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be prepared

by Ellen Klages


Craig Claiborne had not been the first choice for Galaxy Lines' third (and final) "Cooking in Space" cruise. But a week before take-off it was discovered that none of the launch suits could be modified to fit Paul Prudhomme.

Claiborne was in the process of explaining to a tedious woman from Davenport, Iowa, during the second morning's cooking class, that it was just not feasible to attempt a soufflé in zero-gravity, when a band of pirates breached the airlock and took control of the ship.

They captured a dozen or so of the largest, plumpest passengers, Claiborne included, and herded them onto a black ship that hovered a few meters off the stern of the now-doomed De Gustibus.

Reluctantly, but encouraged with the use of a sort of electrified spatula, the men and women were taken to a white, tiled chamber, at the end of which was an apparatus that seemed to Claiborne to consist of a series of graduated stewpots — Calphalon, if he wasn't mistaken.

The pirates, who were a sort of dull fennel color with calamari-like appendages, lined their prisoners up single-file. Claiborne was near the end.

He watched as one of the pirates picked up a hose with a turkey baster-ish nozzle at one end and, with a sound not unlike that of coring a ripe Casaba melon, thrust it into the top of the skull of the unpleasant woman from Iowa. She slumped to the floor, the stewpots clattered, and the contents of a measuring tube at the end of the array rose a fraction of an inch.

Sloppy technique, thought Claiborne. Drain and pick over the brains to remove the outer membranes, blood, and other extraneous matter. New York Times Cookbook, page 207, second edition.

The line moved forward. The ships' clerk was next. A whistling sound came from one of the stewpots, and a pirate rushed over and adjusted a dial.

Hmmph, Claiborne thought derisively. Add fresh lemon juice and stir to break up the brains. Ideally, the brains should be mashed at intervals while they are cooking.

A few minutes later, a pirate turned a small valve below the measuring device, and a bit of pinkish gray liquid trickled into a clear receptacle. He tasted it and pursed what might have been his lips.

Not at all palatable, I'd think. Claiborne grimaced. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, dill, parsley, oregano, and capers in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over the brains and serve lukewarm. He furrowed his brow. Perhaps accompanied with a dry Pinot Grigio, or one of the French…

The nozzle was cold.

There would be no dessert.


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Ellen Klages, who is undoubtedly one of the funniest women in the known universe, has been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, Campbell and Spectrum Awards. She is currently working on a young-adult novel and has collaborated (with Pat Murphy and others) on four books of science activities for children, published by San Francisco's famed Exploratorium. She has never been offered the Croix de Guerre, but says she would turn it down were it offered.

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