An Unexpected Visit From A Forgotten Deity
Kevin carried out a small box covered in grease and food splatters, his belongings clinking inside. It wasn’t the first time the chef had been fired and he was quite sure it wouldn’t be the last. He had been blamed for not making food costs the last two months, although it was the front of the house who always came back and gorged themselves whenever they pleased. If he protested, he was reprimanded for being unwelcoming and creating a hostile work environment. It seemed there was just no winning for him.
He sat the dilapidated box on his crowded tile counter before grabbing a beverage from the fridge. The kitchen in his shoddy flat seemed more miniscule than ever as he paced back and forth contemplating the future. His fortieth birthday looming in the near future, he was nowhere near where he desired to be in life. Having worked in the culinary world for over twenty years, he expected that he would most certainly have his own restaurant or two by this point. Instead, the career had been a repetition of disappointments. Having been fired for various incidents, such as throwing away expired salmon that smelled of a hundred deaths, the owner insisting it to be blatantly wasteful and that he should have just added extra seasoning. Or for asking a cook to please stop drinking the cooking wine during her shifts; he was still unable to comprehend how that had been categorized as sexual harassment.
His savings was scant and his dreams of ever owning a business of his own seemed a mere pipedream. He’d be forced to find another job working under someone else’s command, complying to rules and etiquette that simply were devoid of logic, his creativity squashed. Tiresomely sorting through his box, he flung a zester and a garlic press into the sink, threw away several pieces of miscellaneous paperwork, putting aside various recipe ideas he had scribbled down in the height of brilliance but had never gotten around to actually rustling up. Tossing aside a rubber ducky wearing a chef’s hat and coat, he rummaged around the few remnants at the bottom of the box, his hand stopping upon feeling an unusual object.
A look of bewilderment overcame him as he pulled out a curious object. A figurine that donned a tattered toga with various stains, wielded a long wooden stirring paddle as if a sword, and wore a shiny colander upon his head.
“What the hell?” Kevin had never seen this before and couldn’t understand how it had ended up in his stuff. Perhaps someone thought it would be funny, but he found the object to be nothing more than plain strange. He shook his head walking over to the freezer in search of something to subdue the aching hunger that emanated from his stomach. A store-bought meat and potato pie in hand, he popped open the microwave door and begin to fiddle with the packaging.
A voice thundered, “How dare you?” Kevin’s pie fell to the ground as he spun around and saw the figurine, now a full-size man standing with his hands on his hips in clear disapproval.
“Get out,” Kevin demanded as he reached for a carving knife. “Leave now or I will call the police.”
“Ha ha ha.” His laughter roared throughout the flat before he stood up straight and regained a serious expression. “Kevin why are you such a fool?”
“Excuse me? How do you know my name?” He stepped back. “Who are you?”
“It is I.” He clutched his robe, did a little spin, and released it as he gave Kevin a wink.
“Look, I am not in the mood.” He edged towards his phone as he spoke. “Just leave-”
“Do not disrespect me. I have traveled through space and time, ignored so many others and chose you. Try to stand there and tell me that you do not know who I am.” Kevin shrugged unsure of what to say that wouldn’t aggravate the man.
“Well, my reputation has been diminished throughout the years, through no fault of my own. See most of the others have it easy, Poseidon earning points for all the destruction he creates with his puerile storms, Hermes who is requested more than a mid-rare filet mignon. Don’t get me started on Aeres or Cupid, they have to make absolutely no effort-. What are you doing?” He lifted his stirring paddle and knocked the phone from Kevin’s hand. “Listen to me boy.” He raised his eyebrows in a wild fashion before continuing. “I am Culinarius, the god of culinary arts.
Kevin sat beside Culinarius on a park bench several hours later. It had taken him awhile to come to terms with the truth. A few speeches and a battle or two that consisted of the stirring stick versus frying pans, utensils, and even a package of crisps that had acted as a disheartening pinata in its final moments. Yet now Kevin was convinced, he was sitting with the real deal, the god of culinary arts that he’d certainly never heard of, but who was here to help on his journey, or something like that.”
“See, I used to be a legend. When I brought olives to the table, I was praised throughout the dimensions. Oh, and when I persuaded King Louis XI to carry mustard around with him everywhere and just put it on absolutely anything, damn I couldn’t even walk into a room without people swooning over me. I am here to make a comeback, to regain my reputation. I’ll be the baddest-”
“Wait. I thought you were here to help me?”
“Oh yeah, I am”. He slapped Kevin on the thigh before jumping up. “First we need to make you less of a loser.”
“Excuse me?” Kevin stood up; his brows furled.
“Don’t try to deny it. I caught you about to eat that instant garbage. You know that stuff ruined my life? People used to swoon at homecooked meals, five course feasts. Their hearts would paddle across the ocean for the most delicate flavors, to discover new pairings. To cook was to live. To create nourishment for one’s self and others was a craft filled with pride and creativity. The world today is revolting with its fast foods, artificial flavors, microwave conveniences. It makes me sick; it defiles the core of who I am. I do swear this to you.” He jabbed Kevin with his inane weapon. “If I ever see you with those things again, I will kill you.”
“I told you no. You can’t come to work with me.”
“Oh, come on I put on these mortal-type clothes. Plus, I helped you get this new job, and so far you have kept it and been swirling up some masterpieces.” He winked.
“Yes, I’ve kept my job for three days, thanks for-”
“Hey Kevin.” Carley smiled.
“Hello there.” Culinarius interjected.
Carley laughed and cocked her head. “And who are you?”
“Kevin’s uncle from abroad. I am joining him as a sort of bring your uncle to work day. I am very well versed in all cuisines, interdimensional and worldly.”
“Okay... well then, I better get in there.” She smashed her half-smoked cigarette into the ashtray and quickly retreated inside.
“I can’t believe you. You are going to get me fired. Bring your crazy uncle to work day. Yes, I am sure that is going to go over well when the owner gets drift of it, and it’s only my first week.”
“Can you stop whining and actually start cooking.”
“I am cooking.” He flayed his arms. “Do you not see all the things I am doing? There is French onion soup going, I just cut sixty steaks, and before that I painted eight trays of croque madams.”
“And now?” He manifested his stirring spoon and jutted Kevin in his groin.
“Are you kidding me?” He grimaced.
Culinarius pointed to an empty pot that set on the oven. “You know the saying; a pot doesn’t cook things itself.”
The morning passed, Culinarius generously passing on his culinary knowledge and giving Kevin a few dozen good pokes with his stirring stick. Kevin looked up as Everret walked into the kitchen, just in time to see Culinarius dancing wildly to 80’s hairbands, music that he was apparently very impressed by.
“Uh… this is my uncle.”
“Cool.” Everret nodded and trod to his station, careful to avoid eye contact in an attempt to hide his drooping bloodshot eyes.
“Look, the restaurant is about to open and now we have to share the kitchen,” he whispered. “Be cool okay.” Culinarius smiled and nodded or perhaps bopped his head to the music, continuing to dance, but slightly less vigorously.
Kevin focused on all the tickets now coming in, his rail soon filling up. He had learned the new menu quick, and with all the tips and tricks he had amassed that morning, juggling everything seemed a pleasant breeze. He had even tested out a few new specials and appetizers, things he would rarely ever be able to find the time for, yet Culinarius had motivated him. It was fascinating what one could accomplish when attempting to dodge the wrath of a poke happy ancient god.
Towards the end of the night Carley walked back into the kitchen holding an allergy card. “We just got a family in. The son pretty much can’t eat anything.” Kevin began to scan the extensive list before Culinarius snatched it from his hand.
“What’s this bullshit? Can’t eat peanuts, avocado. Oh my god. Garlic. Onion. What kind of sick joke is this?”
“Uncle… Culi, please. We get food allergies in all time, it’s common nowadays.”
Carley and Kevin stared at him with befuddled expressions before being interrupted.
“Um… we can give him a plain baked potato. With mustard!” Everret exclaimed.
“Mustard is a magical condiment.”
“Hell yeah.” Everret and Culinarius high-fived.
“But see that will not wow the boy. We want every culinary experience to be a delight, a total immersion into the art of food. Let me search my repertoire.” He sat on the floor and closed his eyes.
“It’s okay Carley, we’ll figure something out for the kid. Focus on your other tables.”
He jumped up a moment later. “I know. Devil’s dung.”
“What?” Everret and Kevin asked perplexedly.
“People these days.” He wagged his finger. “I’ll be right back.” He spun around and disappeared into a swirl. Kevin looked at Everret worried he was going to run out in a fright, but he just paced back over to his station as if he saw such occurrences every day.
Within seconds Culinarius was back clutching a small tin in one hand.
“Asafoetida?” Kevin read the name printed on the side.
“Yes, I suppose the name has changed throughout the ages, but it is the same culinary alchemy.”
Kevin took off the cap and immediately winced. “Oh my god, it stinks like shit.”
“Isn’t it remarkable? An excellent substitute for alliums.”
“No offense Culi, but I can’t serve this.”
“Are you questioning me?
“The kid will gag.”
“If that is to be true, his culinary palate is afoul. I am affronted after the journey I made, after everything you know, that of all things, you would question my culinary aptitude?”
They sat on Kevin’s couch later that night celebrating the day. It was a win for culinary arts and a huge glide towards Culinarius regaining his stature.
“Did you see the little shit? He was elated.”
“Yes.” Kevin shook his head, still in disbelief. “He was certainly impressed.”
“The best meal he has ever had. Those were-”
“What?” Kevin scrutinized Culinarius as he stared at the television.
“What is this?” He snatched the remote and pushed at the volume button. A man in a chef’s coat was advertising the reality tv show “Culinary Gods”.
Do you want to show off your skills to the world? Compete against the best in the business, earn your title. Winner takes home one million dollars. Do you have what it takes to be the next culinary god?
“What kind of blasphemy is this?”
“Calm down, it’s just a stupid show. Been going on a couple years.”
“How many times have you entered?”
Kevin laughed. “You’re joking right? I am not qualified enough.”
“Holy shit Kevin. This is exactly your problem. Second guessing yourself, worrying instead of cooking, always dreaming about the future but not actually taking action”.
“The guys that go on this show have their own restaurants, huge followings, and-”
“And you have been visited by the god of culinary arts. Not because I enjoy this indolent century, or picked your name out of a rondo. It is because while you are a dumbass in most aspects of your life, your culinary talents are precious, the promise that you hold to alter the world of food is invaluable.”
“We are entering.”
A month later Kevin and Culinarius stood backstage on the set of “Culinary Gods”. Kevin was soaked in béchamel, whilst Culinarius leapt around in a luxurious silk robe, pointing his stirrer at other competitors.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. I made a fool of myself in front of the world. This will be going around the internet for eternity. And why did you have to dress like that?” He shook his head. “As if getting me fired wasn’t enough.”
Culinarius’s mouth dropped open before he quickly bopped Kevin on the head.
“Ow, stop it with that.”
“My attire sets us apart. The culinary world isn’t unique when it comes to putting an individual flair on things. Stop being afraid to think outside the recipe books. Always experiment, go out of your comfort zone. Create dishes that sound outrageous because those are the same ones which will make you notorious. And I do not see how you were fired. I was simply balancing the universe.”
“By smacking a customer in the middle of a packed restaurant?”
“Yes? He put ketchup on his ahi tuna. That is a heinous crime.”
Kevin pouted and sat down in an out-of-the-way corner.
“Don’t tell me you’re thinking about microwaving something because you think you had a difficult day.”
“I am not actually. If you taught me anything Culinarius, it is to have self-confidence, respect for the culinary arts and myself, and to never stop trying. I am thinking about creating a five-course meal when we get home, all with dishes I’ve never made before. Regardless of how shitty they may turn out it is better than me sitting around hoping for something to happen.”
Culinarius’s mouth formed into an expansive smile, the mortal filling him with bliss. He sat down beside Kevin as they waited for the winner to be announced. Whatever was to happen, their future was bright.
About the author
M.R. Cameo generally writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and nonfiction, yet enjoys dabbling in different genres. She is currently doing freelance work as a writer, ghostwriter, copywriter, editor, and proofreader for various publications.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme