Chapter 18:

Preparation is half the battle

The Y-files [GL]

Belgian trivia


Éclairs or “Sjoekes” like they call them in Flanders, are a type of pastries sold in every self-respecting bakery in Belgium. It has a pretty fluffy texture and it is mostly the filling and toppings that give it its character. The standard type has a vanilla pudding filling and a mocha-chocolate topping.

A lot of men call their wife “sjoeke” in the region of Antwerp. (oe is pronounced ou like in you)

Oiseaux sans tête

“Oiseaux sans tête” or “blinde vinken” in Dutch. (Translates as birds without a head or blind finches) Is a common dish prepared in households. You will not find it on many menus in brasseries or taverns though. My guess is that it is considered too common to be put on a menu. They are slices of steak or veal filled with minced meat.

There is much discussion about the dish' origin. But the most widely accepted theory is that there was a period where nobility ate a lot of finches and the farmers of the area created their own version. When preparing birds, they are often packed with a tin layer of meat to keep the meet juicy in the oven. So the appearance of the end result might be quite similar.

I went home without taking detours. There was a lot to do for tomorrow and I had not yet decided what exactly to make. Most likely I would have to make those sweets tomorrow morning so that they would be as fresh as possible in the afternoon. I might already be able to do some of the preparatory work today and if I had to get up at the crack of dawn, I would have to go to bed early.

Chapter 11: Preparation is half the battle

Mom saw me coming in, came up to me and gave me a kiss and greeted me very cheerfully. “Hi Claire my dear, how was your day? Had fun with your FBY friends?” She looked like she was walking on clouds.

“We had a very busy day today. Can I use the brasserie's kitchen to make sweets for school tomorrow morning?” I asked, seeing that she was in a good mood. It would be a lot easier to make sweets in a professional kitchen than in our apartment's kitchen.

“Sure, tomorrow is our closing day, so you go ahead honey, just leave everything the way you found it. But in exchange I expect you to make dinner for Frank and me and mind the brasserie while we eat.” she answered me.

Well that was what I did everyday anyway so it was no problem for me. “Sure thing mom.” Then I decided to inquire after her mood “Hey mom did anything good happen to you?”

“Nothing special. But I got a date next week.” she said playfully, taking a slight pause between each word.

My mom walked away humming.

I was a bit stupefied. By my knowledge mom had never dated anyone since dad died. I hope she does not come home with some kind of bloke that would want to be my father. But since mom almost never left the brasserie it had to be one of the customers. Well I knew it could not be one of the regulars. I knew that my mom would never date one of them. “Business and pleasure should be separated. It is brasseries that do not follow this rule that go under. Because friends and money don't mix.” she always said. So it must have been a one time customer or a sales representative.That was rather the sneaky player to get a date with mom so smoothly. Well no reason to panic yet. It is just a first date and with a bit of luck it stays at that.

“It is not that I am being possessive of my mother” I told myself in my head, “it is just that I don't want to see her get hurt.” All I had seen from romantic love in my family was a devastated mom after my father was gone and my brother's sum of fiascoes. Who would wish something like that to someone they love?

All of the love between a woman and a man that I witnessed in my life was nothing like the beautiful yuri-stories that I had been reading lately.

I had some time left before I had to start making dinner so I went back to the apartment. I opened my laptop to look up what kind of sweets would help with a confession. After some research I decided to make éclairs.

I could fill the éclairs with a strawberry flavored baker's cream and top them with a chili-chocolate glaze. That would work well if I used a deep red wine to dissolve the chocolate for the topping. That should do the trick because, according to the website I visited, those were all ingredients that stimulated feelings of love. They were called aphrodisiacs. But it seemed I would have to do all the work tomorrow morning. Otherwise the éclairs would not be fresh. But at least by looking things up beforehand I could already prepare the cooking station and measure some of the ingredients tonight after the kitchen closed at 9 pm.

After that I read a bit in a yuri web novel that Elodie had recommended to me, until it was time to start preparing dinner. It was a rather cute and funny story about a tomboyish girl named Aurora that becomes a vampire by accident. Of course there were plenty of cute girls around her. I especially liked the student council president who had some strange but very cute quirks.

I went to the brasserie's kitchen and saw my brother and went over to greet him with a kiss on the cheek. Then I asked “Did you hear about mom's date?”

“Yes, I think it is a good thing.” He answered.

“Oh so you know who it is?” I asked curiously.

“She told me it was a secret so it is most likely someone we know.” I felt my blood starting to boil. There was no man I knew that I thought that was fit to stand beside my mom. Wait until I get my hands on the guy that could not keep his hands in his pocket.

Frank noticed the change in my eyes, and the smile forming on my lips. while I started sharpening my carving knife and chose wisely to back off and mind his own cooking.

Considering my enlightened state I decided to make 'oiseaux sans tête' with carrots and potatoes. It is a pretty standard Belgian dish but I did not use the standard premade butcher or supermarket oiseaux sans tête. I always made the filling myself. The premade ones were too boring and almost always too salty for my tastes. Adding some freshly hacked sage,parsley, garlic and shallots to the filling would create a world of difference.

While I was slicing the veal I imagined getting rid of anyone trying to hurt my mom. Ah the feeling of my knife cutting through meat like butter always brought me such relief. After I created some beautiful thin slices of veal, I filled them up.

Then I switched knives to my vegetable knife, a cleaver type, and started chopping the vegetables. My cleaver always gave me a different kind of relief. It was more a let-it-all-out kind of feeling. In my opinion a lot of anger problems in this society could be solved by distributing cleavers to everyone.

To challenge myself a bit I decided to cut the carrots in little flowers instead of just slices. My knife danced around the cutting board. I scaled the potatoes. I was going to steam them to preserve as much of their taste as possible.

Oiseaux sans tête was a great meal to eat in shifts like we did because it was easily kept warm without over-stewing the dish.

I prepared a plate for mom and Frank and went to the front of the brasserie to tend the bar. Only a few orders for drinks came in, but unfortunately no orders for food so I did not get a chance to do some more cooking. The time passed slowly and I read a bit in one of the yuri-manga from the FBY collection. I found one that combines yuri with a cooking manga, although it seemed a bit like a big commercial for diners in Fukuoka. I was immediately addicted to it. One day I had to try my hand at Japanese cooking, but outside of sushi I had no idea how any of the dishes should taste. I learned pretty quickly that I always got hungry from reading it so I tried to only read it right before dinner.

“Oh what is that one you are reading honey?” mom asked, looking over my shoulder and getting me out of my reading trance. I blushed and quickly closed the book.

“Oh this one is about cooking.” I tried to hide the yuri-relationship part, that made you want to keep reading it, from my mom.

“Oh sounds interesting, is it as good as the one you left on the kitchen table this morning? I really enjoyed that one.” I think my face must've been dark red up to my ears by now. Not only did my mom find my manga, she was reading and enjoying yuri. Even though I was forced to read it, I came to enjoy those cute stories rather quickly. The moment those 2 girls kissed often made me shed a tear. But still, there are just some things that you just do not want to share your thoughts on with your mom.

I got up and said “If you guys are done I'm gonna go prepare my own plate.” Mom laughed as she witnessed me turning red and running away. After eating dinner on my lonesome while reading some more manga, I went back to the kitchen to clean up and then prepare some of the ingredients for the éclairs I had to bake in the morning.

After that I decided to take an early night because I had to get up at 4am.