The Cooking Lesson

The Cooking Lesson
By Gita Smith

“It’s missing something.”
Marti hands me back the tasting spoon and surveys my spice collection. Deciding it’s thyme and garlic that my spaghetti sauce needs, she chops the ingredients that I’d gathered earlier from the hothouse.
We are sipping Bolla Valpolicella, bumping into each other the way friends do in a galley-sized kitchen and not minding at all. I turn up the flame under a pot of water for the pasta. This is Sunday afternoon at its best, with Corinne Bailey Rae on the stereo and nothing to do but cook comfort food.
“So,” I begin, embarking on the topic we both knew would eventually come up, “have you decided what you want to do about Fabio yet?”
Everyone in Marti’s circle has been following the Fabio chronicles for months, agog. This man, the clear winner of the World-Series-of-Courtship, has been pursuing Marti across two continents. His romantic overtures are swoon-inducing and unparalleled. Every time she hesitates, he ups the ante. He has given her diamond earrings, a Maltese puppy, tickets to see Tosca at La Scala (and the air fare to fly to Milan where he met her at the airport and swept her into a waiting Lamborghini Reventon).
“Why are you so lukewarm?” and “What’s not to love?” her friends keep asking.
Marti gazes at me frankly over the rim of her wineglass.
“I’m being badgered.”
I stir the sauce because I don’t know what to say. Marti pressured is Marti clamped up, shut down, backed off. I check the garlic level with a new tasting spoon. It’s just shy of overwhelming. But the sauce still needs something.
“I’m not badgering you, Hon,” I say.
“Not you. Fabio.”
“Well, all you have to do is say ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ La ringrazio, ma no. And if you want to be a mensch while you’re at it, tell him why.”
Marti’s look is suddenly, deeply sad, and I realize that my favorite drama queen has not told me the whole story.
This man, whom she met by chance at a Jackson Pollack retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum three months earlier, is cultured, educated, wealthy and head-over-heels in love with her. He calls her every morning from Italy to wish her a wonderful day. When he arrives in the USA on business, he visits her and graciously includes her family and friends in all invitations to dine out or go to the theater. I met him one evening at Cirque de Soleil, and I was charmed by his beautifully accented English.
Our spaghetti carbonara and insalata verde are ready. Marti and I seat ourselves at my dining room table, top off our wine and tuck into the rich, hot food. As if I’d just asked the question, she suddenly starts talking.
“Fabio is everything you see, but also much you don’t see,” she says. “His money isn’t just dirty. It’s filthy dirty. If I married him, I would be living on blood money.”
I’m stunned.
“Before you say anything, let me show you,” Marti says, pulling up her sleeve to reveal a bracelet.
The quality of the diamonds is, to my naked eye, fantastic. The stones are brilliant, clear and exquisitely cut. I’m fairly sure that a loupe would confirm what I suspect: Fabio has given her the best of the best.
“Sierra Leone diamonds. That’s how he makes his money,” she whispers.
“Oh, no, honey!” is all I can say. “Maybe you’re wrong?”
Marti shakes her head and pulls down her sleeve.
Aside from the deBeers family, Fabio owns the largest diamond share in the world, she says.
“Botswana wouldn’t let him in because that country nationalized its diamond mines and pays the workers fair wages. Fabio backed the corrupt and brutal regime in Sierra Leone in order to control the mines there.”
She shakes her head slowly.
“The worst part of all? He told me the truth about his business because he assumed I would approve. I’ve been wrong to accept anything from him. I’m giving the jewelry back tomorrow when he flies in, and I’m breaking up. I don’t want any part of it.”
We sit quietly for a bit, and I understand that, to her credit, Marti has been grappling with her decision while the rest of us have been fantasizing enviously about her great luck at meeting the man.
I poke at my spaghetti, and when I look up, Marti’s smiling.
“What?” I ask.
“Fabio’s like your cooking,” she says, the old mischief returning to her eyes.
“They both look good and tempting. They’re both hot at first. But when you get down to it, they’re both missing a key ingredient.”


About vision791

Pushcart nominee Jeanette Cheezum has been published on several online writing sites and in fifteen Anthology books and four poetry books. Three of these books have made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Awarded The Helium Networks Premium Writer’s Badge, Bronze Creative Writing Award and a Marketplace Writers award. Recently she has published fourteen ebooks at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. You may find a list of some of her work at
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21 Responses to The Cooking Lesson

  1. Elliott Cox says:

    “Marti pressured is Marti clamped up, shut down, backed off.” I love that sentence. If you don’t mind (or even if you do), I’ll be taking that one for personal use.

  2. boltoncarley says:

    love the same line elliott does, but i also like that she was grappling while others were envious. that’s so true to life – we are often jealous but it’s simply because we don’t have all the dirt. and your premise is so worldly. great stuff, gita!

  3. bobbietroy says:

    Engaging. Loved it!

  4. cathaber1 says:

    You tell such great stories Gita. Nicely tied up.

  5. harrybsanderford says:

    “the clear winner of the World-Series-of-Courtship” had to have some “miner” flaw.

    No imperfections in this gem Gita!

  6. pauldbrazill says:

    Oh, very well done. A beaut.

  7. As all of Gita’s stories, this one holds together well and the dialogue is really good!

  8. edean1 says:

    Engaging, informative and entertaining as always Gita.
    You dance beautifully and prolifically through the political landscape.

    Luv’d HBS remark. I’m a sucker for puns!

  9. kathleengabriel says:

    Ha! This is heart-touching, but leaves me with a light feeling.

  10. mikehandley says:

    Well done, G. I can smell the garlic and see the blood diamonds.

  11. mdjb says:

    I love the way you tell a story in a nice comfy cozy setting with the larger drama outside the frame, but not so far away (emotionally) that we can’t feel it intruding on the conversation. I love your characterization, too, always very real people. You’re a wonder, Gita Smith.

  12. Kristine_ES says:

    How could there be a downside? Of *course* there was a downside..he was too perfect. Marti’s making the right decision and she’s got a good friend there, too.

    I learned a lot reading this one, Gita, in that everything was character and plot but you didn’t have to explain/demonstrate everything. You just “get” it because it reads so well.

  13. gita8 says:

    Thank you ALL so much for your support. I wrote this especially for Jeanette when she invited me to contribute, and it does my heart good to know it has been read and enjoyed.

  14. Damn! I don’t know if I loved the smell from the kitchen spicing up this rich, textured tale or the fact that your protagonist has a loupe! Way swingin’ cool Gita, so much so that I can practically see you grinnin’ outta the side of your mouth at the keyboard, adding in Botswana, Jackson Pollock, La Scala and Cirque de Soleil and smilin’ in a “Take that Jeanette!” manner.

    Well, that’s just my musin’ but you spun this one ‘richly’ ~ “This is Sunday afternoon at its best, with Corinne Bailey Rae on the stereo and nothing to do but cook comfort food.” That lovely line was what readin’ this lovely piece was like, right down to your closin’ line bein’ your opener. Brava bella donna.

    Though Har punned the best, Mike Handley is always such a handy observer. Now, since you’re lettin’ folks steal your charmer lines, I’m globbin’ this one:

    “His romantic overtures are swoon-inducing and unparalleled.”

    Thanks for this read. It ‘sent’ me.
    ~ Absolutely*Kate (still grinnin’ when she runs into Gita holdin’ stage in a crowded room – she’s got chutzpah, that gal)

  15. PS-commento:

    Gita -TITLE was served up perfecto!
    ~ Absolutely*Kate

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