My aims for the blog this year are to experiment with the format, and provide a greater variety of content. This will include updates on my writing career, hints, tips and guest posts, as well as the traditional short story.
The end of 2019 saw the republishing of my first book ‘Changes’ (originally published under my pen name ‘Voinks,’) with the new title ‘Summer Changes, Winter Tears.’
I was also delighted to contribute to the charity anthology ‘When Stars Will Shine,’
with all proceeds going to ‘Help for Heroes.’
If things go to plan, 2020 will see the release of a short story collection, (perhaps in time for Valentine’s day), a follow-up to either one or two of my existing books, and even the long neglected release of my mystery thriller ‘Murder of Changes.’
It’s a heavy workload, which is part of the reason I intend to cut back on the short stories I write every week as they are very time-consuming. If you enjoy reading them, you can still find them on my Facebook author page:
Voinks Facebook author page
Back to the usual short story for this week. Cookery programmes are very popular here in the UK, but perhaps they are not as realistic as the TV would have us believe.
‘Ladies and gentleman. Welcome to the Supreme bake off. Amongst our distinguished guests I’m sure you’ll recognise Mr George Baker, professionally known as Monsewer Alfonce de Ponce. As well as being one of our venerated judges, he has kindly agreed to sign copies of his latest cook book for the give-away price of £30 for your own personalised copy, available here.
‘We are also excited to have as our second judge, the delightful, Mrs Mary Fruit, who you will all know from her wonderful recipes for the ovenly challenged.
‘Last, but not least, let’s give a big round of applause to professional chef and sweary-man extraordinaire, Mr Gordon Sheepsey, who has instructed many a failing business how it should be done.
‘Without further ado, let me introduce you to our finalist bakers, who have overcome amazing opposition to be with us here today. Singa Barti, say hello and tell us a little about yourself.’
‘Thank you, Geoffrey. It’s wonderful to be here, and my grandmother would be so proud of me. I learnt to cook as a small child, watching her creating her curries. She blended everything by hand when there were no supermarkets to buy packets, so I hope my signature dish will go down well. I understand curry has overtaken fish and chips as the national signature dish of the UK, so I’m hopeful of doing well today.’
‘Good Luck, Singa. Italian cuisine is also very popular here, and our next competitor runs a chain of restaurants covering the length and breadth of the country. Hello, Luigi. I’ve eaten at one of your brasseries, and I must say it was a wonderful experience. What are you bringing to the table today?’
‘Grazie, Jeff-ray. You are welcome anytime to visit my establishments. Advise me when next you come and I will ensure you are our special guest. Italia is more than pizza and pasta so I will display the most variety of our regional cooking for your enjoyment.’
‘Thank you, Luigi. I’ll take you up on that generous offer, but we need to move on. The French have always been renowned for their cuisine so it’s my pleasure to welcome Francoise Dupoint. Hello, Francoise.’
‘Bon jour. I am ‘ere today to show you the superb gastronomic to delight your pallet. As our close neighbours we educate you to enjoy the food and forget your fish an’ cheeps, so you will no longer be laughing stock of Europe.’
‘Quite. Thank you, Francoise. When you think Turkish food, it often brings to mind a kebab after the pub, but Mustafa is here to show us the other side of their cuisine. Would you like to explain, Mustafa?’
‘Thank you, Geoffrey. I’d be delighted. Traditional Turkish cuisine is nothing like the greasy comer shop. If you have a sweet tooth you will love our desserts, brimming with honey and nuts, so not good for diets. To make up, our other dishes are more health conscious. We eat a lot of vegetables and delicious stews, and yoghourt and rice are amongst out staple diets. My aim is to show you the diversity rather than the take-away.’
‘That sounds interesting, Mustafa. We have many vegetarian followers who I’m sure will be excited by your recipes. Our final contestant is the very English, Aggie. Welcome to you, Aggie. The English are not traditionally known as chefs. What’s your response to that comment?’
‘Gawd bless you, sweetheart. We Brits have been cooking before these foreign arty-farty guys ever got a look-in. Don’t get me wrong. I might be older than all these young things put together, but there’s nothing like the old-fashioned traditional recipes to bring a bit of reality to good, affordable food. During and after the war years we had to make do with whatever we could find, but still managed to put a substantial meal on the table. I never even saw a banana until my George showed me his, and the only way to serve rice was with a good old dollop of jam, home made of course. The whole family used to go strawberry picking, nothing like those puny things you see today, really sweet they was, the juice would drip down your front and the stains were a devil to get off, but….’
‘Yes, quite. Thank you, Aggie but we need to move on. If you’re ready chefs, let the contest begin. You have two hours to prep for a 3-course meal of your choosing, the dishes will be presented anonymously to the judges tonight, then we’ll see you later for the final verdict and the presentation to the overall winner. On your marks, get set, COOK.’
As the excitement builds, the chefs are putting the final touches to their dishes.
‘Oy, you Loo-ee-gee. Stop rushing around like a nutter. You nearly sent me flying.’
‘You ‘ave no place to be ‘ere, old woman. Tonight, Italia will win. My friend has told me.’
‘You mean you’ve bribed him. Now look what you’ve done, you silly tart. That’s my jam roly-poly ruined. I’ll have to make another one.’
‘Ttt. We French are ze only chefs. Go home, old woman.’
‘In India we have respect for our elders. You should not speak so to the old lady.’
‘If she’s too slow, she doesn’t belong here. It’s her fault I’m not ready.’
The door opens and Geoffrey enters.
‘You have five minutes left,
chefs. Please plate up and take your dishes to the judging table. Make a note of the number allocated to your offerings, then join us in the dining room for the final verdict.’
One by one the chefs take their creations and leave the room, apart from Aggie who is struggling to finish her dishes on time. The three judges test each plate in turn, their faces showing their disgust as they make a note next to each number.
‘I’ve never tasted such shit in all my life,’ Gordon told Mary as he spat into a convenient fire bucket.
‘Watch your language, young man,’ Mary answered, ‘although I must agree with you.’
‘This lot could even muck up my recipes,’ Alphonse added, reverting to his South London accent in a moment of forgetfulness. ‘It’s crap. Have you bought a copy of my book yet?’
‘If this is the best they can offer,’ Mary said, ‘how can we recommend a winner? It’s not fair on the public.’
‘Perhaps we could declare it a 5-way draw? Wait a minute, we haven’t tasted the final entrant’s contribution yet.’
‘So sorry to keep you waiting, my lovelies.’
Aggie bustled into the room and placed her dishes on the table. One by one the judges took a tentative taste, smiles breaking out on their faces as they savoured the delicious fare.
‘Well, I think we’re all agreed we have a winner,’ Mary said. ‘Her presentation leaves a lot to be desired but the taste is wonderful.’
The cup was presented, the other competitors slumped off in disgust, and the press went wild. Aggie’s name was on everyone’s lips, and she became an overnight celebrity.
‘Were you disappointed it wasn’t stronger opposition, Aggie?’
‘How do you feel about raising the profile of English cooking, Aggie?
‘What’s your secret ingredient, Aggie?’
‘My old Mum used to swear by Liver salts and cod liver oil,’ Aggie responded with a smile. ‘I learnt my cooking skills from her.’
‘You mean you included them in your dishes?’ one of the paparazzi asked in horror.
‘No, but inadvertently my competitors did. Next time perhaps they’ll show a little more respect to their elders and betters. Bonn app-a teet.
© Voinks April 2019