Too Many Cooks Spoil the Pudding
Bev Vines-Haines
Every day Carlos Garcia carried boxes and boxes of produce, herbs, meats, dried pasta and beans into the Royal Dane Hotel in San Antonio. He breathed deeply as he lovingly stocked the refrigerator and the shelves, savoring rich aromas of saffron, oregano, sage and exotic spices from all over the world.  He concocted dishes he longed to prepare, imagining the palates his creations would please.

He remembered the day he’d first come to the hotel, a recent graduate of a culinary school in Mexico City. Food was his obsession.  Some artists work with words, others with canvas and brush. For Carlos it was all about the sauces, delicate blends that could transport people back to childhood, their mother’s best dishes, or even to distant lands they had visited years before.

The manager in those days was Hettie Marlowe, a willowy woman with frizzed red hair, acne scars and a passion for young Spanish males. He became adept at dodging her advances, slipping just beyond her reach in the confined pantry. But one morning his luck ran out. She’d asked him to come in early and begin preparations for a Political luncheon the next day..

Seven large prime rib cuts greeted him when he arrived. Roasting pans lined the counter and he could see the ingredients for the dessert resting from the refrigerator. It was a moment before he missed the banter and constant motion of the busboys and dishwashers. The hair on the back of his neck stood up when Hettie ambled into the kitchen sans her apron and her top.

He stabbed the first roast with a probe.  She came closer and he backed away.

“Oh no,” she said. “I’ve got that. I am your preparation today.”

“I can’t”

“Oh you can. I have your Green Card.  And your diploma.” She waved them in the air.

Carlos ran. The next day he was assigned the stocking position. From that day on he watched the tempting dishes he adored being prepared by others.  Eventually a young man who’d graduated from his same school rose through the ranks and became his boss.  The Green Card was never found.

A few years ago Hettie had a heart attack. The young head chef was expecting one this afternoon. He just didn’t know it. By four o’clock the ambulances were gone. The restaurant was scheduled to be full. After trashing an excessive order of Nightshade, Carlos summoned the hotel manager and showed him the dishes he’d prepared.  The manager hugged him, enthusiastic in his gratitude. “How did you learn to do this?” the man asked.

“I am a quick study, Sir.  And I really love food.

First published: February, 2015
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