The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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May 27, 2016

Humor, and hunger, and compassion

      Lucy frowned and spoke up in disagreement. 'Everybody may be but I'm not everybody, my dear.' That should have shown Sara how grossly imperative she had been, but the woman had apparently been born without the appreciation for subtlety. Sara laughed, saying, 'Lucy, I'm talking to you especially. I hate to have you driving yourself up, painting at dawn, wearing yourself out.'
      She found herself softening as she remembered the tone of real concern and affection in Sara's voice. It was a pity that Lucy so thoroughly disapproved of the poor creature. This only showed that young people, even those as thoroughly repulsed as was Sara, were drawn toward Lucy's sympathy and understanding. Had things only been a little different...
      Last night! This was the reason she'd awakened feeling so excited and upset this morning. Even Nan would have to agree it was deliberate, how Sara had shooed them — as if they were old ladies, old! — off to bed, saying they were tired, then stayed until early morning herself, drinking and talking ...
      Now she heard a sudden slapping step on the path and Lucy lept into the shadow of her window. Francois, late as usual, was hurrying down from the village. Lucy's heart thudded with exasperation as she saw it was almost eight. This meant her breakfast would not be up until at least a quarter past the hour. She felt suddenly weak with hunger as she threw herself down on the detestable blue chaise.
      This was Sara's fault, of course. It was a ridiculous idea to have this lanky villager come clear from the village every morning to serve their breakfasts. And it wasn't that Francois was inefficient — indeed, he served very well and cleaned like a madman all morning and the few times he'd helped with dinner he'd done so beautifully.
      It was simply to feed Sara's outrageous vanity about her cooking that she refused to keep a servant in the house and instead made this poor man climb up and down the hill from the village, sometimes twice a day. Of course Sara was a good cook but it made Lucy almost laugh to see how Sara used this to attract attention.
      God knew, it was easy to build a reputation, she thought, with one or two excellent dishes. She herself enjoyed the tremendous successes of her own Sunday-night suppers and knew well the delight of having people ask for her recipes, but all this had come from years of experience, searching through ancient cookbooks and of traveling and above all from Lucy's deep understanding of people.
      To see this girl pretending to know something about gastronomy was too funny to bear, was, in fact, enraging.
      She heard her stomach rumbling and she began to stir uncomfortably. If Francois didn't hurry she might faint. She looked again at the clock, ten past. He likely wouldn't be up for another five minutes!
      Lucy moved quietly to the bureau and slipped open the top drawer. There, beneath her folded slips, there, toward the back, yes there! She crammed a handful of the little chocolate drops into her mouth, shut the drawer forcefully, then sat down again, now breathing faster in anticipation.
      The chocolate melted and ran deliciously down her throat and she was calmer, her breath steadying her and becoming more quiet.
      They were so good.
      Francois's steps sounded cautiously on the stone stairs and Lucy hurried back to bed, fluffing her hair out as she passed the mirror. She pulled the sheet up to cover half of her large chintz-emblazoned breasts just as he tapped on the closed door with early-morning discretion.
      'Yes?' She sang it gaily on two notes as she wiped a little chocolate from the corner of her mouth.

from The Theoretical Foot, by M.F.K. Fisher

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