Authors: Beth Mathison
Tags: #General Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
Young @ Heart: French Romance Cooking Class
By Beth Mathison
Copyright 2012 by Beth Mathison
Cover Copyright 2012 by Ginny Glass and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Also by Beth Mathison and Untreed Reads Publishing
Young @ Heart: Off the Docks
It was Frannie’s turn to pick a date for their twice a month get-together. With two kids, a high-maintenance dog, and two careers, Frannie and David made a point to spend time together away from daily distractions. Their date mission was simple: have an open mind, learn something new about each other, try to have fun, and be physically intimate if at all possible.
Frannie doubted they were going to accomplish the physical intimacy part of their goal since they were in a class of five couples, but she
learned that David had an intense aversion against raw oysters.
“I’m not touching it,” David said, poking the oyster on his plate with a fork. “I don’t care if they’re an aphrodisiac, I can’t do it.”
“Are you at least going to eat them?” Frannie asked.
“Sure, I’ll eat it,” David said. “You know me, I’ll eat practically anything.”
“But you won’t touch it?”
“Absolutely not,” David said. “It’s going to have to go right from my fork to my mouth. There will be no hand touching involved.”
“Is there a problem here?” Chef Louis asked, stopping at their table. He wore a tall white chef’s hat, an immaculate white apron, and grasped a spatula in his right hand.
“I’ve decided I’m just going to eat my oyster, not touch it,” David said to him.
Chef Louis paused. “You realize these are perfectly fresh oysters?” he said. “I hand-picked them just this morning. They were shipped in from Seattle.”
“Well, that’s very reassuring,” David added. “I understand that you wanted us to touch them to get the feel of a good oyster, but I think I’m just going to use my fancy little shellfish fork here to stab the sucker.”
Frannie prodded her oyster with her finger.
“See, it’s not so bad,” Chef Louis said to David. “Now your wife will know the feeling of a fresh oyster and you will not.” Chef Louis walked over to the next couple’s table.
David leaned closer to Frannie. “You’re a teacher’s pet, is what you are,” David said to her. “Showing off with your oyster-touching. I’m hurt.”
Frannie frowned. “Really? I just wanted to touch the thing.”
“Nah, I’m just giving you a hard time because that really grossed me out,” David said with a smile. He leaned over to give her a kiss.
Frannie and David sat at a small table at the back of the room. The table had a spotless tile top, and was low enough so that they could sit comfortably in kitchen chairs while they cooked. Two burners were set on one side of the table, with warning stickers affixed to their stainless steel surfaces. An assortment of cooking utensils were arranged in the opposite corner. Other couples sat at similar tables, some looking comfortable in their provided aprons, others looking wide-eyed and shell-shocked. Fortunately both Frannie and David spent time in the kitchen at home, so they were comfortable in the cooking environment.
Chef Louis, advertised as a French chef from Paris, held classes twice a week in a converted office building on the edge of town. He had a spotless kitchen set up at the front of the room with bright pots and pans hanging from the lowered ceiling. Two large commercial ovens and two refrigerators flanked the long table in the center of the kitchen. A large mirror was installed above the table so that all the participants could watch Chef Louis while he worked.
Frannie and David had introduced themselves to an older couple sitting to their left. Marie and Ralph were in their eighties. Marie wore a powder blue pants suit with patent leather shoes, her pocketbook placed firmly on her lap. Ralph had coke-bottle glasses perched at the end of his nose, and kept asking Chef Louis to talk louder. Marie told Frannie and David that their granddaughter had given them the cooking class as an anniversary present.
To Frannie and David’s right were Donna and Dale Steinhueval, a newly married couple in their early twenties. Before the class began, Dale had a ball game running on his smart phone. David had scooted his chair over to watch the game and check out a new gadget while Frannie and Donna talked about trying to figure out dinner menus with their busy schedules.
Wine bottles had been placed on everyone’s tables, and at Chef Louis’ urging, everyone filled their glasses. In addition to the
oysters, also featured on the menu were petit pea soup, duck breast with Pinot Noir sauce, pommes dauphine, and chocolate mousse. “After everyone has discovered the touch of a fresh oyster, feel free to eat them,” Chef Louis said, looking at David out of the corner of his eye. “As I said earlier, some people believe that this food acts as a powerful aphrodisiac.”
Chef Louis picked up his own oyster. “You eat the oyster by tipping the shell into your mouth, and chewing slightly. Some people like to add hot sauce, Tabasco, cocktail sauce, lemon, or horseradish to their oyster, but these shellfish are so fresh they are delicious eating all by themselves.” He tipped the oyster into his mouth, chewed slowly for a long moment, then swallowed. “Voilà,” he said. “A perfect start to a couples cooking class to get you in the mood for some romance.”
David reached over, tipped the oyster into his mouth and ate it. “A little hot sauce would have worked,” he commented dryly.
Frannie was poking her shell with her small fork. “I don’t think I can do it,” she said.
“But you touched it,” David reminded her.
“Touching and eating are two entirely differently things,” Frannie said. “You know my stomach isn’t as strong as yours.”
She looked around to other tables, where people were sliding oysters into their mouths.
“Maybe I can slip it into my napkin,” Frannie said. “Or my purse. I have a big bottle of Advil in there that’s almost empty. I know it would fit. I could put the cover on it and everything. It would be hermetically sealed.” She reached for the purse under her chair.
David cocked his head. “Not up to the date mission of being adventurous? “
“That’s not in our date mission!” Frannie exclaimed.
“Maybe we need an addendum.”
“We already have the sex clause,” Frannie said. “I don’t think we need an addendum for oyster eating.” Frannie was a paralegal, and legal-eze peppered her conversation when she was nervous or defensive.
“I would suggest you try it,” David urged. “It was pretty good.”
Frannie looked down at her plate.
“I’ll eat it if you touch it,” she said, looking up at him.
David was quiet for a moment, then looked over at Chef Louis.
“Advil bottle,” he said, his voice low. He shook out the cloth on his lap. “I’ll cover you with my napkin.” David pretended to wipe his mouth, and in the process, covered Frannie’s actions as she fished the Advil bottle out of her purse and slipped the oyster inside.
“You know this is kind of dysfunctional,” David said. “You can just tell Chef Louis that you don’t want to try it. Or better yet, I’ll just eat it.”
“I saw the way he was looking at you,” Frannie whispered. “I don’t want the wrath of some French chef haunting us tonight.”
“Well, that’s one difference between us,” David said. “I could care less what Chef Louis thinks about my aversion to touching oysters.”
“Are you going to cause a scene?” Frannie asked.
“Nope,” David said with conviction. “I’m on a date mission, ma’am. My focus is on you and you alone.” He leaned over and tucked a loose strand of hair behind Frannie’s ear.
“I think it’s kicking in,” David said, leaning closer.
“What’s kicking in?” Frannie asked.
“The aphrodisiac in the oyster.”
“You’re not feeling it because your oyster is tucked into that Advil bottle in your purse. You don’t know what you’re missing,” David said, sliding his hand slowly down Frannie’s neck.
Chef Louis had moved to the front of the room, and rapped a spatula on the marble countertop to get everyone’s attention. David and Frannie jumped.
“One thing to remember about cooking as a couple is
,” Chef Louis said evenly. “Just like in any relationship, you need to respect each other’s
.” He made a small circle around his body as he emphasized the words, presumably defining his area of personal space.
David moved back from Frannie and motioned around his own torso.
, he mouthed silently to her.
“In the kitchen, we need to respect personal space. Otherwise unfortunate things might happen,” Chef Louis stated. “You can spill things, bump into each other, you can get burned.” He paused, looking out at the crowd. “That was a little joke,” he said. “You can get burned, as in a relationship outside of the kitchen.”
Marie and Ralph stared blankly at the front of the room. Marie looked at the two-foot space between her and her husband, apparently satisfied with the space between them. “What?” Ralph asked, adjusting the hearing aid on his right ear. “What did he say?”
Dale and Donna looked at one another and laughed nervously. Dale looked longingly at his phone, which he had put face-down on the edge of the table.
“Is this guy for real?” David whispered to Frannie. “Is he a real chef or a drill sergeant?”
“He’s won all sorts of local awards,” Frannie answered. “Although they were for his culinary accomplishments, not his sense of humor.”
“All right then,” Chef Louis said, undaunted by the lack of audience response. “I would like to talk a bit about love before we will make our petit pea soup.”
Marie went white, looking around her nervously. “I thought this was a
class,” she said. “I’m not interested in new-fangled talk about hanky-panky. I think that all should be kept in the bedroom anyway. Goodness, why do people have to bring it all out into the open anyway? It’s on the television, in the magazines, on the billboards. Can’t we just keep it at home?”
“What?” Ralph asked, peering at the front of the room. “What about hanky-panky?”
“Personal space is not the only similarity cooking has to love,” Chef Louis continued. “We need to pay attention to our food, just as we need to notice our significant other. This is why I had you feel the oysters. We need to pay attention to things and people around us.”
“What?” David asked. “So what is he saying is the oyster in our relationship?” He turned to Frannie. “Are you my oyster? Because I’m not afraid to touch you at all.”
“Take time to enjoy the food and drink tonight,” Chef Louis said. “Notice its textures, the way it tastes, how you respond to it.”
Couples around the room were fidgeting in their seats, looking nervously around. Marie looked like she was ready to bolt out of her chair.
“Respect your food,” Chef Louis said. “As the French have long realized, men are motivated by respect. Women are motivated by love. Therefore, we must both love and respect our food.” Chef Louis ran a hand over the marble countertop for emphasis.
“Any questions?” he asked. When there were none, he held up a small bag of peas. “Now we will begin cooking!”
Frannie picked up the bag of peas on their table. “Am I supposed to respect my peas?” she asked. She held the bag in both her hands and bowed slightly towards it. “I respect you, peas.”
“I’m not going to say I love the peas,” David told her. “I love you, but not the peas. I am not a huge pea fan. Do you respect me as well as the peas?”
“I definitely respect you,” Frannie said.
“What does that look like?” David asked, curious.
“Well, I value you as a person,” Frannie said.
“You iron my dress shirts,” David said. “I think that’s showing respect.”
“Sure,” Frannie said. “I know you hate to iron, so I iron them for you out of respect for your ironing hatred.” She wrinkled her nose. “That sounds kind of stupid.”
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear,” Donna piped in next to them. “We covered this topic in our pre-marital counseling a few months ago. She fished through her purse and pulled out a small laminated piece of paper. “Would you like to hear a few ideas to show respect in a marriage? It’s okay if you don’t, I just thought I’d share it with you.”