Kitchen POV - Slice 'o Life [SOL001]

Slice of Life Ep. 001 Today we are in the kitchen, cooking up some POV narrative.

Stone cottage surrounded by lush greenery, a table outside the front door contai a sweet potato and a loaf of bread on top.
One of these days, one of these days. Gotta get my garden back up to par first.

Nati had just rounded the final thicket out of the woods before noticing the smoke rising up past the hilltop.

"Oh no, I'm late!", he exclaimed, quickening his pace towards the community center. He could feel his stomach becoming unsettled at the thought of what chaos he would find, and of how he'd have to explain himself, yet again, to Kacy. The latter he really wasn't looking forward to. After all, today was going to be a major test for the kitchen and she was put in charge of it all.

Approaching the wide stone visage of the community building, the smell from the kitchen vents became too much to bear. Not having had a chance to eat breakfast, his stomach growled and took over his mind. "I bet I could sneak around to the side entrance and grab a bite to eat before reporting for duty", he thought, but before his feet could fully commit to that maneuver Kacy burst through the front door.

"There you are!", she exclaimed, pointing her finger in his direction. "Natividad, I know you weren't about to sneak in after being over an hour late!". Her exasperated looks and furrowed brow gave little indication of leniency.

"Sorry ma'am, truth was that...",

"We don't have time for excuses", snapped Kacy, "it's all hands-on deck today and you know it. There are still a ton of veggies that need to be prepped and it needs to be done within the next 30 minutes. We got a lot of people to feed, and they'll be here sooner than we know it".

"Yes ma'am!", quipped Nati with a half-hearted salute.

"Veggies. Now. Go!", Kacy barked. "And don't call me ma'am".

Back in the kitchen, pots, pans, cutting boards, and various utensils amass upon the wooden and stainless steel work surfaces. Something about the stress of feeding a large crowd left no room for diligence amongst the mess. May be stress, may be the kitchen leader, may be the kitchen leader's stress, but either way Natividad sighed as he tightened his apron. Finding workspace and a cutting board was going to be a chore, but at least the menu was easy to remember. Rough chop or "rustic" veggie stew, a zucchini noodle stir fry with beef, a cold noodle dish with dipping sauce, a couple of quick casseroles, and... some sort of savory pastry. Kacy oversaw the last one. It's a traditional dish that had been requested and she had been left to her own to figure it out.

Motioning in the air with his finger, "Zucchini, carrots, onion, garlic, spicy peppers, not spicy peppers, ginger, basil, annnnnnndd......", Nati lingered. "Mushrooms", spoke the voice to his left.

"Oh right! Mushrooms...", lingering again.

"Oyster and lion's mane", came the reminder.

"Ahhh... Right!... Which one's are those again?", sheepishly pleaded Nati.

Head in hand, "You really oughta work on your mushroom studies sometime", cried his friend. "I'll get them for you in a moment. I have to go to the cellar for a few items anyways".

"Thanks James, you're the best!", beamed Nati as he began peeling the carrots.

"I'm serious! Master the mushroom, master the world!", James said sternly. "If only we could get our hands on some morels! Fry them up! Make a sauce! Drool over their savory goodness!", James exclaimed. That man clearly had a passion.

"Ah, you know, I'll leave that expertise up to you", Nati teased.

"Speaking of leaving things up to me, I'm glad you actually showed up.", quipped James. "Had two others call out this morning. So, it's mostly been me and Syd on prep, except that Syd got called away on a special mission for Kacy, so it's mostly been me". Getting back to his work, "and now you. It's me and you".

"Apologies, man. Wasn't my intention to be late.", Nati paused. "I made a side trek this morning to find a certain berry that I needed for a certain sauce, and I, uh... got attacked by a bear".

"You WHAT!?", excplaimed James, squinting at Nati, piercing through the smokescreen. "Was this bear about yay tall, carrying a broom, and yelling at you to get out of their moonberry bush?".

"Well... maybe", Nati said quietly. "I ended up having to venture out to the wild to pick them, and they aren't as good if you don't pick them early, so I'm hoping it's worth Kacy's ire".

"Well, I hope so too! She's full of it today, and rightfully so". James clears away his scrap trimmings and cleans his knife. "I'm about to head to the cellar. Need anything else?", he asked.

"No, I don't think I need anything else. I got plenty" motioned Nati as he pulled another onion from the pile and got back to work.

James had just checked the stew for taste when Kacy burst into through the main dining hall door. "It's time", she said while tapping her wrist as if a watch were there. "People are already starting to line up. Let's get this food out and ready to serve".

"Already!?", James sighed, looking at the clock. Sure enough it was a quarter til noon. Between the prep work and coaching whatever help Kacy could drag in, time was barely a concept in his world unless it involved applying food to a source of heat. "Let's go ahead and get it over with".

"Where's Nati?" inquired Kacy, scanning the kitchen.

"Getting a head start on the dishes, figured he'd end up with the short straw today anyways. I'll go get him", volunteered James as started to make his behind the partition leading to the washroom.

Grabbing the pot of stew, Nati made his way to the dining hall. The serving area looked familiar as always, but the table arrangement within the semi-circular room was new. Tables had been arranged in equal length columns, jutting from the back of the room towards the front where the serving tables were located. This left a small clearing in the middle of the room where one rather ornate table was placed, along with 4 chairs, two facing each other.

"What's up with the fancy table?", Nati motioned to Kacy.

"Not sure. The leaders requested their own in the middle of the room. Supposed to be some sort of symbolic gesture in their culture, but I'm not too entirely sure.", Kacy said, never breaking from analyzing the details of the arrangements. "All I know is that they sure like things a certain way".

"Well, they are free to do it themselves if they like", Nati snarked.

"Agreed, but they sent ahead all the food for their people, plus extra for us, as compensation. All they asked was that we have some food prepared for them. If anything, it increases good will".

"I guess", Nati shrugged, looking towards the entry door. He could already see eight or ten people lined up, a small drop compared to the stream of them that would be making their way through today. Travelers, from Lavania, were easily recognizable by the headbands that they wore while making their annual pilgrimage. A rope of gold, crisscrossed by black thread, cutting the shape of diamonds going around the head.  Each year a new layer would be added and each person styled theirs a different way. It was always interesting to see how they changed from year to year.

Among the first to be served were the elderly and youths, followed next by everyone else (those with the most ropes going first). From the constant flow of people, there was barely time to take in the details. Most complimented the food and offered thanks for the help. Others, looking exhausted, made their way silently through the line. It was no small trek to make it all the way out to where they are now. Occasionally Nati would catch a break through the line to observe the swarm of people now occupying the dining hall. Kids restlessly running about the room, locals and Lavanians engaging in idle chit-chat, and of course, the huddle of people around the leader's tables, growing and shrinking, as the leaders thanked each one of them for their presence and company.

After almost an hour and a half, Nati was the last one left on the serving line, catching any stragglers or those looking for a second helping. Caught off guard whilst people watching, a man of impressive stature made his way through the serving line and stood next to Nati, startling him.

Noticing first the rings of his headband, which formed a structure much resembling that of a beehive, perched up top of his bushy, bearded face. Then next his clothing, which continued the black and gold theme, laced with embroidered bees throughout the hexagonal patterns, looking both sturdy and stylish. Clearly this man loved the theme or was important, perhaps both. Either way, Nati stood there surprised.

"Young man", said the Lavanian, "think you can spare a few of these hand pies?".

Nati, making a quick a quick calculation, noticed that there were about 12 of them left and not many more people coming in. "Uh, yeah I think so", he says and begins to wrap up half of what is left.

"Most Excellent!", beams the gentleman, "I haven't had pies this good since my mother used to run our kitchen in Lavania, something about a mother's touch that really helps the flavors come together". The man grabs the freshly wrapped pies with gratitude and heads back to his seat at the leader's table.

"I'll have to remember to tell Kacy, I'm sure she'd love to hear that she has a mother's touch!", Nati giggled to himself.