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Hasty Pudding

Page history last edited by Jon 14 years, 2 months ago

Chapter One


It was when Creme added the molasses to the corn meal that she realized something was wrong. Just how wrong she did not realize until that deviled casserole of murder and mayhem was laid down before them at the dinner table of their lives in all its steaming horror and everyone had seconds.


As her dainty fingers, from which an engagement ring had been reluctantly removed not long ago, reached for the milk to add to the corn meal, Creme thought back on the cruel hand of fate that had placed her here in the vast kitchen of Brulee Hall, that once-glorious but now sadly dilapidated mansion in the Louisiana bayous that had been the ancestral home of Creme's people, the Brulees, for generations. Creme's mother had died in childbirth, leaving her bereaved husband Brule a bouncing baby Creme, as well as all her cookbooks. Brule Brulee, consumed by loneliness with only his young daughter Creme and his loyal housekeeper Gumbo to keep him company, fell hard for the beautiful, exotic widow Elise Anise while on a business trip to New Orleans (something about trying to improve the terms of the mortgage on Brulee Hall with the family attorney, Clement Chowder--Clem to his friends). Fatefully, Elise brought with her her own daughter, Star.


Star, thought Creme bitterly, how appropriate that name was! For it indeed was a star-crossed day when Star Anise crossed the threshold of Brulee Hall. As Brule Brulee aged he fell increasingly under the sinister domination of Elise, who always made sure that it was Star who got the best of everything, while Creme got the leavings. It was Star who got the precious family recipe for hasty pudding. It was Star who got the copper saucepans. It was Star who got the expensive lessons at the exclusive French cooking school. It was Star who got Brulee Hall when Brule Brulee passed on and Elise followed him to the great beyond three years later. Finally, it was Star who, with all the culinary arts of Paris at her disposal, ensnared Creme's own childhood sweetheart and fiancee, Boeuf Bourguignon.


Creme still remembered the agony of that day, the day she received the wedding invitation. Could the cruelty of Star's words have been intentional?


Dear Creme, it read:


Well, dear, it seems I've gone and snapped your Boeuf up, right out from under your nose! What he ever saw in a pathetic little drip like you I'm sure I don't know! Anyway, be that as it may, you know I'll simply die if you won't be my maid of honor, so I can rub the whole thing in your insipid little face! Please say yes!! Your loving stepsister, Star.


What could she do? She asked her maternal aunt, jolly, fat, old Vichy Soise (for whom Creme served as paid companion after her father's death) for advice and was told in no uncertain terms by the aged lady that family was family and a wedding was a wedding, even if you'd like to poison the bride. Aunt Vichy herself could not go, but of course she would pay Creme's way down to bayou Brulee. Creme should consider it a vacation! Dear, dense Aunt Vichy!


So Creme had come. To Brulee Hall. Her home. But now her home no longer. Brulee Hall was another woman's house. Star's house.


Chapter Two


In the vast, old kitchen of Brulee Hall, the ancestral home to generations of proud and tempestuous Brulee gourmands, Creme sprinkled cinammon and ginger over the corn and milk mixture that was the base of the Brulee family's hasty pudding, renowned throughout Bayou Brulee and several other bayous even. Soon Creme would have a steaming, delicious pudding to present at the ornate and elegant Brulee dining table, where Creme's former fiancee, Beouf Bourguignon, and his new bride, Creme's own stepsister, Star Anise Brulee Bourguignon, would preside in wedded bliss, having returned from their honeymoon in the delightful Dutch town of Vlaardingen, home of the world's largest herring festival.


As the warm, pungent smell of cinnamon and ginger tickled Creme's lovely, aristocratic nostrils, Creme thought back to that day--could it really have been just a few weeks ago?--when she had returned to Brulee Hall to see the man she had loved marry the woman she would have liked to shove head first into the gas stove.


It had been Gumbo, the loyal Brulee family servant for more decades than Creme could recall, who had greeted her at the massive double doors.

"Oh! Miss Creme! Can it really be you?!" cried Gumbo, her dusky face breaking into a gleaming smile. "Thank heavens you're here!!"

"Oh, Gumbo," answered Creme, tears pricking her eyes at the loyalty of this good old servant, "it's good to be back, though I wish...."


"I knows what you wish, Miss Creme, "and I sho wishes it too. What Master Beouf sees in that Miss Star with her fancy airs and graces, when everybody round these parts knows what her momma was, a shameless golddigger and a brazen hussy to boot, I'm sure I don't know!!"

"Hush, Gumbo!" chided Creme. "I know you mean well--and I can't say I really disagree with you--but we musn't talk of these things. For Beouf, if for no other reason."


Muttering that there was a thing or two else she could tell Creme about that Star Anise, the faithful Gumbo led Creme to Creme's old room, once the sanctuary where Creme had dreamed her fond, childish dreams of life happily after ever with Boeuf but now only a poignant reminder of dreams dashed and hopes unfulfilled.


"Aren't there other servants?" asked Creme. "Surely Star can't expect you to manage Brulee Hall all alone, especially when she has Beouf's cattle fortune behind her."


"I'd sooner run Brulee Hall alone than have to depend on those two she brought back with her from those foreign parts!" exclaimed Gumbo disgustedly.


"Those two?" queried Creme.


"That butler, Bovril, from England, I hear tell--a shifty, skulking thing he is--and that saucy French maid, Bernaise--she's always preying and peeping about!! They'll be back soon--don't trust neither of them whiles your here, Miss Star!!


"I don't expect I shall be here very long," mused Creme sadly. "Star will probably find that too many cooks spoil Beouf's broth....How is Beouf, by the way?"


"Oh, Miss Creme! He's handsomer than ever! But he don't look happy to me...with her, that is."


"Hush, Gumbo! We musn't talk of such things."


But could it be true?


But even if it were, Beouf was married to Star.


However Beouf might feel about her now, he was still Star's lawfully wedded husband.


He had even honeymooned with Star at the Vlaardingen herring festival.


Creme must not let her hopes rise. She changed the subject.


"Who else will be staying at the house, Gumbo?"


"Besides you, there will be your daddy's law man, Mister Chowder. And Mister Haricot Vert--you remember him, don't you, Miss Creme?"


Haricot Vert! Of course she remembered Hari Vert! The Verts were an old, distinguished family from the neighboring bayou, Bayou Vert. Hari Vert had always looked so dashing in his green jacket when he came to take Creme riding! People had thought he and young Creme might make a match of it someday, until Hari had inherited his wealthy bachelor uncle's whisk business in Chicago and moved away, leaving an open field in which the bold Beouf grazed. It had been years since she had seen Hari, thought Creme, what would he be like today?


And old Clemment Chowder, that salty family lawyer and friend. Originally from New England (of a fine family that went all the way back to the Mayflower), Clem had established a successful practice in New Orleans, doing a brisk business with people from all the best bayous. It was the old lawyer's legal sagacity, Creme recalled, that had saved Brulee Hall several times from the creditors. Dear old Clem Chowder!


"Well, I have things to be seeing to, Miss Creme," said the practical Gumbo, breaking into Creme's reverie. "You'll be wanting to take a nap, I reckon?"


"No, Gumbo, I think I shall go take a walk on the grounds. When will everyone be here?"


"Not for some hours yet, Miss Creme."


Creme wandered out to the back veranda, thinking of old times. Mint juleps on the lawn...Hari Vert in his green riding jacket...And Beouf. Boeuf....



There was Beouf, standing before her, on the veranda!!


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