Story summary: "You can have anything you want, at Melissa's restaurant ... except Melissa." Well, actually, after supper and dishes, a little dessert of airy Melissa confection (cinnamony sweet) may be just what you are looking for. And who am I to say no?


A certain someone asked me "I know how to make gnocchi, but I want to know how you make it; so tell me!"

... and I thought: well, everybody knows how to make gnocchi, but when a certain someone told me her recipe didn't come out quite right and did she add too many chocolate chips ... (chocolate chips?)

Well, an intervention was necessary. So as a bucolic and spritely clarinet plays in the background, here I am in my little 'cafe boeurf' white cooking apron with my costar, Saga Louise who will . . .

[*pause* `phfina looks around kitchen, not seeing costar, then looks back at the camera.]

Excuse me one moment.

[`phfina pushes up her sleeves and stalks off, stage left]

[sounds of a scuffle, and a 'No, I won't go out there!' and 'Oh, yes, you will!' and 'You do it! It's your show!' and 'But you're the guest star; I can't have this show without a guest star!' and 'Since when have you had guest stars on your blog?' and a stamping of a foot and a 'Saga! Git out there NAOW!' and after a time of pulling and pinching and digging in of heels comes:]

"Ladies and gentlemen," an out-of-breath `phfina pants, "may I present our guest star, Saga Louise!"

TA-DAAH! goes the the trumpets.

Hmmphf! goes the put-out Saga, and she whispers out of the side of her mouth, 'I'm only doing this 'cause you dragged me out here.' and then Saga pauses, and asks a concerned: 'This isn't live, is it?'

`phfina looks innocence herself: "Of course not!" I exclaim, affronted ... but why is my hand behind my back, fingers crossed?

"Okay, ladies and gentlemen, on with the show. So, to make gnocchi you take these mashed potatoes and ..."

[Saga gives `phfina a quick tug on her sleeve]

"Hm, yes, Saga?"

'How did you make the mashed potatoes?' she whispers soto voce.

"Oh, well, you tell them, Saga, you know how to make them, right?" I say encouragingly.

The camera pans to Saga, she *gulps* and shakes her head vigorously no! turning almost as pale as `phfina.

Le sigh.

Then she adds: "You made them; you tell them!" forcefully ... if a whisper can be forceful, that is.

"Actually," I admit, "I didn't cook them, so ..."

I pause undecided.

Saga begins to whisper in my ear: "Well, you could . . ."

"Saga!" I interrupt and stamp my foot. "Look, you're on my show, there are millions of people watching right now, so talk to the camera, okay?"

"Millions?" Saga gulps.

"Well," I shift my feet, "maybe ten thousand or so, but ..."

Saga starts to make a hasty retreat stage left. "You said it wasn't live!" she wailed.

I grab her arm, "Saga, you have to stay, I need you, and the show must go on!"

"What could possibly convince me to stay here will millions of people staring at me!" Saga struggles to free herself from my vise-like grip.

Hm. I think. Saga's fearful eyes get terrified with the resolve that comes over me. I jerk her hard into me. She careens into my body and I wrap her in my arms, tilt her head back, and capture her lips in mine.

We kiss. We kiss hard, me forcing her into me and me into her. She struggles at first, but I'm not an aikido ninja master (mistress, actually, or maybe 'masteress' 'cause 'mistress' might mean ... well, actually, I'm that, too ... amazing what you can be thinking while entwined in your lover's arms in a full-on lip-lock) for nothing, and eventually her struggles weaken and cease, and I feel her yielding to me, giving herself to me and to the kiss.

I like this feeling. I hold the kiss for a while longer, to let her know this is real, this is forever, this me, and I have her and she's mine.

Her arms come up, and wrap me in them, pulling herself more into me.

... a fade to black would be really good here ...

Eventually I pull back.

Saga, eyes closed, head tilted back, has that dreamy look about her.

"Wow!" she breathes out.

"You do this show with me, and afterwards there be more of that, and ... well, a lot more than that for you, sweetie," I promise.

Saga perks up at this, opening her eyes expectantly, "Really?" she asks eagerly.

"Really-really," I said, pleased.

"But if I ..." she begins, worry creeping into her voice.

"Saga, you will," I interrupt, "It's all part of the charm of the show."

"But, ..." she protests.

"Saga," I get all authoritative and toppy, "if you don't do what you're told, then NO SPANKIE FOR YOU!"

"You wouldn't!" she says in shocked disbelief.

"Wouldn't I?" I dared.

"What?" she wails, "No spankies? That's too cruel!" And did she, in fact, stagger back and press her hand to her head?

My snigger at her ham-handed mock-semi-serious acting brought her back to the present, she came out of her pose and looked around furtively.

"Erhm ..." she essayed.

"So," I said, business-like, kindly rescuing her, "shall we continue with the show?" and then I add in an aside, "or is it NST, and am I sleeping on the couch tonight?"

Saga glowers at me, but waves regally toward the camera, but then seeing the camera and the whole crew, the boom boy, the operator, the director, her regal wave turns trembling and tentative.

"Good girl," I praise her, confidently, trying to instill her with my own.

My praise is misplaced, Saga digs her fists into her sides, taps her foot a few times and declares, affronted, "I'm not a girl, Melissa, you're the girl."

I just so love to see the fight in her: she is such a fem.

"Yes," I purr, "but I'm on top! And don't you forget it!"

"Promise?" Saga entreats hopefully.

Now it's my turn to be slightly embarrassed and give a quick look to the camera.

"Saga," I whine, impatiently, "Not now! Later; later!"

But she is not to be dissuaded. "When then?"

I whisper quickly, "Jeez, Saga, you sexpot! Tonight, okay?"

"Okay," she says cheerily, then gets a whistful, dreamy look, probably imagining the goings-on that will be occurring to her ... by me! ... later tonight.

Whew! did it just get warm in here? And did I just growl possessively? From whence did that growl come, besides from being ripped from deep in my (tiny, sigh) chest.

My, my, my! But it's not like she has anything to base on her imagination ... well, except for every moment, day or night we are alone in the flat ... alone together, that is: in the bedroom, of course, but also on this very kitchen floor, and then there's the bathroom and shower, and ...

Yes, I believe it is getting warm in here.

Um ... where were we?

Oh, yes, the cook show.

SO! I didn't make the mashed potatoes, my little niece is ... well, that's her specialty when their family has big meals that they invite me over to so I don't starve to death, which I won't but that's what they think, and that's kind of them, I guess, and annoying, too, but so it goes.

SO! Let's ask Elena Marie how she made the mashed potatoes. C'mon, Saga.

Elena Marie is, of course, deep into her latest novel, which is always so hard to keep track of which is her latest because she literally borrows fifty books a week from the library (I know, I've helped carry them) and she would borrow more if the library didn't set a limit! She's wearing a, God help me, Chairman Mao olive green cap, a red shirt and blue jeans. She had been wearing a white bandana, showing pride in her country's colors, but this is her favorite cap.

As for her person, she is Bella Swan. She has long, rich chocolate brown hair and two dark pools for eyes. She is going to be the subject of so much attention (from so many sources) as she grows, and, like, Bella, be so unaware of it all.

"So, Elena Marie," I say, "How do you make the mashed potatoes? What's your secret?"

She looks up indolently from her book until she notices the cam. "Am I going to be on your show?" she asks nervously.

"Don't mind that, sweetie," I say quickly, "just tell me how to make your delicious mashed potatoes."

"No," she says firmly. "I don't want to have the paparazzi follow me everywhere and ask me questions all the time. That's not nice!"

And she takes up her book and leaves the room, running into my bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

"But ..." I say.

*SLAM* says the door.

I knock quietly on the door. "Elena, sweetie," I entreat and try to open the door.

Elena is leaning on the other side.

"Okay, honey," I compromise, "You won't have to go on the cam, but can you just, like, I don't know, whisper the recipe through the door and I'll tell our viewers it?"

"No!" Elena snarls.

I look around in desperation to Saga. She shrugs.

I mouth a sarcastic: "Well, that helps!" to her. Saga gives me a cross look and tries herself.

"Maybe you can write down the recipe and pass it under the door?" she offers.

Elena opens the door a crack and examines Saga suspiciously. "Who are you?"

"Elena," I say calmingly, "this is my friend Saga. She just came from Sweden."

Elena's eyes sparkle with interest.

"Really?" she asks incredulously, "just like the Swedish chef? Say something in Swedish!"

"Elena," I say, rolling my eyes, embarrassed.

Saga smiles kindly down at Elena. "What do you want me to say?"

Elena bounces with excitement: "Say 'urba-shurba'!" she squeals with delight.

"What?" Saga asks in confusion.

"Elena," I say firmly, putting my foot down: "No!"

Her face falls, but then I get an idea and whisper to her

(Elena is always hatching some plot or scheme with her playmates)

"Ask Saga to say the word 'the'"

"The word 'the'?" Elena asks in surprise. "Why?"

Saga's face turns beet red: "I say 'the' just fine, thank you!"

"Ooh!" I squeal, "say 'the' again, Saga!"

Saga gives me dagger eyes. "No!" She crosses her arms obstinately, looking very Old World regal.

"Okay, okay!" I backpedal, realizing I've crossed a line.

Us 'Merkans: so brazen. No social graces or aloofness whatsoever. Can't keep them in polite society at all. I'd probably drink out of the finger bowl or something. I'd probably use the objective case of a pronoun when I should have used the subjective case ... probably.

I blush in my own embarrassment.

Elena looks between me and Saga [note the proper use of the objective pronominal, fellow writeresses?]. She addresses Saga, "You look older than my auntie to be a friend."

Saga looks away.

"And you're shorter, too."

Elena Marie, matchmaker.

I intervene. "Actually," I say, "we fit together purrrfe - OUCH!"

Saga pinches my arm. Hard. There's going to be a bruise there.

"Shh!" she shushes me.

Elena Marie weighs Saga. "I like you," she decides. "I'll give you the recipe."

Then she commands: "Stay right here!" and closes the door.

Sounds of pen to paper, and Elena's flowing cursive. Paper being folded, then refolded. And then a crack in the door appears and Elena pokes the neat square to Saga. "It's a present for you," she explains.

Saga is touched. "Oh, how sweet!" she exclaims, causing Elena to smile hugely and blush at the same time.

Elena glares at me. "Be nice to her."

"Excuse me, young lady," I begin hotly.

"She's your guest," Elena continues forcefully. "... and you don't have any friends, so you can't lose this one. Who else would you get to hang out with?"

I'm surprised Elena knows how to use the words: 'hang out.' I thought her home-schooling parents wouldn't allow that kind of talk.

I cast my eyes down. And again Saga rescues me. "She is being very nice to me, sweetie," she reassures Elena kindly.

"Very nice," I emphasize with a wicked whisper.

I can see the blush on Saga's neck heat her collar.

Elena examines us both, glaring at me. I'm sure blaming me for the camera and mutters a cross 'hmmphf!' before closing my door on my face. I hear her return to her book.

I sigh. Must be hard to be a kid and read all the books you love all the time! Oh, to be nine again!

I tug on Saga's arm, and we return to the kitchen.

"Okay, Saga," I say. "Read out the recipe for mashed potatoes."

"Why?" Saga asks. "This is your cook show."

"Yes," I say, "and this is your recipe now, and since it's my cook show, I'm telling you to read it out."

What's with everybody these days? Why doesn't everybody do exactly what I tell them without question, but no!

Saga glowers, but unfolds the paper and reads out the recipe.


6 potatoes, peeled and quartered.
1 cup microwaved milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Boil potatoes in water until done. Mash. Mix in milk, salt and butter. Mash. Serve.


Saga looks up at me: "But for how long do you cook them?"

"Good question, Saga, as I'm sure many of our viewing audience is asking themselves that very question," ...

... does my tone sound officious when I'm lecturing?

... I call out strongly, "ELENA MARIE!"

"YEAH?" she calls back from my room.

"HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO TAKE OUT THE POTATOES FROM THE WATER?" I ask.

"WHEN THEY'RE DONE!" Elena answers as if schooling an addled child about an obvious point in the lesson plan.

I sigh. "BUT FOR HOW LONG?"

By the way, I hate shouting across the house, ... even when the house is a one-bedroom apartment.

"I DON'T KNOW," Elena answers, annoyed.

I push up my sleeves again and trudge over to my bedroom door.

"Yes, you do," I say reasonably.

"No, I don't," comes the still annoyed answer.

"So," I say, controlling my temper ...

... [I hate it when people say, 'I don't know' or 'I don't understand this.']

... "So, when do you know when the potatoes are done?" I ask evenly.

"I stick a fork in one, and it feels like it's ready to be mashed," Elena explains.

"And ..." I say, ...

Do you know how people say things that just beg the question?

Yeah. Okay, I'll play along.

"And so about how long after you put the potatoes in the boiling water do you check on them, normally?" I say, hiding a small smile on my lips.

If there's ever anyone to pursue an inquiry, well, then, that would be `phfina: inquiry-pursuer extraordinaire!

"I guess, ..." Elena says, probably pausing, setting aside her book (reluctantly), and thinking it through, "after one or two Shaun the Sheep episodes I go check on them."

"Oh," I say, "okay. Thank you, sweetie."

I got my answer (6 to 12 minutes), and I didn't get all ... `phfina-righteous about it, too.

Life is savored in its small victories.

And big victories, too, I suppose.

Otherwise, who would watch the Red Sox win the World series?

*ahem* I return to the kitchen as I'm sure Elena returns to her book.

So I pencil in the cook time for Saga and return my focus to the camera.

"Okay," I say, "now that you have left over mashed potatoes in the fridge that your relatives gives you three tons worth of because they don't think you eat without them feeding you, making gnocchi is a cinch. Saga, would you get out the mashed potatoes and the flour?"

Saga retrieves both. She asks: "You keep your flour in your refrigerator?"

"Yeah," I say. "Oh!" I add. "We need one egg. Saga, sweetie ...?"

She fetches me the egg.

"Okay, now you crack the egg into the bowl of mashed potatoes, and mix the two together..."

I wait. Saga waits. We look at each other.

"Saga, sweetie, would you kindly do that?"

"Huh?" Saga asks. "Oh!" realization dawns, and she goes about the task of cracking the egg.

"Recycling?" she asks.

"Um, no," I say, embarrassed. For composting, I'd need a composter. And a lawn. And a garden. An attached castle would be good, too. Heliport. Boat launch ...

Where was I? Oh, yes. I indicate the trash can under the sink, and Saga discards the egg shell.

"Okay," I say to Saga, handing her a wooden spoon, "stir the egg in."

Saga examines the long-handled spoon. I wonder if she's contemplating joyfully exclaiming "Bork-bork-bork!" and casting the spoon behind her in carefree abandon.

But her thought surprises me. She taps the flat of the spoon against her open palm and says, "This spoon could be very useful ... later."

And she gives me a warm, anticipatory grin.

"Saga!" I blush fire engine red (well, more like 'pink lemonade' is about as dark as I get, but it feels fire-engine red hot to me), "mind the PG rating of the show, if you please!"

Saga shrugs nonchalantly, pleased that she's scored a point against the ever-so-cool-as-a-cucumber `phfina.

[hmmmm! cool cucumbers and their many ... uses ... NO! NO! later! Later!]

As Saga mixes the egg and mashed potatoes together, I get out my bread board and liberally sprinkle it with flour.

"Okay," I say when Saga finishes, as I'm a rather take-charge girl like that. "What we do now is mix in an equal part of flour into the mashed potatoes, but we do it gradually, so that the mixture goes from wet and starchy to a dry and doughy consistency."

Saga looks at me expectantly, so I sigh, and pour mashed potatoes onto the floured bread-board and then pour a generous dusting of flour over that. I begin to kneed the mixture, and where it gets sticky or runny I grab a handful of flour right from the bag and sprinkle it over that spot, continuing to kneed with my thickly flour-encrusted hands.

"Like that," I say and use my chin to point to the big lump of potato dough. "Now you try," I tell Saga.

She tries.

Much too delicate.

I sigh. Fems!

"No, honey," I say, standing behind her. I put my hands over hers, and she sucks in a surprised gasp of air at the contact of our flesh and bodies. I press her hands hard into the dough. "You have to be forceful as you kneed, okay? The flour and the mashed potatoes have to be fully integrated."

"Okay," she breathes out. I kiss her shoulder and step back.

"Hey!" she complains. "Why did you leave?"

"You were doing fine," I explained.

She rejoined right away: "And so were you!"

I smile at that.

"Finish here, sweetie, so we all can eat, eh?" I chide.

"Hmmphf," she snorts, but returns to the task.

"Okay," I say. "We need a pot of boiling water to put the gnocchi into when it's ready. You know the gnocchi's been cooked when it floats to the surface of the boiling water."

I prepare the pot and put it on high heat, and then preheat the oven to 350F.

"Okay, Saga, done?" I ask.

"You check," she says.

I check. It feels good.

"Okay, what we do now is to roll these into snakes and then from the snakes cut off one inch sections. Those will be the gnocchi."

I divide the big bread-sized dough into two section, giving one to Saga. With mine I take off a handful and with my own dusted breadboard I roll it into a long snake and with a knife section it into one inch pieces. Saga observes for a moment and then replicates what I'm doing.

As we're working, she whispers, "You're very intense as you cook."

I grunt a 'Yeah' noncommittally, focusing on the work.

"You're very intense about everything," she observes.

My mouth twitches down. Yeah, that's about right. I'm very intense about everything. Runs in the family. My mom, my dad, my brothers and sisters ... we're all very intense.

I've been watching my nieces, hoping that they'd be well-adjusted and social and sociable ... unlike, well: me. And, thank Heavens, they are. But they do read. All the time, and are rather strong in their convictions, even for young children. I hope they turn out all right. I pray that, for them, that they are happy, growing up and happy, being grown ups.

Unlike me: Miss Intense.

"Does it bother you?" I ask Saga.

"No," she says quickly. Which means 'yes.' "It's just that I don't see that in hardly anybody else I know ... except me."

She smiles wistfully.

"Then I guess we are M.F.E.O." I say philosophically.

Her brow furrows. "'M.F.E.O.'?" she asks, perplexed.

I smile back at her: "'Made for each other.'" I explain and pat her affectionately on the cheek.

"Oh," I say, "there's a bit of flour on your cheek!" and I go to wipe it away.

Of course, with my floury hands, this makes things worse. "Hm," I say, "let me get a damp paper towel and wipe it away. Must have you looking presentable!"

"But then I won't look like you!" she cries.

And I'm like: 'Huh?' with my mouth open and everything when she takes the bag of flour and reaches in ...

"Saga!" I cry, shocked, "Don't you dare!"

"Too late!" she sings, and out flies a cloud of flour right into my face and hair!

Game. On.

My snarl warns her of my intentions and she shrieks fearfully and delightedly as we chase each other around the table, reaching into the bag of flour, hurling clouds of it everywhere.

"What's going on? What's going on!" stomps in a bossy and demanding Elena Marie. When she sees the flour fight however, she jumps right in, throwing flour at us both, and disengaging to the hall whenever we target her, but jumping back in when we refocus on each other ... which happens the second Saga grabs a handful of flour and rubs it right in my face!

Ooh! that girl is SO gonna pay!

Eventually Elena Marie's had her fill of fun and breaks up the flour fight so she can get back to reading in peace with a very pointed question of when supper is going to be ready? ... asking the question as if she were asking: 'why isn't supper ready now!'

Babysitting my nieces is just so easy ... most of the time. Except when they get bossy ... which happens most of the time.

So we set back to work, except for my menacing aside to Saga: 'You are so gonna get it later!'

And Saga's impish: 'It was so worth it!'

"Okay, enough foolishness," I declare. "Now we make the gnocchi."

And I show Saga how you flatten the one inch piece slightly with your fingers and the fold it over onto itself. "There!" I say. And we set to work folding the rest.

It always takes so much longer than anticipated, but eventually, folding, we get the first batch done, and I slide those from the breadboard into the pot of boiling water (with a touch of extra virgin olive oil and salt).

The first batch in, I slide the covered pan into the oven and set the timer to 35 minutes.

"DINNER IN HALF-AN-HOUR, ELENA!" I bellow.

"What was that?" Saga asked, indicating the oven.

I wave away her question.

"ELENA?" I demand.

Back to me comes a petulant: "Okay; okay!"

You have to tell kids what's coming up or they get lost, frustrated and angry. This is a lesson I've learned as a babysitting auntie.

Pleased that Elena got it. I return to folding the gnocchi with Saga.

"So, what is that in the oven?" Saga asks in her ... nearly perfect proper English accent. Not Swedish accent.

Not too much.

Hey, and who am I to say? Like I'd last one second in Sweden.

Incidentally, I just love-love-love that Swedish accent, but I will never-never-never even think! Swedish Chef. Nosirree. Not me. No.

Saga sounds just like a 'Saga version' of the Swedish chef.

I DIDN'T THINK THAT!

"Um," I say, distracted by the ever-distracting thoughts, and the directions those distractions take me: "it's the main course to go with the gnocchi: eggplant parmesan."

Saga stops verk. I MEAN: 'work'!

JEEZ!

"Are you going to share that recipe now, too, or are you just going leave me," and then she nods toward the camera and adds frostily, "and all your millions of followers in the dark about it?"

I shift on my feet. "Saga, I don't have millions of followers!"

"Well?" she demands.

Saga is not to be deterred.

"Yes, m'am," I say humbly. "It's in my book of recipes on the shelf over there ... will you read it out while I finish up with the gnocchi?"

"Okay," she says forgivingly. And washes her hands and says, "Where?"

I say: "That red-plaid notebook has my recipes I print out."

She nods and pulls it out, putting it on the counter and starts leafing through the pages, looking for the recipe.

I finish up the gnocchi, but then seeing Saga bent over the recipe book like that ...

"Um," I say, "I'll just freshen up. Could you put these into the pot for me?"

"Sure," she says, muttering to herself, looking distracted. She tears herself away from the book and puts the gnocchi in while I go to the bathroom to 'freshen up.' I do just that. And get ... something from a certain secret place [that nobody will ever-ever find].

Child proofing your house can be just so difficult. First it was scissors and screwdrivers and wall outlets. Now it's ... well.

I come back, la-di-dah, from freshening up, and Saga is still looking through the recipes, muttering, 'Can't find it!'

When I come up behind her bent form and brush ... something ... right between where her legs join. You know, ... from the back.

Saga absolutely howls a bloodcurdling scream when the butt plug quests along between her cheeks, brushing lightly her entrance, and she slams her hands down as all color drains from her face.

I burst out laughing as Saga turns on me, murder in her eye.

"Why did you scream? What's that?" Elena Marie's head pops into the kitchen.

Oops! unexpected consequence!

"What, this?" I ask, ashen-faced, thinking faster than I have ever thought before. "It's, ah, well, it's a ..." ... not plug! Not Plug! NOT PLUG! ... "... it's-a-stopper!" I rush out that last bit.

Elena looks at it with interest. "You mean like for a bottle? That must be a really big bottle!"

"Well," I agree, relieved, "I suppose relatively speaking the vessel would be larger than a wine bottle, yes."

I can't help but look along Saga's backside appreciatively.

"But it is for the finest of vessels," I add, grinning.

"Can I have it?" Elena asks brightly.

"Um, no!" I say quickly, imagining the Armageddon visited on me by Mrs. _ when Elena Marie shows her mother the 'stopper' she got from her auntie. "Um, I have to use it for, um, something tonight, I mean today!"

"What?" Elena asks curiously.

"Uh, not now! Not now!" I say quickly, glancing at the oven. "Dinner's almost ready, so would you help us set the table?

I quickly stow the ... 'stopper' in the kitchen utensil drawer.

What? It's sanitized! Back off!

Elena drops it; thank God! and helps setting the table. Her imperative to help, and to be bossy while helping, overtakes her native curiosity.

"Found it!" Saga says brightly, but shooting me a death glare, and reads out the recipe for Eggplant Parmesan.


3 peeled eggplants
2 beaten eggs
4 cups bread crumbs (but I just use as much as I need)
6 cups spaghetti sauce (I use a jar of spaghetti sauce and one can tomato paste and 1/2 jar red wine)
1 (16 oz) package shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 teaspoon dried basil.

`phfina's Spaghetti sauce:

2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans tomato paste
1 can sweet red wine (kosher?) ... really, `phfina: "1 'can'"? Yes, really. You pour the wine in the can of tomato sauce to clear it out.
7 or so sliced mushrooms
1 T oregano
1 T basil
1 T garlic powder
1/2 t onion or celery salt

To make the spaghetti sauce sauté the mushroom in extra (not so) virgin olive oil and mix in the spices, the garlic, oregano, basil and a shake of salt. Add the sautéed and flavored mushrooms to the tomato base and combine with more shakes of the spices. Simmer on low heat while you 'do' the eggplant (see below).

Bread and fry the eggplant in extra virgin olive oil, then layer a baking pan with repeated layers of sauce, eggplant, and cheese. For the layers: lather (layer), rinse (not really) and repeat until you use up all the ingredients, filling the pan.

Bake at 350F for 35 minutes uncovered or a bit longer for a golden-brown crust of cheese.


On cue, the oven beeps as we ladle out the gnocchi from the surface of the boiling water. The food all comes out hot, tomato-y (except the gnocchi), Italian.

We all sit down. Elena Marie says, "Are we done with your show now?"

"Oh, yeah, that's right," I answer, and then wave easily at the camera. "Bon Appetite!"

As the spritely clarinet plays the closing theme and the camera fads to black, Elena Marie commands bossily, "Okay," just like her auntie, "let's pray."

And we cross ourselves and intone, "Bless us, O Lord, in these thy gifts ..."


[1] Saga asked me for the recipe for gnocchi. As we Italians say: It's in the-aih! But if you missed it:

1 cup mashed potatoes
1 beaten egg
1 cup flour.

Mix the ingredients. Kneed until it's of a uniformly dry and doughy consistency. Roll. Cut in to one inch squares. Press and fold. Boil until gnocchi rises to surface.

Simple, right? But writing that always made me think of my Nana and how her hands would be in mine as we made gnocchi together and how I just watched in awe of how she created this eggplant frittata red sauce from thin air in minutes.

And then I would cry, as I do now, writing this, missing her.

So the idea came to me to have a show with Saga. She wanted the recipe; well, she had to costar, you see, to get it. And this was a much happier story for me to write than that of me remembering holding Nana's hand in the hospice as she wasted away from the cancer.

Yes. I remember Nana. And I like this story, now, too.

[2] Um: this is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional (even me!) and bear no resemblance to persons, living or dead. Any similarities are totes coincidental.

[3] You did read the spankie thing correctly. This isn't your relationship. This is ours (hypothetically speaking for hypothetical, fictional characters). Deal.

[4] After Elena Marie goes home to her family, the olive oil will be the only thing that will be 'extra' (or even 'just') virgin.

[5] So, Elena Marie is like Bella Swan. And Saga is like, I mean ISN'T LIKE! the Swedish chef. So is this a Twilight-Muppets crossover fic? What do you call that category? A 'Twi-ppets' fic?

[6] NST, n.: defined in my story, Christmas Surprises. A twific. :p

[7] It was a year ago I published Fireworks, so here a bit more for you. Well, hinted-at fireworks, at any rate. But the ... 'stopper' is a pretty strong hint. Even if we've ... um. yeah. Never mind. Whatevs. And I'm going out tonight to watch the fireworks in D.C. ... leaving right now, so enjoy this story (Fireworks II: Back with a Bang!) as I enjoy the fireworks, yes?

[8] Oh, and any relation to the food fight in the kitchen of the Whistle Stop cafe of Fried Green Tomatoes is purely intentional ... I mean: COINCIDENTAL! JEEZ!