He asked me what meat tasted like.
I gave his question careful consideration.
'Why do you want to know? Are you becoming carnivorous?'
'No,' he answers, convincingly caught between two rifts.
'I've nevel eaten it, but thelle's so much of it alound heal.
You almost glow it on tlees.'
' . . On trees . . hmm . . yes . . We seem to grow many things
'But, what is it like? I mean as fall as taste and textchule.
I guess it must be salty and leally tough..'
'Do you wear leather?'
'Leathah? No, um . . no.'
'But you're wearing Reeboks. They use leather in their
shoes you know.'
'Oh, yes but salesman assuled me these had no leathah.
They use plastic instead.'
'Mmm... good. I guess, well, if you drive by McDonalds the
smell might be like the taste of meat, really low grade meat.
No, no, don't do that. If you really want to taste meat it
should be higher quality stuff, like filet mignon . . You do
mean beef, don't you? But that would be sacriledge . . . maybe
a chicken flavor . .I guess pork would be out of the question.
Can you eat fish?'
'No no no, I don't want to taste meat by tasting it, no meat,
no animals, no um, cow, but all meat does not taste same?
I buy the bloth cubes with chicken and beef on the label
though thele is no beef ol chicken in it, both taste same.'
'That's just boullion.. It's mostly salt and, well salt.. Have
you ever seen snow?'
'Snow? Yes. When I go to visit a flend neal Tibet. White
stuff, welly cold.'
'Well, how would describe snow to someone who had never
'Nevel seen it? White stuff, welly cold.'
'Ah... Why do you want to know what meat tastes like?'
'I,' a guilty look passes over his face as his eyes scan
to and fro with background visions of the forbidden, 'I ..
I just am . . . culious.'
'And just now you have decided you'd like to know?'
'Mmmm... yes... It is because I am new to Amellica.' He
beams, having found a plausible excuse.
'Ok. I'll see what I can do.'
A pound of mushrooms caps, bilious to perfection like the
marshmallows rings of the Michelin Man, some brown flaky
shitake mushrooms and a few home grown ones of phallic
nature supposed to boost the libido in time of need. Kevasti
gave me those.
'Your friend is in great need I suspect. Is his wife with him?'
'No,' I said, 'he's unmarried.'
'Ahhh, he is in even greater need of fulfillment. Here, you
better try some of these.'
'Do you pick these or do you emasculate grown men?'
'Hah hah, yes, typical response. No, I grow them in the corner
of the basement. They need a little light and must be watered
with a tad bit of vinegar in the wat'ring broth. It keeps the
stalks long and succulent.'
' . .'Long and succulent . .' How should I serve them?'
'Oh, just dice them as you normally would. Leave the cap
intact since it's so small. It contains a faint trace of anisette
though not as strong as the horse mushrooms. They'll do well for
a beef-type flavor. The orange paraplu's give a better sense of
chicken, especially if you serve asparagus, makes for interesting
urine. . . If you let the spore balls ripen a little beyond ideal
they'll do for salmon with a pinch of dill. Best to serve on a bed
of egg noodles. . . garlic, yes. Be sure to be liberal with the
garlic . . It is beef you're aiming for?'
'I don't know.'
'Hmm. Give him what he needs. Go for beef.'
Mushrooms taste of flesh as they taste of leaves and grass
though being neither one in direct consequence. Kevasti once
claimed that if people knew how mushrooms acquired their
flavors and certain 'exceptional' properties more people
would embed themselves in cow-shit.
I slice the mushrooms in cross-section, the shitake in radial
wedges, the phalluses in columnar pieces leaving the caps
intact. I'd tickle the feathery cuffs if not under sureveillance.
He watches intently while I engage in crushing cloves of the
garlic, adding needed powders and airs to a skillet bubbling
'Yes, yes, I see . . you have,' He puts a dab of the oil on his
tongue, 'peppah and, mmmn, cloves I think, some.. some
'Ah, yes. yes. excellent. It will be welly good. I can taste
'Garlic is a wonderful spice.'
'How do you mean?'
'Well, it's so full and embodied.. it makes you feel warm
all over if you eat it raw, and if you cook it to tenderness
it draws you into a mellow softness.'
'Mmmmm, yesss.' His expression trails back to memories
from a wistful childhood.
I toss the mushrooms into the skillet, shaking the bowl a few times to leave no pieces behind. The water left from rinsing leaves in tumultuous sprachts and
sizzles, rising in a cloud of aromatic droplets. I have my small jars of powders at hand. Red of pepper, red of paprika, more when the fringes
have gone to black. Coriander for the flowers the goats would
have eaten. Paprika for a sense of Bavaria. Salt for the vital
juices in lymph and in veins. More oil for the sweat of summer.
Black pepper for the slaughterhouse floor. Red pepper for the
blood red under the confused sense of the eye's last flickering
gaze. To speed the process a thick, drooling glug of molasses
soya, the brand with the shining baby buddha under a shining
'Do you know what this says?' I hand him the long-necked
'No. It looks like Thai.'
With a scrape and slash the oil bubbles all the more, exposed to then unexposed surfaces. Mushrooms loose their stiffness. Mushrooms loose their
spongy fleshiness as the tenderness seeps in. We can smell the change in the droplets hovering over the gas-lit burners.
A slash of soya shows up far less on his wrist than on mine.
With a dampened towel he gingerly wipes my fingers clean
cooing in a gentle giggle when I hold them up to appreciate
the brown streaks left by a sloppy bottle.
I thought of the Bordeaux sitting quietly on a milk crate in the
basement, but he doesn't drink wine. The alcohol makes him sick.
Of the range of substitues we agree on tea, chai made with
boiling milk -- soya milk, cardamon seeds and a blend of teas
received from a kind sister. Cow's milk makes him sick as well.
One enzyme missing, two enzymes missing... Strange how it is...
The egg noodles bubble nearby on a separate
burner. Kevasti recommended a setting of stroghanoff.
'I know just how he feels,' Kevasti has said. 'I couldn't
find anything to satisfy when I was in need and so, you see, I
gave in. I crossed the line.' He grins sheepishly. 'If I had known
what to prepare and how, *how* is the key, I would not have, I
would never have..' A wry smile appears from the corners of his
lips. 'No steak for me..'
His eyebrows betray a hint of indescision as he mulls the
first few bites around his mouth with his tongue.
'This is what meat tastes like?'
'Yes. I'd say it's very close. I'd say it tastes better than meat.'
'Ahhh. Good. Good.'
Given fully to the flavor of the meal he can but speak in
syllables between mouthfuls.
'The gallic . . Yes. . . This is most fine . . . Mmm . . . It is most,
how would you say? RRRobust!'
The conversation dwindles to silence, an intense
silence passing the minutes with the clatter of silverware. He
does not stop, pausing only to take a sip of tea or readjust
the napkin. He finishes well before I have even conquered half
of the plate.
'Ahh, yes,' He sits back in the chair as satisfied look manifests
itself on his face. He lets his eyes drift to the ceiling, crossing
his arms loosely over his chest.
'This will do vely nicely. . .'