Scene at Babby’s with TV Production

                              ‘Kitchen Inquisition’

Chapter 36

           “I am not looking forward to this BillyRay, not one bit.” Babby sat upon 

    her throne, toying with her coffee mug, and conversing with BillyRay through

    the service window. She just stared forward, not at Ray, not at her undercover

    mirror, not at anything.

           Knowing the T.V. pestilence would be coming in at 9:00, the last 

    ticket went to the kitchen at 8:15 so to empty the café in case there was any

    shooting or strong language. She did however ask 5 regulars to stay both 

    to discourage gunplay and to just make the place look lived in. She promised

    them a week of breakfast on the house, and that was plenty enough. 

           There was first, foremost, and largest, Gem Fulton. There was Roscoe

    Purkapile, Minerva Jones, Hortense Robbins and Dillard Sissman. 

    Additionally, there was BillyRay, the waitresses Joanne and Angelina (back 

    from maternity part-time), and Margarito, the very great porter.

           The feature of the cooking show about to invade was Charlton Delton,

    Australian by birth but an asshole in any land. He was broad across, stocky 

    and thick with a blondish mop and bangs confessing hints of gray.

    His face was ruddy, even a bit swollen. Not from too much sun or boxing 

    but from a life of drinking and smoking at the bar and being grilled by the

    grills on which he flipped chops and sometimes burgers.

           No one liked him. His own dog did not like him. He did not speak, he

    yelled. Drill sergeant in the kitchen maybe but everywhere else was just

    tiresome.

           Though Babby had not seen the show “Kitchen Inquisition,” she 

    heard about it; the dickhead who came into restaurants (and cafés)

    yelling and bullying and telling all in earshot how stupid and lazy and

    ambivalent they were, whether the operation was successful or not

    or if it adhered to code.

           Babby discussed how this would play out with Celia and Mary, Lou,

    and Miles as well as with the café staff, and so she resolved that stupid, lazy,

    and ambivalent would bring the ordeal to a swift conclusion.

           For a tech crew, being assigned to work with Charlton was like winning 

    a lottery to be stoned to death. Fortunately, they did not need to speak to him

    because senior director Leland sent a small junior director named Beth to 

    act as a liaison for Charlton and civil humanity. “Whatever they’re paying her,

    it ain’t enough.”

           The Network had figured out that genial, maternal, humble, and 

    humorous Julia Child was out, and pompous, offensive, bad news Charlton 

    was in; Charlton was the ticket.      

           “What news flies best? A nearby berry patch or a nearby berry patch

    with a nearby bear?“ That was the Network’s take on evolution and media

    culture.

           As Charlton entered the café, the bell above the door went ding-a-ling,

    the only song it knew, and this chef from hell rolled his eyes.

           “Bloody outback provincials—is there even a show here?”

           “Are you in charge here?” glaring at Babby. Charlton knew enough to

    know who was in authority.

           “Yes Sir, I’m Babby Hopperyn, this is my café, and you are welcome.”

           “Bloody great, are you guys ready to shoot?” Charlton barked in Beth’s

    direction. Safely behind her clipboard, Beth assured they were ready.

           “Well, let’s proceed then, the regulars will need to feed in a couple of

    hours, and I would rather NOT witness that spectacle.” Gem considered the 

    space between himself and Charlton. 

           Now to the camera, “The heart and brain of all food operations large

    and small is the walk-in refrigerator. All the problems start there.”

           BillyRay jumped from an imminent collision when Charlton charged for 

    the box. With a hand on the door handle, Charlton looked at the little

    thermometer by the light switch. It read 35 degrees. “Hrumph!” He was

    hoping for a violation before he opened the door.

           The box was immaculate. All lower shelvings were high enough from the

    ground to allow for a broom or a mop. Those lower shelves stored eggs, meat,

    and fish in bus tubs. The fish was elevated on grates and covered in peach

    paper and then crushed ice. Prepared sauces, condiments, soups, and stocks

    were in sealed plastic vessels—labeled and dated. No dairy was out of date. 

    Cheese was tightly wrapped. No two jars of the same product were open and 

    no opened cans of anything.

           On the floor in the corners were either snap traps or glue traps. Any of

    them could have been returned as new to the hardware store. The two lights 

    in the box were visored and caged. On his way out of the box, Charlton was

    heard to mutter, “Hrumph.”

           “Sometimes I am asked, what is the dirtiest lil’ secret place in a kitchen?

    Here is the answer to that.” He strode over to the utensils, hanging from 

    hooks. He grabbed a medium whisk and picked up a knife from a counter.

    He used the back of the knife to pry open the cap on the cylinder that is

    the handle of a whisk. He popped it off and rudely stuck his finger in it, 

    moved it around in there, and then showed it to the camera. “There!!” 

    Nothing, he smelled the offending finger. “Blimey.”

           At the service counter, plates and bowls were stacked facing down.

    Surfaces were clean, faucets didn’t leak, and garbage didn’t stink.

           “Had a busy morning now didja, mate?” Charlton’s accusatory snarl was

    sotto voce as he tried taking BillyRay down a peg. Next season’s re-sign was

    depending on this foray into the American outback to be, well, bloody bloody.

           “No sir, just breakfast, one day much like another.” Beth and the audio

    guy were enchanted by BillyRay’s measured baritone. Babby measured the

    space between herself and her leetle frien’.

           Charlton grabbed a coffee mug (unaware of his proximity to you know

    who), banged it down on the counter grabbing a coffee carafe with the other

    hand. He poured one finger of coffee and spun it in circles hoping to find                

    grounds. Finding none, he drank it. Then he filled his cup. “Good coffee

    though, hrumph.” Beth dropped her clipboard, as Charlton had never said

    anything positive before. She considered if the Network would want this 

    left on the cutting room floor?

           Gem Fulton was right there to retrieve the clipboard and its scattered 

    paperwork. Beth said “Thank you,” and then their eyes met, because Gem 

    was on his knees. 

           “Aw’right!! As breakfast is a big deal around here, I shall now

    demonstrate the proper preparation and presentation of what you call

    scrambled eggs.”

           He put a slice of white bread in the toaster and put it down. He put an 

    8 inch saute on a low flame until just warm and into that a bit of butter to

    melt. He beat two eggs with a pinch of salt and a turn of black pepper from 

    a mill, though objecting to this as it should have been white pepper, and 

    poured this into the warm buttered pan. The toast popped up, and he put that 

    into a shallow salad bowl, and started moving the eggs with a rubber spatula. 

           After a minute or so on a low flame, the eggs started to solidify—just a 

    little curdly lumpy, nothing more.

           “Awright.” Charlton announced and poured the goopy liquid eggs on

    to the defenseless toast.

           Those present for this atrocity were stupefied. Hurl on toast. Angelina

    leaned over and barfed in the garbage can. “Just fucking great,” thought

    Babby, “Is she pregnant again? Already? I gotta get them a T.V. for the

    bedroom!” Then Joanne yacked in the garbage can.

           “Just fuckin’ great,” thought BillyRay and Charlton, “now the garbage

    stinks.”