09. April 2021 · Comments Off on Yet Another Snippet from Luna City X · Categories: Uncategorized

(This picks up where the last snippet left off – Richard doing double duty as caterer and as Best Man for the Canadian Treasurer Xavier Gunnison-Penn at his wedding to Araceli’s academically-inclined cousin, Dr. Miranda Rodriguez-Gonzales.)

Now, Richard nodded to Araceli.

“I have the cake topper – it’s fragile, so I don’t trust anyone but myself to carry it. Andy is in the van – so summon the minions – or whatever minions we have available to unload the van. The wedding cake layers are in the big white pasteboard boxes. Be careful with them. Any minion who drops one of those boxes…”

“I know, the wrath of Chef,” Araceli replied. She took up a box, which contained the second layer of the cake – Richard was keen on on-site final assembly, as a prevention against horrible accidents – and led the way across the screened back porch and into the commodious and retro-style kitchen. (The box with the bottom layer would require two people, or perhaps a dolly to convey it safely into the kitchen) Only it wasn’t deliberately styled that way – the kitchen was as it had been for the last half a century. Tile counters, extensive cabinets … a lot of old-style pots and pans hanging from a rack over the stove, an enormous old-style enameled gas item, on which several massive pots simmered, pots sufficiently large enough to boil a baby or a small child.

“The sauces for the beef roast,” Araceli explained over her shoulder. “The borracho beans, and steaming the tamales … it’s what everyone expects, at a BBQ like this.”

Richard nodded. “I’m glad that the happy couple agreed with us – that we would supply a buffet of mostly cold or chilled sides, just as we did for the Boathouse opening. It saves a lot of trouble…”

The kitchen was crowded with women, most of them of the Gonzalez-Gonzales clan, of all ages and body types – but universally tending in the direction of olive complexions and dark hair, although some of the very youngest sported brilliant magenta, green, or purple locks. The very oldest of them – Abuelita Adeliza Gonzales-Gonzalez, the absolute ruler of the Gonzales branch of the clan and Araceli’s grandmother, beamed upon Richard most fondly, and called a welcome in Spanish across the crowded kitchen towards him. Of all the women in Luna City, Abuelita was his original and most influential local fan, even before his advent in Luna City. Abuelita never had watched much American television other than the Cooking Channel; it was Araceli’s opinion that Abuelita’s enduring fanship for the Bad Boy Chef was because of his resemblance to her late husband, Abuelo Jesus, who had been a cook in his Army draftee days, some seven decades previous. Richard smiled back; for himself, he would have been reluctant to admit that he was rather fond of the quite masterful old woman. Then he looked away from the younger crowd, already obeying Araceli and Abuelita’s barked commands regarding the stacks of boxes from the van. Richard deliberately looked away from the youngest set, at work in the old kitchen – too many of them reminded him of his eccentric junior chef, with his peacock-colored Mohawk crest and lavish facial piercings.

“You can do the final touches on the cake over there,” Araceli nudged him in the direction of a narrow archway giving access into another and much smaller room – windowless place entirely lined with shelves; obviously storage space for little-used dishes, pots, pans, covered casseroles and china place settings. A substantial butcher-block-topped table took up most of the center of that small room.  A sturdy bar cart sat next to it, already decked out in white draping and bunches of artificial lilies of the valley.  “Abuelita said that space was strictly reserved for you, and she will so do something awful to anyone among the ladies who intrudes.”

“I’ve always liked the cut of her jib,” Richard replied. “Although I can’t possibly imagine what awful thing that sweet old-age pensioner could possibly do to anyone …”

“You’d be surprised,” Araceli replied, darkly. “Not share with them her special heirloom recipe for rice pudding. Tell them in front of everyone that their pollo asado is garbage, fit only for stupid Anglo tourists; Abuelita has means, and some of them are very mean indeed. The vicious seventh-grade clique of popular girls has nothing on our Abuelita.”

“Glad to hear it … or not,” Richard replied, and paid no more mind. He had to focus and focus he would. The kitchen brigade, under the direction of Araceli and her formidable grandmother would take care of the rest of the wedding buffet, while Andy and his capable offspring would take care of the main course – the whole roast beef-onna-magnificent mechanical spit. Now his attention must be focused on the wedding cake; assembling those three magnificent layers on the wheeled cart. He had extra ganache, buttercream frosting, all his piping bags and specialty icing tips, a tray of fragile sugar flowers with sufficient extras to cover breakage – and the magnificent cake topper itself, replicating the fabulous Gonzaga Reliquary in gold-tinted sugar paste, molded sugar gems, and a central plaque replicating the painting under crystal of the Madonna and Child exiting Bethlehem riding on St. Gigibertus’ horse – a tooth of which was also replicated in tinted marzipan, contained in a column of clear melted sugar. The girls – such was his degree of concentration that he did not even notice the combined party who brought in the first layer, the massive one with the dowel supports already set into it. They unpacked the box and slid the bottom layer onto the foundation tray, already mounted on the cart. The other layers would be carefully maneuvered onto that initial layer; he would trim it out and set the sugar-jeweled topper onto it. Araceli had already taken pictures of the finished topper and uploaded it to the Café’s FB page. Richard had been astounded to discover that the Café possessed such a thing. Araceli had looked at him as if he were dimwitted. (“Seriously, Chef … Jess, Doc and Miss Letty authorized this simply ages ago. Where have you been?” “Blissfully unaware!” he had riposted. In any case, his cake genius had been recorded for the ages, and barring any accident … well, these things would happen.)

 He would trust Araceli and the other women in the kitchen brigade that they would manage to wheel the completely assembled and trimmed cake all the way out through the kitchen and down the ramp from the porch to the place of honor set aside for it. The temporary kitchen brigade bustled in, arraying the boxes with the other layers on the old table, and he set to work, losing himself to absolute concentration, stacking and securing the upper layers, and covering the inevitable joins and cracks with ganache, carefully smoothed to match, and then adorned with swirls and galloons of buttercream. Then the careful insertion of sugar flowers and leaves … he managed this without breaking very many of them, delicate things tinted in the various colors of native Texas wildflowers. All was ready for the crowning glory of the topper. Richard stepped back for a breath, wishing for steady hands and absolute concentration… 

Oh, confound it – what was the fuss now? It sounded like a woman crying. He so didn’t need this, not on a wedding day … It was not a good omen, especially if it were the bride.

“What’s going on? Who’s that crying!” Richard went to the door into the main kitchen and demanded of the nearest girl, the one arrayed in magenta-colored braids and a totally unattractive eyebrow piercing who cried in answer,

“I don’t know, Chef! Really, I don’t!” and fled before he could request enlightenment. He regretted unleashing the trademark scowl. But Araceli bustled in – yes, now in a formal gown, but her hair and makeup still in their natural and decidedly casual state, barefoot and carrying a pair of strappy little sandals in pastel hues to match her dress.

“It’s Mindy,” she replied, in somewhat of an unaccustomed fluster – definitely unaccustomed for Araceli, who had been rendered emotionally bomb-proof after two decades of front-house service in the Café. “She’s been getting all heck from Tio Jaime … it seems that …”

“I can’t deal with this,” Richard replied, through teeth griding so close that he might have to make an appointment with a dentist in Karnesville. He had to install the cake topper and oversee the delicate business of moving the whole edifice out to the venue in the back yard of the Rancho.

“You might have to,” Araceli replied, crisply. “You’re also the best man – here to support the groom. Take a deep breath. Mindy needs … “

“Six inches of good Canadian (redacted)” Richard suggested with a snarl, “Or maybe eight on the wedding night, if her good Xavie has indeed been generously blessed!”

“Really, Chef – you don’t need to be so crude!” Araceli snapped. “You have to do duty as best man – seriously.”

“Oh, Chr…” Richard exclaimed, and intercepted Araceli’s scowl. He was as near as dammit going to take the Lord’s name in vain, something to which Araceli particularly and frequently objected. “…Christmas! What do I need to do – and be specific, my attention needs to be focused on one … damned thing at a time.”

Araceli took a deep breath and then another.

“I think you need to fetch Mr. Penn for an emergency family conference in the parlor with Tio Jaimie. Mr. Penn will be in his trailer, getting ready for his and Mindy’s big day. The final assembly of the cake can wait on that for at least a few minutes. The problem is that … Tio Jaimie suddenly found out about what Mindy is about to do for her honeymoon. She’s going to nuke her career as an academic with tenure and follow her heart and her heart’s love … to work on one of his stupid and fruitless treasure quests! He thought that she was just going to use her sabbatical for this … now he has found out that she’s resigned from the university!”

“Oh, Christmas!” Richard exclaimed. Araceli nodded, in deep understanding.

“They can’t see each other on the wedding day. Until the ceremony. It’s one of those traditional customs, you know. Not until the bride comes down the aisle … but Tio Jaimie demands a straight answer from both of them, or he won’t escort her down the aisle … and the Bishop is due any moment to perform the wedding, and dedicate the chapel, and …” Araceli sighed in exasperation. “What shall we do, Ricardo? I’m all out of ideas, myself. Mindy is in her wedding dress.”

“Well,” and Richard took a deep breath. “They don’t have to look at each other, do they? Mindy can stay in the room, and her beloved Xavie can be in the hallway, just outside and out of sight while your Tio Jaimie gets his concerns off his chest. Honestly …” and Richard regarded Araceli with honest appeal. “This will not cancel the party entirely, if all goes ill?”

Araceli heaved a deep sigh. “I hope not, Chef. Tio Jaimie is horrified, as this is the first that he has heard of it. Has always taken such pride in Mindy’s career; she was a Gonzalez and proud Tejano and went on to advanced education and had such a respectable position in a high-class university … as things go around here,” she added hastily. “I know, nothing like those snotty Ivy league dumps. But please – go get Mr. Penn.”

Richard looked at his handiwork – yes, all but finished, only the ornate and sugar-jeweled topper to be applied.

“I’ll back with Mr. Penn in a tick, even if I have to drag him by his bow-tie,” he replied, and Araceli heaved another sigh.

“He won’t be wearing a tie,” she explained with an air of exaggerated patience that nearly sent Richard spare. “He’s wearing a guayabera for the ceremony … you know that sort of ornate short-sleeved shirt. It’s not all that formal an affair.”

“I wish that someone had said something to me!” Richard exclaimed, having spent a pittance at Sylvester Gonzalez’ favored second-hand outlet in San Antonio for a vintage and full white-tie ensemble which fitted him to a tee without even the necessity of being altered to his measurements. He had kind of expected to look like James Bond (the suave and gallant Sean Connery iteration) in the outfit.

“We did,” Araceli replied, indulgently. “But you were so looking forward to being best man … and I think you were planning to wear it when you and Katie tie the knot – you are still planning to marry our Katie, aren’t you? You didn’t pay any attention at all when I told you about Mindy and Mr. Penn. You were busy making sugar flowers for the cake.”

“Well, that explains it,” Richard snarled. “My mind was on higher things than your cousin’s academic career in a backwater public uni. All right – I’ll go fetch Mr. Penn. In the meantime, think of what you and I ought to be saying to your uncle. And I am still planning on marrying Kate – when she gets over this … whatever snit she developed upon discovering that I am applying for full citizenship! What is it with you Gonzalez women anyway? Did someone feed you all a crazy salad with your baby food?”

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