‘Who Cooks For You’ by Holly Goddard Jones


Cooking Food in a Terracotta Pot, from Admiranda Narratio, by Thomas Harriot, 1590. Illustration by John White

From FiveChapters:

Ann’s old friend Theresa seems to have gone a bit crazy. She shows up on Ann’s doorstep after six — she promised when they made these plans that she’d arrive in time for lunch — and is bedecked in garb that Ann, in their fifteen years’ acquaintance, has never seen the likes of: a loose poet’s blouse cut low enough in the front that her large breasts are thrust obscenely forward; skin-tight, trendy-looking bluejeans that flare at the bottom over an expensive pair of fawn-colored cowboy boots. Her hair, once a rich, wavy chestnut brown that Ann coveted, is frosted and straightened, and it crackles with electricity when the women hug. Theresa has an iPhone in one hand and a colorful alligator-print satchel in the other, and Ann is trying to ask her about the drive south from Kentucky, if the construction on 24 was what had slowed her down, when the phone buzzes and Theresa starts tapping out a reply with a manicured thumb.

“Hold on, sweetie,” she says. “This is the fifteenth text I’ve gotten from him today.”

Ann nods and waits and pushes Critter back into the house with her foot when the cat tries to slip past her leg. She doesn’t know who “he” could be. When Ann last saw Theresa at Phil’s funeral, she looked and acted much as she always had: like Ann’s older, wiser, and eminently dependable friend, made vague and fragile by grief, perhaps, but still more or less the person Ann came to know during their waitressing days at Rosco’s. That had been fifteen years ago, when Ann was still finishing her Hospitality Management degree at UK , and Theresa, in her late thirties and quietly glamorous, commanded the respect of even the crass male line cooks, who never dared to yell at her or make passes at her and who sullenly complied when, on slow nights, Theresa insisted they give Ann the quick cooking lessons she had taken the job hoping to get. So it was at Rosco’s, and not at college, that Ann learned how to tell the doneness of a piece of meat by pressing it with her index finger, how to sharpen and wield her knives, the way to gauge the temperature of a cooking oil by its sheen, and a thousand other methods and recipes. And it was Theresa and her husband who did not so much as blink when Ann told them she was looking for investors to help her cover the 30 percent capital injection required to finance the Misty Mountain Café, her restaurant. Ann owes her career, such as it is, to Theresa, and she tries to remember this as her friend reads another text and thumbs another response, both of them still standing in Ann’s doorway and Ann now an hour late to work. She tries to remember that Theresa, so recently a widow, is entitled to a dye job and its accompanying kookiness, and the time has come for Ann to be the supportive and patient one.

“Just—one—more—” Theresa jabs the screen with finality, smiles, and shoves her phone down into the bottom of her large purse. “Hug me again, pumpkin. Are you ever a sight for sore eyes.”

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