Welcome to Culinary Goodness!

The Savorys were founded by Almond, the man who moved away from his life in Riverview and bought a plot of land in Sunset Valley. Will he and his legacy make it through fifteen generations, with fifteen simmers telling their story?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chapter Three

They say time flies when you're having fun, but I've found it also flies when you're working your butt off.

Before I knew it, my son was starting school, and my daughter was learning to walk and talk! Not that I was doing much of the teaching. With my work hours, that was left to Holly.

I had been spending a lot time at the library lately, as well, soaking up every recipe book in the place. I was determined to continue impressing my boss until I was given the recognition--and the position--I deserved. Though I had been doing very well, and had even saved enough to expand our home even more, I wasn't ready to stop advancing yet.

The late hours at the bistro and the extra time at the library were affecting more than just my neglected garden, it seemed. The night I was promoted to Chef de Cuisine--just one step away from my ultimate goal--I burst through our door, ready to celebrate with my wife.

"Holly!" I called, excited to tell her the news.
"Almond, I'm glad you're home. I need to talk to you about Amaretto."
Uh oh, she'd used his full name. She hardly ever did that unless he was in trouble. Most of the time, he was just "Rett."

Quickly putting my excitement over my promotion aside, my tone became serious. "What's going on?"
"His teacher had me come in for a conference today. It seems our son has been 'forgetting' to do his homework several nights a week. She also said he barely plays with any of the other kids, and spends all recess sitting by himself at the top of the jungle gym. I think you need to have one of those 'father-son' chats."

I nodded. "Okay, Sweetheart. I'll take care of this. No need to worry."

I started towards Rett's room, but Holly hissed to me, "Not tonight, Almond! He's already asleep."
Of course he was. Both Rett and Sage were almost always asleep by the time I got home.

I peered in anyway, just to be sure, but he was out like a light.
"All right," I said, closing his door softly. "I'll talk to him first thing in the morning."

I had to get up earlier than usual in order to be able to talk to Rett before he left for school, so I just asked Holly to wake me when she got up. Rett trudged out of his room, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Then he saw that I was awake, and his face lit up with surprise and happiness. "Dad! I didn't think you'd be awake." He rushed over to give me a hug. I smiled at him for a moment, and then it was time to get down to business.

"What's this I hear about you not doing your homework, young man?"
Rett's eyes dropped as he hung his head. "I don't know," he said quietly.
"You don't know? Either you've been doing your homework, or you haven't. Your teacher says you haven't." I got down on one knee so I could look him in the eye. "Is it too hard for you, Son? Because your Mom and I can help, if you just ask."

He sighed, exasperated, and pulled his homework out of his backpack to show me some of the problems. "It's not too hard, Dad. It's boring! I could do it in my sleep. And every time I start working on it, it puts me to sleep!"
Well, I had to admit, that was an easier problem to solve than the other way around. After my conversation with Rett, Holly and I informed his teacher of the problem, and she agreed to start giving him advanced work, to keep him interested. In addition, Holly would sit with him every night while he did his homework, making sure he completed it and checking his answers. She showed me some of his essays, and we were both impressed with our whiz kid. The school's testing placed him just below genius level.

The schoolwork problem, while fairly easily solved, wasn't the only problem. There was the issue of Rett's anti-social behavior, as well. We noticed it even at home. He would rather play with his doll house than talk to us or play with his sister. He made up elaborate stories involving the little dolls, and seemed to be in another world while doing so.

Once, he came home from school to find Sage playing with his dolls, and was furious. He yanked them out of her hands and put them high on a shelf, out of her reach, then called for his mom to get his sister out of his room.
"Really, Rett, she wasn't hurting anything," Holly admonished him. "You need to share your things. She's your little sister! She just wants to do what you do."

"She almost bit Ron's head off!" Rett exclaimed. "Poor little Georgia and Carter would have been left without a father! I bet you'd feel pretty guilty then, Mom."
Holly took his dollhouse away for the rest of the week, and we almost thought he'd go crazy without it.

"He needs some real friends, Almond," Holly said as we discussed the issue in bed one evening. "He's living in that fantasy world of his, and barely comes up for air."
I agreed we needed to intervene somehow, but I wasn't sure what to do about it. How do you force your child to befriend someone?
"I guess all we can do is ask him to invite someone over, and hope they click."
Holly said she'd suggest it the next day, so we turned out the light and tried to get some sleep. I lay awake for a long while, though, worrying about my eldest. I guess living in a fantasy world isn't completely a bad thing, unless your real life begins to suffer for it, and it seemed like that was happening with Rett. I just hoped it was some kind of phase, and it would pass soon.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chapter Two

Life with a toddler was busy. I was surprised one morning, when I found myself the only one awake in the house. I checked on Rett, and he was sleeping soundly. Holly had been sleeping more and more lately. I figured it was because she was tired from taking care of Rett while I was at work. There’s a lot to handle. He seemed to be hungry every hour, and he was always learning.

Holly taught him to use his little potty all by himself, and he was already beginning to start saying real words. Last night, he had even taken a few steps! I was so proud of him, and I knew Holly was working hard to make sure he learned all the important things in life.

On the morning I woke up early, I took the opportunity to cook Holly a nice breakfast, to surprise her. I made eggs machiavellian.

"Almond, this is amazing! Did you learn this recipe at work?"

We chatted and laughed, and it felt good to reconnect with my wife. It almost seemed like we'd been living separate lives, lately. By the time I got home from work, she and Rett were usually asleep. We finished our meal, and were both astonished that Rett was still sleeping.

We weren't ones to pass up an opportunity when it came along.

It didn't come as much of a shock when we found out we were expecting our second child a month later.

Holly's second pregnancy was a little harder on her than the first had been, probably because she also had a toddler to chase around. I tried to give her breaks whenever I could, helping out with Rett so she could take little cat-naps. I brushed up on my newborn skills by reading pregnancy books. I'd been through this once before, but it couldn't hurt to be reminded of those first few months with a baby.

By the time Holly was nearing the end of her pregnancy, our little man could walk all on his own, and was speaking full sentences. He was still a cuddle-bug, though, especially with his mama.

Holly went into labor just as I got home from work, one evening. We had agreed to do a homebirth, this time, because we didn't really have anyone to look after Rett while we were at the hospital. As she cried out in pain, however, I was regretting that decision. I hated being helpless while she did all the work and endured all that suffering. She couldn't help but yell as her contractions intensified, and her cries woke Amaretto. Holly assured me she was all right, and asked me to go tend to our son.

It was while I was with Rett in the nursery that our little daughter, Sage, was born.

Now that we had a boy and a girl, I felt our family was complete, at least for a while. Sage was a demanding baby, often waking us in the middle of the night for feedings or play time.

I think the exhaustion of too many interrupted nights was starting to wear Holly down. I know I was dog tired, most days.

Still, I never let my performance suffer at work, and I just got promoted to Executive Chef! It's a good thing, too, because it allowed us to add another room onto our little place for Sage. I was only two positions away from the top of my career, now!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chapter One

You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes when you die? Well, for me, it happens at just about every major event in my life. Now--as I stand with my wife, waiting to help my firstborn son blow out the single candle on his birthday cake--visions of the past couple of years move in and out of my mind. I'm reliving those years, though in real time it takes only a second or two.

For several months, I was unable to afford to build on my property, so I awoke each morning to the cheerful sunshine, and then spent some time with my plants. Before too long, they began to sprout and push themselves upward, towards the life-giving sun.

After I saw to them, I'd head down into town in search of breakfast (or lunch, depending on how long I'd been working). Sometimes I'd bring an apple with me. Sometimes I'd buy some hot dogs or hamburgers and have a cookout at the park. Other times, I'd share someone's picnic basket, if they'd be kind enough to allow my company.

My job at the bistro didn't begin until three o'clock in the afternoon, and by the time I got off work it was night-time. Most times, I'd grab something for dinner while I worked. After work was usually the perfect time to head over to the public gym for a bath. There was hardly ever anyone there at that hour, so I felt I was much less likely to be looked down upon for using the tub without bothering to work out first. I always wore my swim trunks, though--just in case.

It became a familiar routine, day after day, and although I felt a little like a drifter, I had a home and a place to belong, and that was enough for me.

That is, until the night I met her.

I'd been practicing my cooking at home, as I often did, trying to learn things that might impress my boss and earn me yet another promotion. By that time, I'd been able to make a few important purchases, like a refrigerator, stove, and sink. I had already worked my way up to pastry chef, but I wasn't stopping until I reached the top! Anyway, that night I ran out of salt, but I didn't want to stop what I was doing until I could buy more at the market the next day, which left borrowing from the neighbors.

As I walked up to the door of the closest house, I almost turned around and went back home. The place was huge, and kind of put my lawn-living to shame. I'd never felt less than anyone before, but the mansion in front of me was a little intimidating. It was late, but there were still lights on inside, and my half-finished dish was waiting for me at home. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

The beautiful face that greeted me when the door swung open was not what I had been expecting, and I whistled and whispered, "Wow," before I could stop myself. I grinned and rubbed the back of my neck in embarrassment. "Hi, Miss. My name's Almond, and I live just across the way. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind lending me a cup of salt?"

She smiled, amused. "Are you going to return it after you've used it?" She laughed, and it was a light, pleasant sound. I didn't get a change to reply before she went on. "Don't mind me. It's a little late and I'm in a goofy mood. Of course you can have some salt. I'm Holly."

She led me to the kitchen, and filled my measuring cup, which I'd brought along. I thanked her and turned to leave. "Don't be a stranger, Almond," she said as I made it to the door. I smiled and waved, and when I got back home, all I could think about while I finished my meal was Holly.

I wasn't sure when I'd see Holly again, especially once she found out how I lived, but it was the very next day when I saw her walking across my huge, empty property. I put down my watering can and hastily went over to greet her. As I shook her hand, I felt again that uncharacteristic embarrassment about my lifestyle. I didn't like feeling inferior, but it wasn't Holly's fault I felt that way. In fact, after I showed her what there was of my home, all she did was smile and compliment my garden. "Oh, I bet these apple trees will be huge come fall!"
My embarrassment began to slip away into pride as we discussed the plants. I learned that Holly was a vegetarian, and she made me promise to sell her some of my produce once it matured. All too soon, my carpool pulled up, and I had to tell Holly goodbye.

It wasn't long before I saw her again, though. She came over the very next day, and before long, I was enjoying her company every day. I realized quickly that I was falling in love with her. Once in a while I'd try a flirt or two, and it was always well-received, so I knew she didn't think too badly of me, either.

I desperately wanted to ask her to move in with me, but there was nothing for her to move into. How could I offer to join my life with hers when my life consisted of using the toilet as a dinner chair? I began to put in even more hours at work. I'd go in early and come home late. Holly noticed, and asked me a couple of times if anything was wrong, but I just told her the boss was working me extra hard.
Still, she must have thought I was hinting that she was spending too much time with me, because her visits dwindled to every other day, and then to every two days. I'd come home from work exhaused, and sleep late into the morning, leaving barely enough time to keep up with my plants before it was time to work again. I knew I had to talk to Holly before I lost her completely, but I was so close to having enough saved for a real house, and I wanted to surprise her.

When I finally got it built, it wasn't much. Just a one-room shack, really. But it was shelter, and it was just the beginning. I called Holly the very day the construction was completed, and invited her over. She sounded strange on the phone, and I felt an icy pit in my stomach. What if I'd pushed her away? What if she wasn't interested in me anymore?

"I love what you've done with the place!" Holly said once she had come inside. She sounded happy for me, and her praise made me feel bold.
"Thanks, Holly. I want you to know I did it for you."

"For me? But, it's your house, Almond. I don't understand."

I looked into her eyes, and took a deep breath. It was now, or never. "I was hoping you'd move in with me."

She looked stunned. "But...you'd stopped calling me. I thought maybe you didn't like me that way. I thought you did, before, but then I barely saw you."

I stopped her rambling to tell her about my resolution to build a home before asking her to move in.

She didn't meet my eye for a moment, and I started to get nervous. "Almond," she said. "Around the time you stopped calling me, my high school sweetheart got in touch with me and...we've kind of been seing each other."
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut, and I couldn't respond. I just hung my head and tried to process what she'd told me. Of course she's seeing someone, you fool! You never even so much as told her how you felt about her. You just assumed she'd wait for you until you were ready! Idiot. Holly spoke again before I could be too hard on myself.
"But tonight, when you called me, I can't deny that my heart did a complete flip flop when I saw your number on my cell." She smiled. "I never feel that way when Davy calls." I assumed Davy must be her boyfriend. "That leads me to only one conclusion."
I looked at her, then. Was she saying--

"Almond, I think I must be in love with you." I laughed out loud and even tapped my heels on the floor in a little dance. My joy was evident on my face. "I love you, too, Holly! Does this mean you'll move in with me?"
"Tell you what. I'll move in as soon as you get us a double bed." She winked at me mischievously. I had no problem agreeing to those terms. She hugged me passionately before she went home, and it felt amazing.
I purchased a double bed the next day.


We had been living together only a couple of months when Holly told me she was pregnant. Although I was a little surprised and it was a bit unexpected, I reacted like I did with most of the other unknowns I've experienced in my life: with enthusiasm.

I asked her to marry me soon after that, out in the garden. She loved to help me with the plants, and I figured that was the most romantic spot - a reminder of our early time together when the garden was all I had.

We got married on our property as well, out near the cliff overlooking the town. It was a simple ceremony; just us and the view.

Our son, Amaretto, was born not long after the wedding.

As Holly and I cheer for Rett's first birthday, I think about what a lucky man I am. I have a gorgeous wife, and my own little boy.

I've even been promoted to Sous-Chef at work, so we were able to expand our home.

Life is good, and I'm confident it will only get better from here on out.