Feeling Hot

It was always hot in the kitchen, even in winter.  The soup was a never ending pot on the boil, never the same flavour twice as leftovers were added and added – staff meals, yum…  There were also the big roasts twice a day for the important people upstairs, the ones with money.  Either pig or lamb and always six chickens with lashing of butter and bundles of herbs.  The vegetable steam baskets were on the opposite side of the kitchen away from the windows that didn’t close. They couldn’t really, rusted and caked with flour, fat and sugar.  The ovens were under the windows, they needed to be with all the heat they generated.  None of the staff had seen snow on the outside wall in winter – the stones were baked just as the breads, cakes, tarts, pies and pastries.  The stove tops awash with syrups, custards, boiled over water and messed sauces.

A path in stone around the main table that was never cleared, the edges rippled from the claps of pasta machines and meat grinders, the surface dotted with scorch rings from hot pots and pans.  The stone was once a natural colour but now was an endless canvas of stains, peelings, spills and singed dishcloths.

The kitchen never closes and the heat never ends.  As the new dishwasher, I welcome you to hell.

 

5 thoughts on “Feeling Hot”

  1. Really liked this – another hellish inferno story, all the worse for it’s realism.

    I enjoyed the grimness of the description – caked organic nasty food vibes.

    Seems deeply appropriate for the Christmas season’s family cooking experiences.

  2. I’m having an odd Christmas – I found the description of the kitchen very appealing, actually!

    This is very very good writing. The descriptions are spot on, the theme permeates every sentence, the realism is there to be seen, smelt, felt, tasted and heard. It’s fantastic, and I think consistently the best writing I have read from you. The sense of place and the sense of HEAT is intense. Thank you.

    The two things that did not fit for me:
    – staff meals, yum… broke the tone for me – too colloquial against the poetry of the rest
    – the last sentence, about the dishwasher, also put me out.

    On reflection, those are the two places where description turns to dialogue. The jarring is that it becomes unclear whether the rest of it is also spoken or not. I think a fix may be to put those items in inverted commas to make them into proper dialogue – this will keep the two tones separated.

    Thank you, and merry Christmas!

  3. The detail here is lovely – gritty, atmospheric, extremely well-observed, and I like the mundane, realistic take on the theme. You can feel the oppressive heat of the kitchen as you read, and there are very vivid images and phrases throughout – the rusted and caked windows, the baked stones, the mess on the stovetops, the stains on the floor.

    I agree with Parfles that the “staff meals, yum” is a jarring change of tone, although I don’t think it’s strictly dialogue, either – I think you might rather want to dream up an alternative wording that’s closer to the rest of the piece.

    If this was flawed for me by anything, it’s by the balance of your sentences, if that makes any sense. “Either pig or lamb and always six chickens with lashing of butter and bundles of herbs” is, again, not a sentence – it lacks a main verb, and feels a bit limping as a result. “The vegetable steam baskets were on the opposite side of the kitchen away from the windows that didn’t close” rather runs on, and at the very least needs a comma between “kitchen” and “away” to give the sentence a pivot-point. “The stove tops awash with syrups, custards, boiled over water and messed sauces” needs a verb, as in “the stove tops were awash”. “A path in stone around the main table that was never cleared” is a subclause and the rest of the sentence doesn’t give it a main clause, so I’d personally leave out the “that”.

    I like the transition from general observation to the specific welcome from the dishwasher, but the tenses don’t work. You’ve described the whole kitchen in omniscient third person and past tense, and then suddenly jump to a more personal viewpoint and present tense. I think the whole thing might be more effective if you write the entire description in the present tense, to integrate it with the dishwasher’s viewpoint. It may also usefully increase the sense of stifling claustrophobia from the kitchen heat ;>.

  4. This is a fantastic description of an old kitchen – medieval-style in my head. I think your descriptions were fantastic and, like Parfles, I found them quite appealing – a lovely mess of foodiness (until you think of being stuck in there all day and never able to have a break – the last sentence welcoming the new one to hell worked well for me in driving home this point, so I liked it as a personal ending to the general description of the kitchen).

    I also didn’t mind all the sentences without verbs – they added to the descriptive tangle of the story which mirrored the mess in the kitchen for me.

    Great descriptive piece. Thanks.

  5. I generally liked the sentence fragments; they mostly didn’t stand out, except for here:

    > A path in stone around the main table that was never cleared, …
    > hot pots and pans.
    I think this one stood out because most of the previous fragments were came after a whole sentence occurring just before them, and could probably be removed by changing punctuation, such as:

    > There were also the big roasts … money [— either] pig or lamb and
    > always six chickens with lashing of butter and bundles of herbs.

    I enjoyed the descriptions and the general vibe of this kitchen. Lovely.

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