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5. Pilot Light 7. Lucy Padstow

August 7th, 2020

Sweet as Sugar

'Oh-' A record-table-bumping silence from an awkward teen movie film would have been positively hip and hopping in comparison to the deafening muteness that swept over the provincial garden-party, at which one particular attendee felt themselves rather out of place. Children stood with open mouths, food dribbling unchecked directly from chin to ground. Their parents painted a freeze-frame of exaggerated emotions, each picking one of bemusement, anguish, shock, horror, awe, or desperation. The dogs lay with hackles raised, their quivering tails erect, bulging eyes wild and unblinking. The pigeons quit their cooing, squirrels dropped their nuts and insects found tall stems to settle in and observe. All of nature's many thousand eyes turned to look and watch, waiting to see what would happen next. For several seconds nobody moved. Nobody breathed. The world, in its entirety might have come to a complete standstill with every living thing giving total symbiotic attention had the distinct tang of burning vegetables not been picked up by a passing breeze and wafted gently under the noses of the garden's inhabitants. 'Oh-' God on high, having caught their breath and wiped away the tears got back into their seat and took stock of the situation. Deciding they'd all been standing around enough, and that everyone had got a good long look at the poor soul in the lawn chair, they pressed the big play/pause button in the sky and the world started turning again. The parents picked up their crying toddlers who pointed and wailed, throwing food into the air and hitting everything within flail range. The dogs barked angry, vicious warnings that sent flocks of pigeons and sparrows into the air, all squawks and shrieks. Volcanos kept erupting, glaciers slid on, and on the whole it seemed as if after its brief hiatus the globe span a little faster than it had before to make up for the lost time. One figure looked sullen, defeated. They didn't feel the universal reboot, only the dead space that had preceded it. They weren't sure what they preferred; nobody talking to them before, everyone staring at them during or nobody talking to them again after. In the end they thought it was high time they left. Apparently not a soul noticed them go, despite the party giving them so much unwanted attention when it seemed as if they might stay.
*
The kitchen at home was like a birds nest with brick walls and so little space between counters that you only needed to turn three-sixty to find yourself in each and every compartment. A huge stone oven filled one side of the room, glowing with warmth that heated the room almost into an oven itself. Above hung pots and pans of every imaginable shape, size, depth, material, and purpose. Long, deep shelves ran around the whole room, piled with glass jars, bottles of oils, preserves, racks of bright crimson and vermillion spices. Lines of twine ran criss-crossing beneath the ceiling, where bunches of herbs were pegged alongside dried flower-heads, sacks of seeds, still living creepers, hot green chillis turning amber poking through the foliage. Reaching for bottles, jars, sacks, and baskets the chef gathered as many different ingredients as they knew would fit in their largest bowl before setting to the task at hand, which consisted primarily of putting as much of everything they could lay they hands on into one pot and getting stuck in with a thick handled wooden spoon; trusty, strong, perfect. Flour blew huge clouds into the air, eggs cracked and spilt, sending their gooey innards in swirling spirals. Milk and cream splashed, strawberries wizzed in the blender, while, blueberries, red-currents, mangos, and passion-fruit went chopped, sliced, and crushed into their individual chaotic place. Stepping out of the kitchen they went to a small door in the hallway. Halfway up the wall, it had a curious gold handle, more ornate than anything in the house. They grasped the handle and stood for a moment whispering quietly before pulling the door ajar. Inside were several shelves that went deep into the wall, and on all of them were carefully stacked, neatly proportion jars of sugar. Sugar in all its many wonderful, delicate forms. Huge chunky crystals in glistening white, like diamonds of salt carved into cubes piled up with their molten brown brothers who shone like bronze, each square reflecting the glowing warm fire-like-light from the hall. Granulated white, the bedrock of so much joy sat next to its superfine friend Caster, who gleamed with the promise of delicious syrups, crisp meringues and sweet-toothed cocktails. The finest of all, named for its most common purpose, icing sugar stood enclosed in its bags, tightly wrapped for fear of it being blown softly away. Others were there, Pearl, Cane, raw Demerara with its subtle molasses, Light Brown, Dark Brown, and rich, complex Muscovado. Each with their great strengths, the products of the sugar cane gathered, and were one by one plucked of the shelf to be measured, weighed, melted, dissolved, cracked, refined, crushed, sprinkled, caked, and finally eaten. The kitchen grew hotter as more and more work began, new projects, one on top of the other, another started even as the doors swung shut on the one before. More flour, more butter, eggs, baking powder, cream of tartar, milk, cream, double cream, thick whipping cream, and of course, more sugar. Icing piped, glazes fired and blackened, simple sugar glowed, and glowed, and revelled in the love they brought the world. God sat in their high chair and banged their plastic spoon as treat after delicious treat was brought in, devoured and the plates swept away. So far from the burning smell of dry, dull barbeque, the kitchen lights dimmed, and the kitchen cooled to a pleasant, balmy warmth, as the chef leant back against the oven top, wiped the flour on their apron and licked a finger covered in the remains of sweet, sweet, delicious sugar.

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