Saturday, 1 August 2009

Cubertou, Too








Cubertou, Une Autre Vie







A butterfly swoops down over my head,
in the direction of the buddlea.
Their faded candle blossoms wave,
uncertain arrows
pointing to this part of sky, now to another,
with so much blue, who can decide
which blue way to waver or to point to,
which blue ripple to outline
with dark-blossom direction?




Sometimes I am waitress, bartender, translator. This morning, because S is ill and has been taken to the doctor, I am kitchen hand. Carry the food from E's car into the kitchen, put the baguettes into the wicker basket, take the cheeses downstairs into the cave. Peel the shallots. What knife shall I use? I ask E, the chef. You can use mine he says, and sharpens it. You're honoured, says Js, the other kitchen hand, the more permanent one, he never lets me use his knife. Js peels the onions and cries into the dish. E walks past me and straightens my shoulders. You must not hunch over like that he says. I peel two net bags of shallots. Shall I do the third one? No – hang it up over there. On the hooks are net bags of lemons and oranges. But I've already opened the third net bag so it won't hang up. I slip the bag of shallots in beside a solitary lemon.


It's coq au vin tonight and E pours the wine from plastic bottles into a vast tureen. JL comes into the kitchen, takes the empty plastic bottles and cuts them in half. Then he turns the top half with the narrow neck, upside down and replaces it in the lower half. Pours a little beer into the bottom, and his wasp trap is complete. Exits, to take it outside to the barn where they getting ready for the morning's music lesson.


Next I peel the cucumbers. The dark green peel comes away in long stripes, heap on the table like damp snakes. Then E hands me a grater. I grate the cucumbers into a yellow bowl.
We will have lunch in the open air, in the sloping field with trees at the far end, for shade. Blankets are put out for people to sit on. Two bamboo tables hold the salad, the bread, the lentil dish, the paté. Glasses, cutlery and plates are carried in the wicker trays.


E mixes lemon into the lentil dish. Is that enough? he asks me. Taste it. Get a spoon. From there – he points to the drawer. I fetch a spoon, I taste the lentils. A little more lemon, I say. He puts more in. Is that better? he asks me. Yes, I say.
Do you make pancakes? How many eggs do you put in?
He produces an enormous salmon. I've salted it he says. Try it. Is there too much salt? A little. Further up where it is thicker, it will not be so salty.
Can I go outside now, have a coffee break?
Yes, go. I am ahead of myself today.




Outside, at the table. In the courtyard, E's painting of the mandolin player. Earlier, I helped him bring the other paintings out of the sunlight, but this one is pinned up on an easel. I wonder if it too should be brought in. The shade moves and shifts across the table. Everybody interrupts me and I like their questions. E leans out of the kitchen window. Can you bring in the painting that's outside? I forgot about it. That's just what I was thinking of, I say. I unpin the painting and put it with the others.
Js joins me at the table. Do you have another pen?
Then he brings out his guitar. Which chord sounds better do you think?
Ella reads the paper. Oh, we have a good-looking man in the government she says, and shows me a picture of Muhammad Abdi. And he is smoking a cigarette too!

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