Les Femmes Affamées: A Dinner in Seven Acts

May 4th– Theme: Tea Party Treats (& K’s Birthday Mash-Up)

CM – Mushroom, Leek & Ham Quiche
K – Pimento Cheese on Pumpernickel and Prosciutto, Fig & Brie Baguette
E – Open Face Cucumber & Dill Sandwiches
M – Gooey Butter Cake
G – Fresh Fruit Teacakes

Act I

The evening began innocuously enough, as K opened the drawing room windows to let in the spry spring air. An overwhelming calm enveloped K as she moved towards the kitchen, passing by her husbands piano, dragging her fingertips lightly over the keys. The late afternoon sun was stagnant, lingering hotly in the garden. The air was just thick enough to allude to a brewing spring thunder storm, and yet the skies were wide and clear, clinging to the brightness of the earth, and K was assured that this weather would last several more hours for her party. She had been thankful all day long that the sun was out and the wind calm, for there surely was no greater privilege than to have beautiful weather on your birthday. K’s mind drifted up through the branches of the Bradford Pear tree in her garden, and she imagined for a brief moment, what it might feel like to be a bird and clasp tightly to a twig with you toes, high up off the ground.

K was now 27 years old, but woke that morning with a peculiar feeling that she certainly must be older than that. Twenty-seven? It seemed such an insignificant number to her. “It seems only yesterday that I turned 16,” she thought. She walked slowly through the dining hall, pausing beside the set table, and K clicked her tongue and drew her lips together. “Have I truly lived, and not remember? Have I blinked and found myself another year older?” she mused, drawing a fingertip along the linen table runner, pausing over a blush pink embroidered flower. “When did this happen?” K let out a quick sigh, and fixed her thoughts back to the list of tasks at hand. Her world seemed a never ending list, with shorts bursts of leisure in between. Her gaze was fixed just past where he finger rested, and after looking at nothing for a long minute, she came to and pulled her hand back to her side. “Come now, Toby,” she chirped, and a small fawn and pepper colored hound appeared, and trotted obediently behind her heels. “We’ve got work to do.”


Act II

K fussed briefly at the hem of her blouse, pouting a lip in frustration for the wrinkles. “It will just have to do,” she sighed, as her mind wandered to an exotic garden tucked in a canopied thicket of jungle. Escaping the dreadful minutiae of her life in daydreams was not unfamiliar to K, as she often sat silently in the drawing room, legs crossed and hands together, gazing just past her reality and into the open window of her imagination. Where she was now was a humid and perfumed clearing in the jungles of India, dotted by three large woven mats and a low wall of plush feather pillows. She looked down and saw she was wearing a sheer white linen tunic, reaching her ankles, fastened with pearl-like golden buttons from her navel to her throat. Reaching lazily, K found a shallow rose bush, bursting with candy pink blooms. She twisted and broke off several baby buds, and inhaled sharply and felt the dew of the plants coat the inside of her nose. Closing her eyes, she leaned back against the support of the pillows, her hand falling open as the roses rolled away from her, and felt a small, timid tongue lapping at the top of her foot.

The hound had roused her from her jungle escape. K looked down and saw the scruffy dog sitting at her feet, desperately staring up at her and flicking his tail madly against the kitchen floor. “Of course, where are my manners?” While her mind floated away in her dream state, K’s body had gone on automatically. She had opened two packages of sharp yellow cheese and was nearly done grating the first block into a white ceramic dish. K tossed the dog a small corner of cheese, where he happily made it disappear. Before the hound had finished licking his chops, his ears perked attentively and his head whipped towards the kitchen door. Someone had approached and placed a hand on the knob, twisting the brass lock open.



“What amazing weather!” gushed G, as she swept into the kitchen through the side door and set down her bag, a bright and relaxed smile on her face. She had received a haircut recently, and her toasty blonde hair was tousled into soft ringlets atop her shoulders. K and G made pleasantries, celebrated the completion of G’s spring studies, and opened a bottle of wine G brought. They poured themselves a glass, and set about getting their ingredients prepared.

While K’s mouth continued chatting, her mind had again wandered off. She watched G cut a basket of fresh strawberries, and wash a bowl of ripe blueberries. G was wearing a gold leaf laurel, braided into the crown of her hair. Her sweeping grey gown had transformed into a smoky linen toga, banded together with a gold silk sash. K could see G kneeling beside a gurgling stream, lowering a porcelain dish of berries into the water. Her wrist was decorated in wild animal leather, with several sparkling pink pearls sewn in tight. The grassy bank that G rested on was lush and wild, with tiny white flowers sprouting all around her, as if her feet had summoned them from the ground. A small chest made of cypress was beside her, embedded with mother of pearl and abalone shell. G lifted the lid of the chest, folded back a piece of cloth, and revealed a treasure of bright yellow sweet cakes. This Grecian priestess moved with barely any effort, arranging the sweets onto a glass platter and slowly piling the fresh, crisp berries atop each round cake. K thought she heard the faint twinkle of a lyre, and turned around to find that CM had entered through the side kitchen door.


Act IV

CM found the open bottle of wine without any trouble, and hurriedly began unpacking her tote onto the kitchen counter; it seemed that nearly everything CM did was with purpose and resolve. She moved as if her actions were memorized, and effortless. K glanced down at her hands, and discovered that her pimento cheese was finished, and G was helping assemble the peppery spread onto slices of pumpernickel bread.  K blinked several times, and glanced down sideways towards the quiet hound, spread out on his belly in a sliver of sunshine. He swished his tail idly, looking up but not moving. He seemed to know that K had wandered away in her mind again, and he was devotedly watching her for when she came back. He swished his tail one last time, perhaps in hope of another lump of cheese, and then slowly closed his eyes. “Good dog,” said K, and crossed over to where CM was setting out a metal pie dish.

K closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring the delightful smell of CM sauteing mushrooms, leeks and ham in butter on the stove. CM unrolled a pale circle of dough into the pie dish, and set about crimping the dough into shape. CM was wearing a daisy yellow apron over a simple gingham dress, her hair packed high onto her head, tucked under a blue and green flowered scarf. K looked around only to realize that she was now in a rustic wood cabin, with a black pot belly stove roaring in the center of the room. CM reached for a wicker basket of eggs, her hands dusted with flour. She cracked them, one by one, and began to whisk the creamy egg and vegetable batter in a bowl, held tight near her breast, arms high and working quickly. CM wandered, while still mixing, over to an open door at the front of the cabin, where just outside was a small baby girl rolling a bright red ball across the porch floor. CM hummed to herself, opening her mouth occasionally to let out a beautiful note or two in song. K peered past the door, and saw two wild looking dogs bounding back and forth across the yard. CM poured the mixture into the pie dish, and set it over fire, but now her image grew hazy as she picked up the baby from the porch, smiling and chattering as the dogs sauntered up to watch their little family. K turned around when she heard the side door to the kitchen open once more.


Act V

K was delighted to find that her very best friend, M, and his fiance had arrived. She smiled and embraced them, pulling them into the kitchen. Between the oven and the bodies, the room had become quite warm. K’s cheeks became flushed and she realized that she hadn’t been concentrating at all. She dedicated all her energy to getting the last finishing touches to the table done, by pouring salt water taffy candies into a dish, as well as arranging imported Austrian chocolates onto a plate and setting them out. M set about to prepare his decadently simple butter cake, blending and stirring and patting and mixing. M’s fiance was more than happy to sit quietly at the table, and pour himself a cup of hot Macaroon tea that CM had brewed.

As K stepped away from the dining table, she backed up against a lush tapestry on the wall behind her. She spun around to find several oil portraits of strange looking men and women with white wigs and terribly elongated necks. All the portraits were set in ornate gold frames, and looking higher, K found the ceiling was painted as well, with fat baby cherubs, and clouds, orbiting an immense glass chandelier. M and his fiance were wearing dull lilac and powder blue velvet jackets, their faces pale, but their cheeks stained brightly. They each had tall, tightly curled white wigs on, and M had a wide brimmed blue hat on. M stood while his fiance stayed seated, and they spoke to each in foreign excitement. “Mais alors?” purred M’s fiance, setting down his tea cup. “Aber dann,” crooned M, tipping his nose high and nodding reassuringly. They both giggled and unwrapped a sweet from the china dish, placing the one they were holding into each others mouths. K desperately wanted to reach out and touch their tidy coifs, to pat their cheeks, to say something just as foreign and sweet to each of them. But she dare not disturb their hushed bliss, as if they were drifting off to nap while whispering to each other. The chandelier above her jostled, and then crashed without shattering. E had arrived, and stepping through the side kitchen door, she grinned.


Act VI

CM served her quiche, one moderately burnt slice at a time, onto the china dishes placed around the dining table. The drawing room windows were pulling in a splendid breeze. The sky was getting darker by the minute, but there was no threat of a storm. Another bottle of wine was opened, a rosé, and passed around. Lively conversation was shared over the sandwiches and desserts, as well as a hot pot of tea. At some points, perhaps the talk was a touch too lively and enriched with wine. The Grecian priestess ate until she was full, and then ate some more. The pioneer woman had a baby to tend to, and left the party without a minute to spare. The French and German aristocrats broadened their minds, and cherished the company. K looked down at her feet under the table, and found a small hound swishing his tail against the floor. K plucked a crumb of cheese from her plate, and tossed it to the dog. At least she never wandered so far as to forget her manners.


And then there was the Schnapps. K never wanted to visit that place ever again, not while awake, nor in her mind.



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