark sunglasses below which, on the bottom of a young, lovely, oval face, two thick, smooth lips formed the words ‘excuse me.’ He didn’t hear the voice. That part of him was still in Katya’s bedroom, melding within and inside her. The girl he’d bumped into looked at him expectantly, waiting for David in turn to excuse himself. He remained as if paralyzed a second, not uttering a sound until finally he forced himself to apologize.

The girl smiled, nodded and moved on. He watched. Tall and slender, well proportioned and striding away lightly in even steps. Her brown hair curled smoothly into the white skin of her neck and down along her back while the olive jacket that hugged her torso seemed to play with the dim light of the station, twirling it closely around her body only to let it go again in long tongues of emerald-stained reflections. What David noticed mostly though was the way the girl moved. With the energy of someone young and sure. For a moment he remained captivated by that energy, the fluidity of it throughout her body. His gaze remained fixed onto her until she opened the door to a station bar. After a pause he turned away and ambled into the men’s bathroom, off to the right.

He went straight to one of the white porcelain sinks, cupped some cold water and splashed it up onto his face. As it dripped away David reopened his eyes and looked at the reflection in the mirror. The face there was wrinkled yet still lean with well-cut features framed by long locks of undulating brownish-blond hair. His eyes were small and blue and seemed to reveal more the way he was not, not anymore, than what he was. They spoke of someone wondering, searching for something, a word, maybe a name. Something important, some day, some memory where a destiny had been fulfilled that was supposed to be his but even then he felt as if that lost moment was still ongoing, as if a silk-like desire just out of reach caressed his thoughts but then pulled away just when he tried to grab hold. He thought about the next day’s conference, ‘The Economics of Integration in the Expanding EU’.  Harrumphing academics and undersecretary servants cutting pieces from a diminishing pie, well aware of the damage they were doing, each looking to make their master’s slices a little bigger. “I am old,” David whispered to the mirror. He dried off his face and went back into the station’s melee.

He tried turning his attention onto what points he needed to clarify and emphasize in the presentation but his mind resisted the chore. Things he could recite in his sleep, same words in a different order or spoken with a different rhythm. The sorts of words that kill language. Reform. Stabilization pact. Loads of bullshit he knew but that was his job, legitimizing shit – for which he was very well paid – by being a bully. He shook his head, then looked toward the bar to see if he could spot the beautiful young cunt he’d just encountered.

To his surprise he found her, sipping a drink, brown hair flaring red in some refracted sunlight. He noticed her sunglasses lying just to her side on the top of the dark counter and wondered what the girl’s eyes might look like, their color and shape, expression – he imagined them to reveal some intelligence, some refinement, something that promised. Something like he used to be, a little.

The girl put on her glasses and left the bar, crossed through the main hall and went out of the station through a side exit. He followed. What had he to loose, after all. 5 hours.


The sky was clear and blue and the air sweetly scented by the late spring blossoms on the trees and bushes lining the sidewalk. The lovely day raised David’s spirits a bit, the easy pace gave his thoughts enough space to wander. His life. His affairs.

Many. Bi-annually really, each new class with a few candidates willing to engage in the usual tacit agreement. He was, after all, a handsome man, renown in his field, relatively fit, tall. Well, at least not so short. They would come to his office, have a discussion, he’d dazzle, it was easy, erudite parlor tricks until the foregone conclusion: dinner or lunch, his apartment – perfectly decorated – the usual drink. He’d play a piece on the piano, Mozart usually. The latest was the pause semester, a sabbatical from grad student pussy. Katerina had occupied the last year and half. Tall, strong girl. Big teeth, long brown hair. Greek-Italian. She’d be in Boston now – he’d written her the most flattering recommendation, made the calls. The latest class didn’t promise anything so interesting. He missed her, a little, unusual for him. David never missed them, even though he enjoyed it when they slept beside, when they talked and flirted the mornings after, the sound of someone else in the shower.

He cringed lightly. It reminded him. He’d been divorced for – how long already?

The girl came to a crosswalk before moving across to the other side of the road after the signal turned green. He remained purposefully a few meters behind. The street they were on curved alongside the river before turning over a bridge. If you went over near the edge of the river and looked across you would have seen a row of muted white and pastel hued houses that bordered one side of the center of town. There were few cars going to and fro. Lunchtime on a Saturday. Everyone was eating or sipping a drink.

Looking through the green leaves up at the sky, David continued to follow the girl as nonchalantly as he could but couldn’t help glancing at the smooth, tight roundness of her behind. His right eyebrow raised and he tilted his head. Like Katerina’s, so firm.

The girl stopped near another intersection and looked about as if expecting to find someone. Then she glanced at her wristwatch, shrugged slightly and turned from the sidewalk into the thin park that stood between the road and river. She stepped over to a sandwich stand and ordered. David slowly moved toward the stand as the girl took her drink and moved to one of the benches off to the side. He ordered a ham baguette and a small bottle of red wine. It made him, for the slightest of moments, feel as if he were smelling a place from his own past. A little tired, he looked up to let the sun warm his face while waiting for his order. Maybe delaying the rest of the trip, finding a small hotel, staying the night. Not a bad idea, after all. Something different, at least today. He could catch an earlier train tomorrow.

The immigrant boy behind the counter brought his sandwich and wine. A mix. Or maybe Syrian. David turned, unscrewed the bottle and made a silent toast – to Sweden, or at least Katja’s bedroom. The north pole – David never did make it there. Professor D.


After taking a few sips he glanced over at the girl. I can ask her for directions, he thought. Brush off my German. As he inferred the scene, working out his lines, calculating possibilities, the girl set her bottle down and stood up. A large, black Mercedes rolled to a stop at the curve. She opened the passenger door and stepped into the sedan. The car didn’t pull away immediately, remaining parked with its motor running. He scanned the car. There, in the left side-mirror, his gaze met the reflection of the girl’s own dark eyes looking back. Almond-long. They shined, her eyes, young and hungry, without a hint of bluff or reflectiveness yet in some way her entire life, everything that had been and was to come, was already written there. They held no mystery, no redemption and were, to David’s surprise, both very familiar and distant. The window rolled up as the Mercedes pulled away. It turned right at the bridge and crossed the river into the city. He watched it disappear.

David staggered on his feet a little, feeling defeated, though he didn’t really know about what. Beth, his ex-wife, popped into his thoughts. Her eyes weren’t dark and long but gray, round, warm, reflective, expansive…and then, he, it…He sighed. It didn’t really matter. Not anymore. She was so long ago. He turned away and walked in the direction opposite the city, stumbling toward a gravel path he’d noticed earlier.

Leading beside the river up into the greener part of the park, the pathway passed next to the large mettle gateway of a stone church. It was inviting, like the atmosphere of a warm pub on cool evening. He tried opening the gate but it was locked and wouldn’t budge. David bent in and peered between the iron bars into the garden behind. It seemed a bit unkempt, lonely even but despite that, lovely and apparently quite private, unreachable behind the gate. Unless, of course, you were willing to climb and dirty yourself. David wasn’t in the mood.

He heard a rustling. Down the side of the enclosed garden, there, near the riverbank, some brown rats were moving about. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen rats so they didn’t disgust him but David thought it best not to hang around too closely. You never know. He turned and walked to the other side of the church.


Some 15 meters away he found a facing pair of curved cement benches in a sheltered nook bordered on either side by thin bushes. He decided it was a secluded enough spot to eat lunch so he plopped onto the left bench. It felt harder on his ass than he thought it would. And cold. He unwrapped his baguette and took a hefty bite. Then, as he began munching his food and rummaging in his mind over the uselessness of the last hour, a small bird landed on the ground barely half a meter from his feet.  The bird looked at him expectantly, as if it was waiting for a crumb. David pulled off a piece of his sandwich and tossed it down.  The bird ate the bread quickly, knowing that its counterparts would soon come to join in the feast. Sure enough, another bird appeared, and David tossed another morsel. Then came a third, and then a fourth. David continued breaking off little bits of bread and scattering them along the ground. There seemed to be just enough for everyone but still more came down and looked up toward him.  One in particular caught his attention. It looked like the first bird he had seen but now it couldn’t get through the throng in front to get to the food. David threw it a large chunk a bit behind and away from the others, and then as the bird hopped over to pick it up launched another piece, just to make sure it would get fed. Instead of eating the first piece and then the second the bird suddenly stopped and look confusedly in turn at both pieces. Before it had eaten either still more birds arrived, larger this time, and ate them. David tried to communicate with the still hungry little bird. It looked back at him while the others fought and fed. He let just one piece drop down right next to his own leg. The small bird fluttered over the others, landed on David’s foot and then hopped over and ate up the targeted morsel.

By now what seemed a whole flock of chickadees, pigeons, robins, nightingales and others had gathered round his feet.  David kept tearing off bits of bread and feeding them. He wondered if maybe they would take the last few bites directly from his own hand. He held out a crumb and much to his surprise they did, flying up and pulling the bread right out of his fingers. It tickled. David smiled. After all, he thought to himself, after all.

He heard a pecking sound to his left and looked to see what it was. Another bird was standing on the bench next to him, picking at his leg.  He leaned over and was surprised to see a tear in his pants. Then David focused on his leg. He could not believe what he saw, and so moved his hand over to feel beneath the tear. A small piece of his leg was missing. The bird looked at him, seeming to want to say something. David looked back. The bird pecked out another piece from his leg. It didn’t hurt. Instead, it felt strangely pleasurable. Soon many birds had hopped onto the bench and began taking away small pieces of David’s body. It felt as if he were a baby again, being tickled and played with by his mother. He began giggling as he felt his triceps, toes, back and hair all being teased away. Other birds had come down and soon David could see almost nothing at all, just a mass of feathers all around him. There was no blood, and no pain. Just the sound of his infantile laughter as he felt himself being taken away in a thousand and one little pieces. A moment before the wholeness of his own existence ended and his laughter faded away David saw what remained of his body from high up, as if he were looking down at the semicircular benches next to the church. Then the image faded and he was gone.



(a blabbering note from Berchtold) …this is a first, or the first, mostly serious story written about a quarter century ago in a fairly dingy room in Barcelona. It’s strange seeing it again, lightly editing and un-editing a few mistaken edits done in the meantime. I wouldn’t change it much really, even if it doesn’t follow, in some ways, an academic narrative or way to write a story. After all, stories, most likely, don’t actually exist out there, in our universe. We create them. Anyway.

Back then, still in my 20’s… affect – these were words written before or as affective networks, neuronal, matured into relative stability – pathways not at all dominant in people like me. But still influential, so very much, as in everyone. Quite. Only recently as top-down inhibition and that…. something a bit foreign, in a deep way: abstract inferences of an I doing things, an affecting, often social, self –  hold less sway than during the decades between can you, or I in this sentence, ‘see’ stuff anew, something – a story in this instance – with its own flavor. Again. Anyway.)


Weekend Travel Food – Rome (Canova Tadolini Suites)

Roman flavors- Canova Tadolini Suites

Things change. Even in Rome. Buildings go up and come down – except for maybe the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and about 80 percent of downtown Rome. Culinary fads come and go – except for the good espresso, flavored grated ice, homemade peach and lemon iced tea, gelato, pasta all’amatriciana and maybe 80 percent of Rome food. OK, some things don’t change much, at least here.

But some things do. The dramatic rise in cash in the local economy coming from mass tourism from the east and corrupt politics has taken away much of the uniquely Italian, human flavor that used to be.  And made a lot of things awfully expensive. As rents rise many local shops have shut down, so it’s getting harder and harder to find what were once ‘normal’ things here like artisan pasta stores or a good seamstress or a repair shop. A sense of community and pride in what you do is hard to maintain when the next batch of tourists will sit down and buy a snack or lunch or dinner and gobble it down whatever you put on the plate. Most of the cooks now a day come from South America. Plus many of the locals can’t afford to live downtown anymore.

That’s what makes Canova Tadolini rather special – the old school warmth and competence of the people who run it. The LoBianco family, Romans from another time. The rooms are spacious and clean, the location ridiculously central – smack dab between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, and prices for this kind of reception and quality basically impossible to find elsewhere anymore.


What’s more, when you step downstairs and out into Via del Babuino, you’ll only be a few meters away from Canova Tadolini, the bar, or now-a-day called an art restaurant – because it’s inside Antonio Canova’s, who was likely the most accomplished neoclassical Italian sculptor, ex-atelier – and filled with his figures: Gods and busts, life-sized, white statues looking someplace else with timeless expressions. A pleasant place to have your espresso and cornetto, mid-day snack break, or a terribly romantic dinner.

If you’re looking to find a friendly, well-managed place to stay in Rome, book your room at the link above. The LoBiancos will make sure it becomes one of the most pleasant stays you’ve ever had. And that will not change.

Weekend Recipe, pasta noir: Bush-Cheney’s Pasta of Mass Destruction (with a Texas longhorn beef chuck ragu)

Weekend Recipe: Bush-Cheney’s Pasta of Mass Destruction (with a Texas longhorn ragu)

“People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history.” Gov. George Bush
“Go f*ck yourself.” Dick Cheney to Sen. Patrick Leahy during an exchange about Haliburton profiteering on the Senate floor, 07/2004.

17 army divisions
An axis of evil
1 letter
1 stamp
Haliburton tomatoes*
Haliburton tagliatelle**
Haliburton olive oil***
Haliburton basil…

*A real bargain at 56 dollars a can.
** So you ordered and paid for 7000 tons and got only 5. What’s a couple thousand tons of tagliatelle among friends?

***Hey, who says you can’t make black olive oil. They make black olives, don’t they?
Serves a few. Screws the rest of us.
   Pretend you’re stupid so you’ll get elected President. Not a problem. Then invade Iraq. Never mind that has nothing to do with pasta. Hell, we’d invade Italy if we had to. And we’d invade France jus’ for the fun of it.
   While you’re waiting for the next intelligence report (ha!) from Iraq put some water on to boil. Pour summa’ that I-talian Pasta in. Then open up a can a tomatoes and grab some of that smelly football-shaped stuff, summa’ that extra-virgle, extra-vrigin, extra-virgo,…summa’ that I-talian olive oil and put it all together in a pan on the front burner.  If it doesn’t look right after a few minutes, then dump everything into the blender an’ let it whirl around a bit.
   Oh shit! I forgot to put the lid on. Chi-rist! Will you look at that mess? That’s OK. We’ll jus’ leave it like it is and call the UN to come clean it up, order a pizza instead. Double cheese with jalapeno. Tee-off is in an hour. Fore!

link-readymade Texas longhorn beef shin ragu:

for the ragu: 
about 5-600 grams or so of beef chuck or other slow cooking beef cut, cut into  baseball-ish sized chunks,
tbsp salt, +/-,
fresh ground black pepper,
about 3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, (red if possible. Never buy the chinese ones,)
a yellow or white onion medium sized,
a full cup’s worth of carrots and another of celery (freshly diced into small cubes,) 
4-600g crushed canned tomatoes depending on how tomatoey you want it,
1-2 tbsp tomato paste optional but adds stratification,
a couple cups of red wine, well structured,
thyme or other herb(s) or spice(s) to flavor,
Baking soda,

1-2 bay leaves (if you like it) 
….the usual. Pat dry the beef chunks, then brown after brushing with oil, salt flakes and pepper. Remove, lower the heat and add bit more oil, then add the sacred triad onion-carrot-celery until they’re just beginning to soften, then the garlic (I leave it whole but lightly crushed but you can dice and add a bit after – but be careful not to brown the pieces,) and once softened to translucency add the tomatoes, a little salt and pepper – not much. That you’ll want to adjust later, – and then a pinch or two of bicarbonate of soda, then a dash of sugar, then the beef back in, then add the wine, and finally fill over with water or broth if necessary and let her go slow, at least 2-3 hours plus but the more the better, on the lowest of heat in a big thick pot or pan that keeps a constant temperature. Add the herbs or spices during the cooking as appropriate (ie, the bay leaf is fine in the beginning but parsley only just before plating, thyme maybe half-way through) add the tomato paste about a half hour or so into the cooking and water as needed (or broth or milk.) When the meat is falling off the bone or if boneless when it’s already tender, remove the pieces and shred before re-placing into the pot and continue the cooking for another 30 min. or so. You can, if preferred, simply remove them entirely and use them a s second course or re-worked the next day – it’s the sauce itself with all that rich flavor that serves as a great condiment to some thick egg-noodle pasta (pappardelle). Adjust for salt and flavorings when you remove the meat. Grate some parmesan over top after plating if you like and serve with a well structured red…. and console yourself. Next year is an election year…   

Essay thursday: San Valentino

…settimana di San Valentino. Ci vuole un pizzico di fortuna per trovare l’amore, o un’amore, della tua vita, a volte. Dipende chi sei. Vivere la vita del amore invece dipende di piu su cosa fai, la cultura che porti dentro. E piu raro. Spesso sembra di richiedere tanto coraggio. Ma non e vero. Richiede solo un pizzico. Peccato per il mondo che in genere quel pizzico manca, quasi sempre dopo un certo punto della vita, e prima di un altro.

Perche il primo raramente inganna, quello che sei. L’amore, quello vero, ti porta li, a scoprire ed esprimere quello che eri gia ma non lo sapevi. Con qualcun altro, a volte qualcosa. Ti chiede solo di lasciare cio’ che non sei. Il secondo, la cultura che porti dentro, quello che in genere ti fai fare il solito – specialmente dopo un certo punto della vita, e prima di un altro – non ti chiede niente. Percio sembra piu ovvio, piu facile, cosi piu reale che non te ne accorgi pienamente neanche quando sei gia su quella strada. E ti puo portare anche su una via molto felice, con un po’ di fortuna. A volte trascini perfino l’amore della vita su quella strada.

Ma li su quella via c’e poco pausa, poco spazio per l’amore, quello vero, quello che non chiedera mai un sacrificio da te perche fa gia parte e fai gia parte. Non e quello che vedi dentro uno sguardo che inganna, il tuo stesso desiderio, il tuo stesso bisogno, ma quella cultura che non si rivela, la paura di perderla, la volonta’ di mantenere il presente, di contenere. Non te lo dice prima della partenza che quello che sei non fara parte di te, non durante il percorso. Forse alla fine, se sei sfortunato, o fortunato. Perche allora si vede quello eri e sei ancora, di la, dove non ci sei mai stato. In genere fa … maluccio. Non e mai troppo tardi pero, finche non lo e’. Basta un po’ di fortuna, e quel pizzico. Il bello e anche li. Quello che sei rimane, in attesa che entri. It doesn’t fade. E l’amore, niente meno, che aspetta solo d’essere acceso.

Wednesday Will: The Most Excellent and Edible Valentine’s Day Pasta of Romeo and Juliet

The Most Excellent and Edible Puree of Romeo and Juliet

“O! she’s warm. /If this be magic, let it be an art /Lawful as eating.” The Winter’s Tale, 5.3

Romeo and Juliet’s Puree and its subsequent wide-ranging variations has been among Shakespeare’s most popular recipes since it was first put on the menu. Though the different adaptations of the dish liberally borrow from both distant and more recent traditional regional Italian recipes, (see Ovid’s Hot Puree Bucatini of Pyramus and Thisbe or DePorto’s 2 Noble Lover’s Paccheri,) its original take of two young, horny, star-crossed chefs rebelling against their families’ conservative opposition to get it on in the kitchen is still the best. In this early version Shakespeare himself makes an appearance in the prologue and chorus that begin and end the recipe.

The Ingredients of the Recipe:

Virgin Broccoli

Virgin Cauliflower

Virgin Anchovies

Extra-Virgin… oil


Hot pepper


A family grudge

Pepper & salt

Paccheri or other wet, supple noodles with holes in them

The Chefs of the Dish:

Shakespeare – in a cameo appearance

Romeo – a young French chef working at Trattoria Capulet

Juliet – the youngest member of the Capulet family

Capulet – her father and owner of the business

serves 2

Act I, sc. 2

Enter Shakespeare

Prologue: Two young green chefs, both hormonally lewd,

In fair Verona, where they laid their scene,

From ancient recipes break to new food,

Where tradition bows to lighter cuisine.

From the creative tongues of this couple

A re-invented pasta takes its form:

Vegetable puree and noodles supple

Doth with its completion re-set the norm.

The uncertain reception of their dish

By parental mouths tied to old ages

Makes their much-wanted flight to London wish

The certain happy end of these pages,

The which if your bored eyes refuse to view

Flip to the end, and avoid what ensues.

Enter Romeo from one side of a kitchen counter, Juliet the other.

Juliet: (On her side of the isle, holding a small pot of boiled cauliflower) O strainer, wherefore art thou? Deny my white flower if thou wilt, and fired from this my father’s Trattoria Capulet I’ll be, and no longer be a chef…

Romeo: (On his side of the isle, holding a pot of boiled broccoli in one hand) Where is that darn strainer? Arise, and drain these broccoli that are damp and hot with boiling…

Both reach for the strainer hanging at the end of isle. As they each try to pull it away, the contents of their pots mix. They look at one another and shout

Juliet: You’ve got your broccoli in my cauliflower!

Romeo: You’ve got your cauliflower in my broccoli!

They blush, then turn away and see a box of big, white asparagus stalks on the counter between them

Romeo: So, risotto with asparagus tonight?

Juliet: Yeah. You know what they say about asparagus spears.

Romeo: That heated just enough to maintain their length they taste really good if you slide them into a creamy, warm egg-yoke?

Juliet: (coughs) Uhm, yeah, so, Romeo, why are you here? Isn’t this your day off?

Romeo: It should be. But with lusty curiosity did I o’erperch these kitchen walls to try to modify your family’s stingy menu. People in Verona now a day are looking for something new. Plus I knew you’d be here.

Juliet: Romeo, if my dad heard your sweet, rebellious words – he’d kill ya’. So, whatcha’ workin’ on?

Romeo: I’m trying to see if I can make a balanced, flavored puree or emulsion to present a lighter version of our ‘Orecchiette with Sausage and Brocolletti’. Maybe over a ravioli or something. And, ah, Juliette, I’ve been meaning to ask you…

Juliet: Yes?

Romeo: I got a job offer in London. One of the guest chefs at the cooking academy liked my stuff when I was there last year. He just opened a new restaurant, The Globe, I think its called, rave reviews. Julia…

Juliet: Yes?

Romeo: You wanna’ come with me?

Juliet: I thought you’d never ask. Of course I do. (She wraps her arms around Romeo’s neck and kisses him) Yum. You taste good.

Romeo: Care for another helping? (They kiss again.)

Juliet: M-m-m, sweet. Anyway, does your buddy Mercurio know?

Romeo: No, I haven’t told him yet.

Juliet: He’s gonna’ flip when he hears.

Romeo: Nah. He’ll be cool. He’s like a brother to me. More than a brother. Anyway, what about your brother?

Juliet: Tybalt? Who cares. He’s such a dweeb. Hey, ya’ know, Romeo, I just had an idea.

I’m prepping the salty anchovy and cauliflower sauce for my dad’s Paccheri. What if …

Romeo:… we make a combined unified puree? I’m there. Cool idea. I’ll get the blender.

Juliet: I’ll get the cream and, just in case, a boiled potato.

Romeo: The vegetable stock’s already boiling. Think we should add some parsley or hot pepper?

Juliet: Well, I dunno’. I think they’d be better in the condiment.

Romeo: Yeah, you’re right. So once the noodles are ready…

Juliet: You pour them in still wet and toss and toss

Until the flavoring in the heated

Oil penetrates the now supple flour.

Romeo: O, that I could be that condiment.

Juliet: O, that I could be those noodles.

They kiss, and slowly sink below the kitchen counter. As they do they bump over a fruit bowl perched on the edge of the counter

Romeo (below stage): Hey! Nice, soft, ripe…peaches.

Juliet (below stage): Oh! What a thick, long…banana.

Act I, sc. 3

Noises of clattering pans and voices. Romeo and Juliet are still under the counter.

Juliet: (whispering) Oh, Romeo, that was fantastic. No, don’t get up yet. It’s only the cleaners.

Romeo: I’m pretty sure I heard your dad. It’s probably time for the staff dinner.

Juliet: No way. It’s too early. (sound of Capulet’s voice)

Oh crap, that is my dad. Quick, put your…mmm, hello. Hold that thought.

They get up and try to straighten out their hair and clothes. Enter Capulet.

Capulet: Juliet! Why aren’t the paccheri done? Where is the sauce? And what are you doing here today, annoying, foreign French-fry cook? Looking for a free lunch?

Juliet: No, dearest dad. Romeo and I have

Our heated ingredients been deep

Combining to younger make your too old

Menu. I would your more experienced

Parental approval of this new food.

Capulet: Bite your green tongue, my youngest, rudest seed.

Bollito con la peara’, pandoro,

Stocks, sauces, risottos, special requests.

I our Veronese market most know.

But you, my untested fledge-ling, presume

That (looks and points disdainfully Romeo and the puree) foreign

poison holds more future than

This my Capulet family kitchen?

Get working on my recipes my way:

Cook as I command or I’ll mince your too

Good-for-naught daughter’s monthly allowance.

Romeo, for this un-free lunch you will

Freely pay me with exile: you’re fired.

Romeo: I freely fly from your family’s failing kitchen of my free-est will, dude. I was only trying to help out fair Juliet’s foolish father before leaving. We’ve all noticed how bad business has been the last few months. Things are tough. I’m tellin’ you man, update your menu or you’re history.

Juliet: Or tragedy. Dad, I’m sorry, I love you, but you’ve gotten to be such a downer lately. It’s like you see me like I’m still sixteen or something. I’ve been living on my own now for 3 years. Get real. Get a life. I’m going to London with Romeo. Tell Mom she can reach me on my cell.

Exits with Romeo, hand in hand

Capulet: But Julia, pumpkin, whereya’ goin’? Wait! Don’t be like that. I’ll make it up to you, I promise, pumpkin?

Exits. Enter Shakespeare

Shakespeare: A flavored peace this evening with it brings:

Go eat, and have a bite of these good things.

Our two young lovers off to London go

To work within a greater kitchen show.

Here we hope your table will soon be set

With this dish of Romeo, and his Juliet.

Exit recipe

The real recipe:

200 grams of paccheri

2 cloves of garlic

1⁄2 1 head of broccoli in small pieces

1⁄2 1 head of cauliflower in small pieces

Extra-Virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper


5-6 anchovy filets


Lemon rind

serves 2

Put the paccheri on to boil in abundant salted water. When 8-9 minutes remain, add the cauliflower and about 5 minutes later add the broccoli. Then flavor some olive oil with one of the garlic cloves by crushing the clove and placing it into the oil on low heat for about 2-3 minutes. Flavor the serving plates with the 2nd clove, rubbing the garlic directly onto the dishes. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the anchovy filets, breaking them up and dissolving them in the warm oil. When the paccheri are ready, al dente, drain and then put them into the oil, add a bit of the water the pasta cooked in then adding immediately freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of mentuccia or mint – but you can use chopped parsley after plating or just leave it pure – about 1⁄3 of a grated lemon rind and a pinch of ground pepperoncino. Toss well and serve with a white or rose wine.

on preparing Italian asparagus back around Will’s time: link:

Mark K. with E. Harris – Romeo and Juliet

—my father’s last valentine: Valentine: thursday essay – My Father’s Last Love Letter