Writing tasks

Having a Meal. What does it reveal?

Quite a lot it seems. With only sparce dialogue in places, these 200 word compositions give us beautiful little illustrations of hidden character traits that only come out at the table. What’s on the menu? Sexual chemistry, tension, the outright disgusting… Pick up your knife and fork and get ready to tuck in.

Fork and Knife By Robyn Kayes

Mother used to always say to me, “Eat your food with a fork and knife.”

“And what about dessert?”

“Use a spoon, with a fork to assist.”

“What about the boys? Why don’t they eat like that? Why do I have to do things differently?”

“Because you’re a young lady, and you should always do things as a lady would.”

“Why can’t I eat chicken like they do, it looks as though it tastes better when you pick up the pieces and eat it off the bones.”

A variation of this conversation occurred nearly every dinner time as I argued my way through the meal, until one day in the school holidays, my older brother decided that we would take a walk to the fish and chips shop on the High Street. He bought a packet of hot chips, doused in salt and vinegar. “Eat that with your fingers and see how good it tastes! But don’t tell Mother. Next time, just pick up the chicken and eat it, and see what she says.”

Louis – Italian American Restaurant © Kanthé 2022

Mikey was the youngest of the family. He had been invited out for a meal by two men he barely knew. He really was not in the mood. He had bruises on his face like fallen apples…like a jaundiced liver but he went along. He had to.

They took him to Louis – an Italian American restaurant out in The Bronx; tucked under an overpass. Dimly lit…sparse; the perfect place. The older man, McCluskey ordered veal – apparently it was the best in the city. He was tall and floury and broken like a breadstick. The other guy, Sollozo prattled on in Italian…his face red and florid – the shade of prime beef gone bad.

Mikey was olive skinned and short. With shiny black hair the colour of Lambrusco grapes. His eyes – big and large and watery like poached eggs. Mikey was shit scared but hoped it didn’t show. He played with his food…finger food. His fingers long and white like cheap sausages. Greasy sweat on his upper lip. His collar too tight. The young man felt like a suckling pig in this get up.

He got up suddenly. He told them he needed the toilet as another train rumbled in the overpass.

Sollozo was still talking like he was still someone worth considering when Mikey came back in. He shot Sollozo in the head at point-blank range. The blood flew up like a mist of ragu sauce. McCluskey – he shot in the throat first and then the head…making sure he never got to finish the best veal in New York City.

Mikey dropped the gun and walked out.

Show and Tell by Valerie Benham

Of course, I will get you anything you like he said, turning towards the waiter behind the large bar area.   Eventually the cappuccino and my companion’s double ice cream arrived.   At this point he only had eyes for the ice cream, devouring the pastel shades of this artistic concoction of sensual pleasure, or so he obviously thought.   His spoon plunged into the mountains of pure cholesterol, making light work of the glacial mounds. He started to speak to me revealing a cream coated tongue but completely unaware of the turn off this created in me. He shot his tongue out of the lips, curling it up with great pleasure whilst somehow continuing to talk. I winced in my seat turning slightly away from his gaze. I was experiencing a deep revulsion of this otherwise pleasant man. The odds had been stacked against him from the outset, lived an hour’s drive away, not sure I would gel with an ex-golf professional and so on. My mum came over to stay nine months ago and is still at my place he stated happily. She can have anything she wants; I buy her the best quality of salmon and of course, ice-cream.  

Tina has invited Emily for dinner by Mike Moss

‘So, the other two cancelled, you say?’ asked Emily

‘Yes, quite late. Annoying late, in fact, but what can you do? Please, sit. It’s nearly ready.’

Two floral place mats, with matching serviettes and coasters lay on the table and the cutlery was set out with precision.  Emily chose the nearest chair. It was an old garden chair; metal, chipped green paint, floral cushion, a little out of place alongside the other three assorted chairs that surrounded the round table.

‘Wine? It’s red,’ Tina added, unnecessarily.

‘Please,’ replied Emily, noting the label. Expensive. ‘Something smells good.’

‘My grandma’s recipe. She was Italian, you know.’

‘No, I didn’t.’

‘Oh, yes, that’s where my fiery side comes from, so my father would say. My mother said it was my ginger hair.’ A buzzer buzzed. ‘It’s ready. Hang on.’ She disappeared into the small kitchen, appearing a minute later with two platefuls of spaghetti Bolognese and green beans. She placed one on Emily’s mat and sat down with the other.

‘Looks great,’ smiled Emily.

‘Bon appetit.’ Tina raised her glass. ‘Here’s to friendship.’

Emily drank and Tina refilled her glass. They ate quietly, talking about the café. Emily noticed that Tina carefully arranged each mouthful, a mix of spaghetti, Bolognese and vegetable. Now that Tina was sitting down, it was impossible to not to notice her low cut T-shirt. Tina leant over to refill Emily’s glass. She’s not wearing a bra, thought Emily. Her gaze moved up. Tina’s grey, doe like eyes were fixed on hers, smiling, hoping.

Emily’s suspicious mind wondered if the other two guests had really been invited.

Skinny White Jeans by Vivien Eden

“Sorry, is my separate dressing on its way?”

“I’ll be back with it in two ticks.” The flustered waitress bolted back into the kitchen.

“That’s some mega-bowl you’ve got there Karen. What’s in it?”

Karen’s neck reddened slightly.

“Just a superfood salad. Everywhere has oversized the crockery these days. So annoying!” She glanced at Sadie’s hamburger and triple cooked chips and looked away quickly.

“You are good. No wonder you look the way you do. Excuse me waitress, any chance of some ketchup? Help yourself to a chip Karen.”

“Maybe in a minute. Thank you.”

Karen removed her napkin from the table, slowly unfolded it and carefully placed it on her lap on top of her skinny white jeans. Picking up her knife and fork, she cut half a cherry tomato into quarters. She eased the slither of red onto her fork and went fishing in her bowl for something else to join it. The fork emerged with two additional dark-green lentils and a shred of curly lettuce.

The salad dressing appeared in a tiny earthenware jug. Karen picked it up observing the dark vinegar with a layer of oil settled on top. She looked at her watch, hesitated a moment, then put it down.

Breakfast at the High Street Cafe by Sue Blitz

Steve used the fork in his fist to stab at the piece of fried egg he had hacked off. He took the mouthful and as he chewed vigorously, he aimed the liberated fork at Martin and continued his conversation.

Meanwhile Martin had been sawing away at some flaccid bacon. His knife not getting the best purchase on the meat as it was being held more like pencil than a cutting tool. But why hadn’t he noticed that his fork was not doing its job either? He really wasn’t pinioning the meat down firmly enough for a proper assault, the fork tines were pointing upwards with a lame grip on the stubborn pale pink pork.

Martin looked up and nodded at Steve, looked down again and realised that he had been using the butter knife from his side plate, having inadvertingly exchanged it with the more suitable steak knife, now taunting him from the table’s edge.

Then Steve’s fork went into the attack again. Lunging in the air, describing circles and semi-circles, splashing fat, spittle and egg yolk in its wake.

Martin put down his knife and fork and stared at Steve. His cutlery semaphoring the twenty-past-four position, a signal at odds with the crunched-up paper serviette plonked onto the middle of his plate.

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