The Exile Kitchen

The Appetizer Round

Chef Jurg Wagenlehner stood straight and tall, his hands behind his back. His nerves were on end and his stomach was knotted up; it was growling, ferociously growling. How did he get here? Why did he put himself through this? Was this agony worth the $10,000 prize? He wasn’t so sure anymore.

Chef Jurg, of course, had the story that he told the judges. The story about the cancer, now in remission, and how he had had to reinvent himself after his wife’s unexpected death. It worked pretty good when he threw in some other things about kids, lawsuits, and drug addiction. The judges always seemed to be suckers for a good sob-story. It didn’t even matter if it was true.

It was the first round, the appetizer round, and Todd, the host of the show, was poised to unveil, “whose dish was exiled.” Todd lifted the ‘food dome.’ Is that what it’s called, Jurg wondered? Maybe it was a cloche’ or a couverture de plat? He wasn’t sure. He didn’t care. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that his dish wasn’t beneath that silver dome. The chef who had prepared that dish would be exiled and unable to take part in the next round.

With a magnificent flourish, Todd lifted the dome. Chef Heidi’s dish was beneath – her knees buckled and she collapsed to the floor in tears. Three security men came on stage, handcuffed her and bundled her off. She would never cook in this country again.

Chef Heidi had prepared an interesting appetizer, Jurg thought, the mystery ingredients had been: black eye peas, Mascarpone Cheese, wasabi, and Kirschwasser. She had conjured up a ‘Fondue’ of sorts. She made wasabi black eye peas individually and tediously skewered with toothpicks, designed to be dipped into a gelatinous mass of heated Mascarpone and Kirschwasser. She had garnished her creation with gherkins and a sliced baguette.

It must have been horrible.

Once Chef Heidi was removed from the stage the three remaining contestants: Chef Jurg, Chef Mick, and Chef She-Ra received a thirty minute break to prepare for the entrée round. Jurg used his time to shower and change his underwear.

The Entrée Round

“Chef Prep Plate”

“Chef Prep Plate”

Todd introduced the three remaining chefs to the mystery ingredients that they must use in this round. These included: Filet Mignon, summer squash, and something green. Jurg did not recognize it . He did not know the name that Todd used for the green thing , but he knew what he was going to do with it. They each had thirty minutes to prepare their dish.

Chef Jurg wanted to grill the Filet. He wanted to prepare it rare, or bleu, or Englische Art (as his mother would have said). He wanted to julienne the summer squash and do something flamboyant with it, he wasn’t yet sure what. The green thing – well, he would grind that up and make a sausage.

He began with the green thing, grinding it up with cottage cheese and feeding it into a sausage casing. He parboiled the sausage and then set it into a pan to fry in a shallow bath of olive oil. He was still at a loss on how to jazz up the summer squash and he finally decided that he should change the colour. One of the things that the judges always looked for was a ‘transformation’ of the mystery ingredients. He found no food colour in the pantry but he found a can of pickled beets. Draining the beet juice into a saucepan he added his matchsticks of summer squash and set them to simmer on the stove-top. Turning finally to the filet he placed it on the grill and cooked all four sides for about a minute and a half each.

At this point he had only three and a half minutes remaining. He began to plate his dish. A flourish of Au Jus made from an envelope and heated in the microwave decorated the plate. He cut the casing from the green sausage and curled it in the center of the plate. Summer squash matchsticks, now blood-red and curled from cooking in the beet juice, he arranged in three piles around the coiled sausage. He placed three slices of Filet, each about 2cm thick, atop the other ingredients and then spooned more Au Jus over the whole thing.

“Time’s up,” announced Todd, “step away from your workstation.”

Chef Jurg lifted his hands, stepped back and smiled. He felt strong and confident.

Too much fun.



John leaned his old twelve gauge against the wagon and knelt down behind the worn steel clad wheel to study the land, scan the horizon. It looked placid enough, but John had learned that looks could be deceiving. He remained motionless for the better part of an hour and saw no one, no activity or sign of others.

Feeling confident that he was alone, he stood and ambled to the back of the wagon to relieve himself. Turning to collect his piece when he finished he froze. Two men and two women stood mutely arrayed by the wagon wheel, where had had crouched earlier. The tallest man cradled John’s old scatter gun in the crook of his arm. The two studied each other through squinted eyes.

© Harekosh
© Harekosh

The tall man stood probably six feet six. He was thin and weathered; his hair was the color of the yellow grasses in which he stood. He wore a pressed white dress shirt beneath a faded, dusty black overcoat that had brown leather shoulders. His baggy black trousers rippled with the breeze.

With his free hand the man pushed his flat, broad brimmed hat back from his forehead. The fading light illuminated his eyes and he stared at John through, a pale shade of blue.

The man spoke, “What are your intentions here, Brother?” the man asked. “Who are you? And, from whence do you hail?”

“Uhm, I’m John, John Patmos. I come from the other side of those mountains.” He pointed vaguely towards the horizon and waited; watching them, trying to read their faces, “I’ve been wandering and searching, seemingly for years. You’re the first people I have seen since the Apocalypse. I wonder if perhaps you could tell me what has happened here. Maybe spare some water, and some food.”

The tall man glanced at the woman standing crookedly to his right. She wore a simple white dress that shone in the sunlight. Her blonde hair formed a halo around her head. She nodded, turned and began to walk away.

“You call it ‘Apocalypse’,” the man said. “Why do you call it such, and how were you able to survive if it were so?”

“I’m not sure,” John said, “it seemed appropriate to call it that. The carnage was fierce.”

The tall man thumbed the lever on John’s gun, broke it open and removed the two cartridges that had been ready for use. He turned the weapon and handed it back to John.

“I’ll thank you not to be reloading this piece while you are here.” he intoned. “Come with us.”

The tall man led the way and John followed two steps behind cradling his fowling piece like a lover. The others fell in about six steps behind. “My name is Daniel,” the tall man said, “behind you are Hezekiah and Ruth. Adina has gone ahead to alert the others that we are bringing you back.”

John could think of nothing to say and so remained silent; walking until the group melted into the tree line and the ground began a slow rise. They climbed for no more than ten minutes before entering a clearing. In the center several small shacks had been erected. Vegetables had been planted around the perimeter. Fifty yards of open space lay between, making the settlement easily defendable against a modest attack. A crowd of about twenty people stood at the edge of the settlement and vigilantly watched John approach. John saw Adina standing apart from the others.

All eyes were on John until Daniel spoke up, “Stand easy, brothers and sisters. This man is named John and I believe that he means us no harm. He brings news from beyond the mountains. He has agreed to recount for us, the end of the world.” Daniel reached beneath the folds of his coat and removed a lupara that had been concealed there. He handed the vicious firearm to Adina and she wordlessly carried it into a nearby shack, where she faded at the doorway into the darkness within. Daniel turned and smiled at John.

“Apologies, Brother, but you have yet to earn my trust.”

John steeled his jaw and stared at Daniel.

“Am I a guest or a prisoner here, Daniel?” he asked.

“That remains to be seen, Brother. Come, sit, and enjoy a modest meal. It isn’t much but we will gladly share it with you.”

From above the trees rang the echo of a loud screech. Adina appeared and guided John to safety.

This wore me out. I don’t think it’s my best work but I’m going to submit it anyway.
Happy to see The Mutant 750 back!


The Slick Black Snake, That Was The Highway

Benjamin turned, walked away from the headlights and carnage.

Recent memories of the violence; cycloned around his head, reflections seeking repose.

Finally he filed them away.

All except the one:

the final one.

He bided his time and at the bridge, numbly hurled the tire iron in the Schuylkill and walked on.



…Must Use the Prompt as Directed

Michael sat the sepia toned tintype carefully on his desk.

It depicted two formally dressed, bearded and dusty men in front of a clapboard building.

Above the building’s door a sign read, “Strand” & “Field”, below that, “Law Offices”.

“The law is in your blood,” His father had said. “Make us proud.”



Random Scribbles · writing

It’s All in Fun Joe. It’s All in Fun!

Are we being a bit lenient with Joe this week?

He’s a fine writer, a talented wordsmith. Most deserving of praise, but…

He’s an Irishman, a Dubliner, no less.

Might this be unfair?

St James Gate, Dublin is the birthplace of Stout.

I suspect, in his youth, he worked summers for Guinness.



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