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The Perfect Recipe


by katiesheffield

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Dedicated to my good friend and mentor, Denae. :)

"What we need," said Miami thoughtfully, "is a perfect recipe."

     I looked up from the list I was compiling. "There's no such thing as perfect. There's close-to-perfect, and nearly-perfect, and perfectly dreadful, but not perfect."

     Miami scratched her nose, oblivious to the smudge of flour she was putting on it. "Or something so close that people would think it's perfect. After all, we're making a perfect cookbook, so we may as well have an almost perfect recipe."

     Miami and I are both Xweetoks (she is blue, while I'm brown), and we were writing a Perfect Cookbook. We had compiled huge lists of salads, biscuits, cakes, meals, drinks and almost everything else edible; and had chosen the best recipes out of them.

     I had to admit, Miami was right. All the recipes we had so far were delicious, but we really should have one that stood out from the rest. Something extra special.

     "How on earth are we supposed to choose one?" I asked, perplexed, as I sampled the cake batter Miami was making. "We've hundreds, and after a while they all start tasting the same, anyway."

     As usual, Miami already had an idea. "We'll run a competition. People can send in their family recipes, and we'll chose the best one out of them."

     I had to admit, when it came to ideas, Miami left me for dead. After we had finished cooking the cake we spent the rest of the afternoon drawing up a poster. It read;

     Recipe Competition!

     We are looking for the perfect recipe for the perfect cookbook.

     If you have one, and think it deserves to be called perfect, send it in!

     The winner will receive an edition of the Perfect Cookbook free!

     Competition starts fourth day of hiding, and finishes on the eighteenth.

     Send your recipes to Miami and Louise, Soup Kitchen Alley.

     Miami chewed on a pencil as she looked at it. "That should do."

     "I wonder if we'll get many entries?" I asked.

     "Oh, one or two, I guess."

* * *

     I looked at Miami helplessly. "One or two, eh?"

     The post had just come in, and we were standing knee deep in recipes of everything cookable, from Omelette Cake to Spardel Biscuits.

     Miami shrugged and gave a hopeful smile. "Well, we won't need to get firewood for a while."

     I gave her a withering glare, and we fell to work sorting through the recipes. Almost an hour later I gave up and sat down where I thought the chair was; it was pretty hard to tell now that everything was covered in scrapes of paper.

     "This is hopeless!" I groaned. "No way are we going to get through all of this."

     Miami sat down next to me and put an arm around my shoulder. "Are you regretting ever starting this cookbook?"

     I thought back to the day two months ago, when my best friend and I sat in my loungeroom, feeling hopelessly bored, flipping through recipe books and wishing someone would make a decent one. I remembered her saying excitedly; "Why don't we make our own?" and I remembered the enthusiasm we had when working on it. We hadn't had a dull moment from then on, and as I thought of all the laughs we had, and kilos we'd gained, I knew I didn't regret it. Not one tiny bit.

     I smiled at her. "You're right, Mim. No, I don't regret making the cooking book; I just wish we didn't have to sort through this!" I waved my hand in the direction of the letters.

     "Who said we had to?" Miami laughed. "Why don't we just chose a recipe; any one at random; and try it. When we find one we like and that's close enough to perfect, we'll declare it the winner and turn the rest into kindling."

     I smiled, my mood brightening. "You're an ideas person, Mim. No doubt about it."

     I waded into the Sea of Papers and picked a random one up. "Chocolate and voidberry cupcakes; sounds good. Let's go!"

     The rest of the morning and a good part of the afternoon was spent trying recipes. Some were good, some very good, and others disgusting, -"Sock Pizza?!"- but we still didn't find a recipe that was perfect.

     It was grueling work, cooking, and we couldn't even use lunch-break as an excuse. Also, the cleanliness of our kitchen began to suffer.

     "Look at this!" I cried as I tried to balance another tray on the stack of washing that was sitting in the sink. "Much more and we'll have to cut a hole in the roof so it can fit!"

     Miami looked more like a ghost than a blue Xweetok, with her fur covered in flour. "I think we'd better start cleaning now. It's going to take the rest of the afternoon to get this place in order."

     "I think you're right."

     After three hours of scrubbing, washing, wiping and pressure blasting, the kitchen looked fairly similar to how it had been before. It was time to cook dinner.

     I looked at Miami. She looked at me.

     "Want to get take-away?"

     "Yep."

 * * *

     When I woke up the next morning all my muscles ached. I groaned as I crawled out of bed; and when Miami arrived she didn't look much better.

     I gazed over the recipes still littering the livingroom. "Maybe today's going to be the day we find it," I said with as much optimism as I could muster.

     "Maybe." She sounded very doubtful.

     The doorbell rang, and we ran to get it. Any excuse to delay looking through the recipes.

     We opened the door to see an elderly brown Lupe standing on our doorstep. His fur was grayed, his eyes had a remarkably sad look to them, and clutched firmly in his paws was an old, discolored piece of paper.

     "Miami and Louise?" he asked softly. We nodded. "I have a perfect recipe."

     I sighed. Was there no way to escape that confounded kitchen?

     "Thank you, sir, if you leave it with us we'll look at it in due course." I held out my hand to take it, but the Lupe just pulled it closer to his chest.

     "Please, you must understand, this document is very precious to me. I cannot give it to anyone; but I can let you read it, and try it. It's the recipe for a cake, and I can guarantee you it will be the best cake you've ever eaten."

     He looked very sincere, and something about him made me curious. "Come in, and we'll try it now," I offered, smiling. Gratefully he entered, and though his bushy eyebrows went up at the sight of the Sea of Papers in our living room, he was polite enough not to say anything.

     We sat down in the kitchen, and he very carefully put the manuscript on the bench top. As Miami and I began to look for the ingredients, I asked him, "Why's that recipe so important to you?"

     He sighed and looked at it for a long time; so long I began to wonder if I'd asked a wrong question, as I often did. But then he looked up at me, and I saw his eyes were brimming with tears.

     "My only daughter wrote that out." He swallowed and looked back at it. "There's a long story, but you young things don't want to have to listen to an old Lupe like me waffle on."

     Miami has a lot more compassion than I do. While I was about to agree with him, she saw how lonely he was and said quickly, "Nonsense! We have all afternoon, and anyway, we like stories. Please tell us!"

     The Lupe's weathered old face creased into a pleased smile and he began his story.

     "When I was younger I was the captain of a beautiful ship, the Sea Scallop. My daughter and I had what's called the wanderlust. It's where your feet won't keep still, and you just have to go sailing. She was a sparky little thing, ever since she was a cub, and wouldn't let off begging until I let her come a sailin' with me.

     "Well, Tara and I sailed the seas and saw some pretty amazing thing, yes'm. When she turned twelve we went to an island that had been rumored of across the oceans, but on the way there our ship ran into a terrible storm, and nearly capsized. The crew was one of the greatest a ship's ever known, though, and they pulled her through, and we made it to an island alive.

     "All that night we sat awake on the shore, huddled near our fire for fear of natives with sharp spears. There aren't many cannibals about today; but back then they were common, especially on undiscovered islands.

     "We made it alright until morning, when we woke up to find ourselves surrounded by natives. They spoke in a strange tongue, and we couldn't understand a word they said, but they marched us up to their tribe's home. They gave us food and water, and talked to us plenty, even though we couldn't understand them, and the crew started thinking that maybe these chaps aren't so bad as we thought.

     "That night my little Tara couldn't sleep, and went wandering through the tribe's town. When she got to the center of it, she heard voices and hid behind a canoe. There in the middle of the town is a huge cauldron, all full of bubbling water, and surrounded by these strange natives. Lying next to the cauldron is a pile of old bones.

     "Well, my Tara knew exactly what was going on, and ran as fast as she could back to where we were sleeping, and woke us up to warn us.

     "'There's nothing for it, chaps!' I cried. 'It's stay here and be eaten, or back to the ship and see if we can't get her to float us out of here.'

     "Down we ran to the beach as fast as we can, but the natives heard us and were faster. They got between us and the ship, and we had to run back up the way we came.

     "It was then we saw an old temple overgrown with vines, and hoping to hide from the natives we opened the stone door and ran in.

     "I'm sure the natives saw us go in there, but they wouldn't follow for the world, but only slunk back to their homes, and left us shivering in the darkness.

     "It was nothing but a maze of corridors in there, and we were lost for ages. Finally, when all are about to give up hope, my Tara finds a box with a brass lid. Inside are a piece of paper, a candle, and some flint.

     "We took heart again, and lit the candle. We couldn't read the symbols on the old piece of paper, but as we're gazing around ourselves my Tara sees arrows carved into the stone floor. With her leading and holding the candle, we followed the arrows for an hour or so, until we finally come to the door.

     "Not wanting to get caught by those pesky cannibals again, we started walking through the forest, and at last we come out in the middle of an island market place. Turned out we were on Mystery Island all the while.

     "We told the islanders about what had happened and gave them the parchment, which they translated for us. It was a recipe for a cake that was supposed to be so good, it was perfect. My Tara wrote it out in English as they translated it.

     "Well, I can tell you we didn't wait to take the first ship out of there and home, but on the way we ran into a storm which broke the ship apart. I survived hanging onto a piece of wood, and got washed up on the shores of Neopia Central.

     "We sent out search ships for Tara, and though we found and saved most of the crew, we never found my little girl."

     As the Lupe finished his tale, I had great difficulty stopping my tears from falling into the cake mixture.

     "What happened after that?" Miami asked breathlessly.

     The Lupe shrugged. "I sold my home and moved away. It was too painful to live where there were so many memories. Yesterday I saw your poster for the perfect recipe, and I thought I'd let you have this, as a last testimony to my girl."

     We were all silent as the cake cooked; thinking about the Lupe's lost daughter. When it came out, the cake was everything you would hope a cake to be, and more. It was light and springy, and had a wonderful rich, spicy smell to it. We cut it up and tasted it, and it really was as good as the Lupe had said it would be. Even better, I thought. I had never believed that something could be perfect, but now I knew I had been wrong.

     We gave the Lupe some, but as he tasted it tears began to run down his face, and he said he couldn't eat it.

     After we copied the recipe onto another piece of paper and gave him his original back, he left, giving us his address in case we needed him for anything else.

     As the door closed Miami turned to me.

     "Wasn't that just the saddest thing, Louise?"

     I nodded, but didn't say anything. Words were useless.

* * *

     That would have been the end of our story, except for what happened a month later.

     Our book had been published, and Miami and I were enjoying the publicity it brought. We were sitting in our livingroom talking (having somehow managed to dispose of the Sea of Papers) when the bell rang.

     Opening the door, we met a brown Lupess who seemed vaguely familiar. She was tall and pretty, and there was a fire blazing in her eyes. In her hands she held a copy of The Perfect Cookbook.

     "This recipe!" she gasped breathlessly before we could even say hello. She was panting heavily, and seemed to have run a long way. "Where did you get it?"

     Before we could even get our tongues around an answer, she went on.

     "My father? He gave it to you? I know he did. No one else had it!" Tears welled up in her eyes. "Where is he? Please tell me! Where?"

     Something clicked in my mind, and I ran to our address book where we had kept the old Lupe's street and number. Coming back to the door I gave it to her, and she was off running before we had a chance to say anything.

     "Wow." Miami said quietly. I had to agree.

     After much debate we decided to follow along to the house to see what was happening. Half way there we met the old Lupe and his daughter coming back. Both had been crying.

     Tara, the daughter, embraced us both. "Thank you! You gave me back my daddy!" She stood back and beamed at us. "I am his daughter. I believe he told you our story? Well, when our ship broke apart in the storm, I clung to some wood and swam to an island. I stayed there for three months until a ship left for Neopia Central, and when I got back I found my home had been sold, and daddy had moved away. I've been looking for him ever since, and this morning found your cookbook. I just knew that my daddy had given you the recipe, and came as fast as I could."

     "So I guess that cookbook was useful for something after all," Miami said quietly. "You two have each other again."

     The old Lupe smiled and hugged his daughter. "I've never been happier. How can I thank you?"

     Miami and I glanced at each other mischievously. "Well... why don't you come over some time and have some coffee?" I asked.

     Miami grinned and added, "We have a really nice recipe for cake, you know."

The End

 
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