Friday, May 29, 2009

A Deleted Scene from Weeding Out Trouble

Setting: The kitchen of Nina Quinn

The characters: Nina; her mother Celeste; and neighbor and all around pain Ursula "Brickhouse" Krauss


***


"It's simply wrong, cherie," my mother said, an eyebrow firmly arched as she looked over the ingredients gathered on the countertop.

Brickhouse clucked. "It is wrong. Plain wrong, Nina."

"Did I invite you over?" I asked her.

Another cluck. "Yes. Right after I saved you from certain death."

"That wasn't you," I pointed out.

She shifted her weight on the counter stool and nearly fell clear off. "Details."

My mother held up a 26 ounce jar of Ragu's finest. "A jar?" She made the sign of the cross, though she was hardly the uber-religious type. I took the jar from her before she started saying rosaries.

Brickhouse muttered, "But it's Thanksgiving."

"Look," I said, giving myself a facial from the steam as I drained lasagna noodles that had been boiling for ten minutes, "I've had enough wild turkeys--unfortunately not of the liquid variety--and frozen Cornish game hens and crazed roosters to last me a lifetime. Roast turkey has been ruined for me forever."

"You're the one who named the rooster Gregory Peck," my mother pointed out, browning a pound of ground beef on the stovetop. Though she protested the meal, it wasn't in her nature not to help out.

I held in a sigh. While the lasagna noodles cooled slightly, in a large bowl I mixed together a 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese, two cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, a quarter cup of parmesan cheese and two eggs.

The living room was abuzz with voices. This wasn't the Thanksgiving I thought it would be, but I was lucky to be alive and truly thankful--even if we were having lasagna and not a traditional stuffed turkey. Turkey would never be on my menu again after one saved my life.

I greased a 9 x 13 baking dish. I banged a spoon against the top of the Ragu sauce and tried to open it. The lid wouldn't budge.

Brickhouse clucked. I was almost getting used to the sound (not that I'd ever admit it). "Give that to me," she said.

I handed it over. She gave the jar the evil eye and it popped open without so much as a single turn. Can't say I blamed it. Brickhouse was kind of scary.

"How are your workouts coming along?" she asked sarcastically, handing the jar back to me.

I rolled my eyes and poured the sauce into the pan with the ground beef. After mixing to heat through, I ladled a spoonful into the greased baking dish and spread it out. I layered four lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, overlapping them slightly, and my mother ladled another scoop of meat sauce on the noodles and spread it out evenly. I dropped a good dollop of the cheese mix atop the sauce. I spread that out, then added more noodles, sauce, then cheese and repeated until I had three layers' worth. I ended with a layer of sauce. I fought with the aluminum foil box, and after quite a battle, finally won. I covered the baking dish with a sheet of foil and stuck the dish into a preheated 375° oven.

I looked at my helpers. "In thirty minutes I'll take off the foil, sprinkle another quarter cup of parmesan cheese on top, bake for another five minutes. We have to let it stand for ten minutes, but then dinner will be served. VoilĂ !"

"So, forty minutes give or take?" Brickhouse asked, eyeing the cat clock on the wall, its tail swaying.

"Yes," I said hesitantly. She was up to something.

She levered off the stool. "Ach. Good. Gives me time to make a run to Kentucky Fried Chicken."

"Oooh." My mother grabbed her purse. "I love their mashed potatoes." She looked at me. "Cherie? Extra crispy legs?"

My stomach rumbled to life. Extra crispy was my favorite. I glanced at the oven, then at my mother. I said I'd never eat turkey again.

But I never said anything about chicken...

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To read more about Nina's adventures with wild turkeys, frozen Cornish game hens, Gregory Peck, and what really happened at Thanksgiving dinner, check out Weeding out Trouble.