The Hidden Kitchen

CHAPTER 5

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The door to the private car opened and out stepped the Prince. He was a young, thin man flanked by four large, burly soldiers. The Prince wore silks the colors of the city; red, green and yellow. The soldiers wore crisp black uniforms with shiny brass helmets.

“Gorgette, I am absolutely famished,” said the Prince.

“I can certainly do something about that,” said the chef.

They left the platform for rooms inside the top floor apartment; for The Prince a large private dining room, for Gorgette a small kitchen where he could personally prepare the royal meal.

In the secrecy of that windowless room, Gorgette stirred and chopped and boiled and sautéed. And when he was ready to serve, he took out a small wooden box from behind a hidden compartment in the floor just below the oven. Inside the box were several glass vials of various liquids and powders which he sprinkled over the dishes. When finished he returned the vials to their hiding place. Then he summoned the guards to take the silver platters of food to the Prince.

The royal meal started with a fresh tomato, vine ripened and bursting with juice. He skinned it, sliced it in half and squeezed out the seeds. Gorgette then stuffed the tomato with a bit of oxtail stew, topped it with grated cheese then placed it under the broiler to melt and toast.

Then he prepared tiny new potatoes with skins so thin they slipped off with just a gentle scrubbing. Gorgette plunged them into boiling salted water, chopped them, and then tossed them with cream, mayonnaise, scallions, and a few shavings of summer truffle.

Next he prepared a soup made of pureed carrot and onion with the flowers of squash floating on its rich surface, followed by enormous plump scallops just seared in hot butter.

For the main course Gorgette used steaks from the center loin, two inches thick and so well marbled there was almost as much white fat as red beef. He seared them in clarified butter then finished them in the oven. The steaks were then topped with seared goose liver and a sauce of deep red wine.

For the dessert, Gorgette made his most famous dish, piping hot vanilla soufflé with a scoop of frozen strawberry sorbet hidden inside.

The Prince was served by one of his soldiers in a large room with a long table of dark wood. Gorgette entered just as the Prince finished the desert.

His Highness was young, no more than twenty five. When he first ascended the throne at 18, his reproduced likeness adorned every girl’s bedroom. He had broad shoulders, deep blue eyes, and a mane of blonde hair. Now the picture was slightly different. His face and chest had sunken like an old man’s. His eyes were rheumy and bloodshot. But he acted and sounded as vigorous as ever. He waved at Gorgette with zeal.

“Come, come, have a seat,” ordered the Prince.

“I hope my meal was to your liking,” Gorgette said trying to sound humble.

“Scrumptious. Your desert always astonishes me. It sears the tongue and cools it in the same mouthful. How do you achieve that? I’ve had dozens try to imitate it; all they manage is a puddle of melted goo inside hot mush. I’m beginning to think you use magic.”

Gorgette laughed.

“Oh that is a great secret. I couldn’t possibly tell,” said the chef. He nodded in the direction of the soldier standing just over the Prince’s shoulder.

The Prince clapped his hands and his guard left the room.

“Now, what’s the trick?” The Prince asked.

“Oh I have many tricks.”

Gorgette took out a flask from his white jacket.

“This is a very special one.”

“Yes, yes. But I want to know about the desert,” said the Prince impatiently.

“That secret is contained within this one. Just have a whiff.”

He offered the flask to the Prince.

The Prince took the bottle and removed the stopper. He inhaled its aroma.

“A little bit like flowers. What’s this have to do with that desert?”

The Prince let out a yawn.

“My, but I’m suddenly sleepy.”

Gorgette intoned, “A natural reaction to such a heavy meal. You know a true master chef can prepare a dish that will put the person who eats it into a deep slumber, without drugs or chemicals. Just the proper combination of food.”
As Gorgette talked, the Prince nodded off and slouched in his seat. The chef got out of his chair and placed his hand below the Prince’s mouth just in time to catch something as it rolled out. He held it in his hand for a moment. It was perfectly smooth and a very pale blue. When Gorgette put it in his own mouth it tasted sour and slightly spoiled. Gorgette grimaced as he swallowed.

Such a foul thing for someone to eat, especially a master chef. But Gorgette reflected he had only himself to blame for the item’s taste. Clearly there wasn’t much left of the Prince’s soul, before long there’d be nothing more to swallow.
The Prince rolled his head. His mouth moved, even though his eyes remained shut.

Gorgette ordered him, “Speak. Tell me about the Senate, those fools, those do-gooders, those meddlers. What are they doing to my city?”

The Prince mumbled softly. He never opened his eyes as he told Gorgette everything he knew. He told the chef all that happened in the city’s government. Then Gorgette whispered to the Prince. He commanded the young man, told him which laws and projects to oppose and which to support. The Prince nodded dumbly. He would obey although he would not remember any of their conversation.

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