Somewhere along an unknown dusty road in a landscape that appears otherwise tumbledown and deserted, you come upon a vintage, chrome-sided diner
with red trim. You are lost, you are anxious, and you are hungry. You could not be aware of this, but if you were not in possession of these three uncomfortable emotions you would have never been able to stumble upon
The Everything Diner
Your unease turns to relief as you step out of your vehicle and walk across the gravel driveway. You are about to open the door to the diner, noting the yellowed note taped below the handle that says, "Do NOT feed Hostess products to the hamsters," when you become aware of a great deal of cursing and swearing coming from behind the establishment. If you were not such a curious and adventuresome person, you would not have taken this road as a possible detour to avoid the road construction on the Alesbury Pike. But you are. Now this same curiosity makes you hesitate to enter this diner. What is the nature of this tirade of unknown obscenity that you hear? Is someone in distress? Is someone in danger? Your resolve hardens and you walk around the diner to the rear of the establishment.
You have come upon a large garden. The swearing is unmistakably coming from within the vegetation that you observe is far more lush and overgrown than the parched surrounding landscape should be able nourish. But your attention is now drawn to the object of the discord that comes from within the dense foliage.
"Fucking slugs! Fucking beetles! Goddamn fart-sucking nutgrass! I'll teach you to grow in my garden! Sonovabitch!"
Ah, just an angry, if passionate gardener, you conclude. Well, at the very least, the food should be fresh here. You check your Blackberry reflexively to see if you have picked up a signal yet. No luck.
"WELL! What brings you 'round back here?"
Startled, you look up from your phone to find a middle aged, balding man in dirty work clothes approaching you rapidly with a reckless-looking oversized torch connected to a propane tank.
"Oh, I AM sorry. I thought that I heard a fight or something back here and I just came back to see if anyone was in trouble!"
"No trouble here, friend, no trouble at all," the man grins and extends a dirty hand. "Welcome to the E2 Diner. Can I get you anything inside?"
"Yes, please. Boy, that is quite the garden! I take it that you use your own produce in the diner?"
"Sure 'nuff! Why, right now we have lettuce and spinach and loads of broccoli that is about to go to flower any day now. Do you like broccoli?
"No, I am not too much of a fan," you begin.
"Ah, that's because you have probably never had it cooked right! I'll tell you what. I was just about to make some broccoli soup. It is quick and easy to make despite the fact that everyone fucks it all up with chicken stock and nutmeg and cream and all that bullshit! Fucking idiots! You and I know better don't we? That would make it cream of chicken and broccoli soup, wouldn't it? WOULDN'T IT!?"
Taken aback, you now regret your curiosity. This obviously easily excitable person is disturbingly passionate and opinionated about his cooking...and he has a flamethrower. Not good. Better appease him.
Yeah, sure, hey you are right! Why don't I just, uh, go back around the front and I'll try a bowl inside," you lie.
The gardener grins,
"Ah, I knew you were good people! Here! Take this bucket. Let's go get us some broccoli!"
With mounting reluctance, you cautiously follow the gardener into the garden, hoping that it is not to your demise. In a sudden burst of panic you recoil as he whips a pair of large shears from his pocket. He stoops down, however, and begins to cut the heads from the broccoli plants.
"You just want to cut the tops off without taking too much of the stalk. Cleanly too, that way the plant will be able to grow the maximum amount of side shoots and extend your growing season. I should be getting good side shoots for at least a month from these plants."
You suppose that if he were going to murder
you and turn you into fertilizer
he would not be so attentive to his broccoli. But perhaps that is simply his ruse. When your bucket is full, he stands up and puts his arm around your shoulder. You wince, but you try not to betray your fear as he leads you by the shoulder back to the diner to the kitchen entrance.
"Let's make some soup!"
You expect the kitchen to be a cramped galley, but you are modestly surprised that it is decidedly larger on the inside than the dimensions of the diner would allow to be possible. A pair of stock pots, full of water, are at a steady rolling boil. The gardener takes your broccoli bucket from you and begins to chop the heads up with a chef's knife into manageable floret
s. In under a minute, his chopping is finished and he scoops the florets into the boiling water.
"Now, we want to boil these just for a few minutes. When I can cut through the stems against the inside of the pot with a knife, they are Al Dente. So! Where you from? Where you headed? What are you driving? Whoo-hoo! My cousin had one of those back in high school! Damn we were stoned back then! We would load up the trunk of that thing with beer and head up to Milwaukee for Metalfest and goddamn if I didn't nail some chick in the back of that thing every year, WHOO! Aw, Good Times! Okay, the broccoli should be ready now. Yup, see, cut right through nice and easy against the side of the pot."
Thankful that you would not have to suffer any more of this madman's sordid past, you step aside as he transfers the steaming florets into a large blender with a strainer
"Now, we want to puree these florets up in the water that we boiled them in. We don't want to add too much water at first. If you want to make this much broccoli soup at home you may have to make it in batches."
He turns on the blender, with the lid on, which turns the broccoli into a green pulp. Then he ladles the green broccoli water into the blender from the stockpot until the broccoli pulp reaches a smooth soup-like consistency. He turns off the blender and then samples the soup with a spoon.
"Hmm, what do you think?" he tests you.
"Um, I think that I would like to taste it with my own spoon?"
"Oh, sure. Whatever floats your boat..."
He hands another spoon to you, which you hope to God is clean. You taste the soup and find it rather bland and tastes pretty much like boiled broccoli, but not offensively so.
"Needs salt," you offer, hesitantly.
"YES! Yes it does need salt! And that is all it needs! You...ARE a bright one, arn't you?"
He adds a measure of salt and tastes it. Then he adds some more salt and tastes it again.
"There, I think that is about right. Taste again."
You taste the soup again and...well...actually it is pretty good now. You think to yourself that it is light and fresh maybe it needs something to brighten it up with.
"Maybe a little lemon juice, eh?" he offers.
Without breaking his gaze, he squeezes the juice of half a lemon into the soup. You are taken aback, and now find his eyes gleaming with an intimacy which, you are surprised to find, not completely unwelcoming. Where did he get half a lemon
"Try it now."
His voice is now assuring, smooth and confident. His eyes are now like those of a master, gazing upon a pupil whose mind has been cracked by a truth which lies beyond truth. Yes. Yes this is what broccoli soup is meant to be, it is simply...the broccoliness of the broccoli which the lemon juice and the salt has gently unlocked your senses to. You KNOW.
After a moment which seems to last much longer than a simple moment, the gardener offers you a piece of toasted baguette, lightly buttered.
Suddenly, the tranquility of the moment is shattered! The moment which had hovered somewhere above and beyond the normal incremental passage of all other moments crashes down around you as the door to the kitchen galley is kicked open by a screaming madman in a bloody apron and a chefs hat. In one hand he wields a cleaver! In the other a large bloody sack!
"Qu'est-ce l'enfer! Foutez le camp de ma cuisine! Si vous deux ont foiré ma cuisine, je vais faire mon chiot rôti à la sauce béarnaise sur deux d'entre vous!"
In terror, you cry out! Forgetting all about the perfection of broccoli soup, you stumble out of the kitchen and run back to your car, assured that gruesome death is fast upon your heels! As your tires hit the blacktop of highway, you look into your rearview mirror. Your heart beat throbbing in your ears is all you can hear but you see the gardener through the gravel dust holding a baguette aloft, calling out to you.