The theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method poem is “Buildings and food“.
With a title like that, it required a prose piece in “grammar-noir” to do it justice.
The audio will be along shortly
Buildings and food
Thirty years as a detective in the Bad Grammar Squad had hardened me to most of the evils of this world.
In my time I’d worked on every imaginable case, both sick and tragic; missing commas, fragmented sentences and the occasional misplaced modifier – I’d witnessed it all.
Like many detectives, I had no luck in love – it’s hard to go home to a family after witnessing a split infinitive and pretend you’re alright.
Eventually I retired and rented a small office in a rundown building in Flinders Lane, scratching a living as a private investigator.
I took the cases the other P.I.s wouldn’t touch – incomplete comparisons, title capitalisations and the occasional possessive noun. Anything, as long as it paid the rent.
I was about to lock up one Friday evening when in glided the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
Stylish, sultry, mysterious, and enough sparklers around her neck to light up Chinese New Year.
“Let’s start with your name” I began
‘Emmallee” she replied “Two ‘ms’, an ‘a’ instead of ‘i’, two ‘Ls’ and ending with a double ‘e’ and no ‘y’”
“I get the picture” I nodded, “you want me to kill your parents – well I’m afraid I’m a P.I. not a hit man”
“No, no, no” she snapped impatiently “my parents are dead”
“Well I don’t arrange burials either” I informed her
“You’re missing the point” she sighed “I’m French”
“Is that all” I smiled “well you be pleased to know being French is no longer a crime unless you intend to travel to Basque country or certain pockets of Cornwall”
“No, no, no: she wept “you don’t understand, I’ve lost my accent”
“A lost accent eh? Don’t worry, we’ll find it” I assured her. “Look at Colin Hay – he lost his accent for decades and now sounds like Robbie Burns and Billy Connolly’s love child.
Compared to him The Proclaimers sound like Margaret Thatcher”
Emmallee explained she’d lost her accent the night before while visiting a hip new café off Little Bourke with friends.
She’d searched everywhere but it had completely disappeared without trace.
I decided I’d visit the café myself, disguised as a hipster.
After all, a fifty year old ex-detective stands out like Pauline Hanson at a spelling bee, so I dressed to fit in with hipster culture – lime green cargo pants, a T-Shirt featuring Kim Kardashian’s rear end, shark tooth necklace, pink crocs and a powder blue terry towelling bucket hat complete with rats tail gaffer taped to the rim.
The café was exactly as I’d expected – distressed frontage with no signage apart from some 1940’s communista slogans they’d paid some kid to graffiti on the door.
No bookings of course, meaning a queue of gullible grub groupies weaved half way down to the Bourke Street Mall.
Thinking on my crocs, I snuck in through the kitchen entrance, convincing the chef I was there to design the ice cubes for the Charred Pineapple Mojitos .
I quietly took a seat at a large communal table made of recycled organic tea bags glued together with caramelised goji berries.
I immediately began to look for clues as to where Emmallee’s accent could have disappeared.
There was no hint of French coming from any of the kitchen staff, and aside from the clipped, monotone, single word responses from the arrogant waiters, the only inflection I could detect was that of total disinterest.
No wonder this place was hot.
I glanced at the menu board.
The usual over priced burgers, kale and cauliflower wedges, vegan cookies and cold brew coffee.
Half roasted wild Tasmanian duck served with salted caramel egg bombs.
I wondered why they’d only roasted one half of the duck
Still, if the punters were happy eating half a raw duck who am I to judge? I wasn’t there to critique the food.
As I scanned further down the board I noticed something that sent a shiver down my spine – or is it up my spine?
Clichés were never my speciality.
There in black and white, as clear as the nose on your face, standing out like tits on a bull and balls on a dog, was the word that strikes fear into anyone who values good taste and decency.
That word is “Fusion”
It didn’t work for Kenny G and it doesn’t work for food either.
No-one puts spanakopita in my special fried rice.
It all began to make sense.
Emmallee’s accent wasn’t lost.
It was buried beneath the tsunami of pretentious bullshit littering menus across the country, appropriating simple culinary terms from other cultures that no-one can pronounce or recognise, designed to make a turd sound like a Faberge egg, tricking you into paying stupid amounts for a splash of green slime on the side of the plate.
I’d inadvertently walked into a den of depravity.
The culinary version of chemical warfare – Molecular gastronomy.
Foams, gels, wood smoked water, everything from liquid olives to octopus lollipops.
Monsters injecting sautéed laboratory raised millipedes with pureed sea urchin and goat’s testicle quark.
If it was up to me I’d have Heston blooming Blumenthal at The Hague for crimes against humanity and I think a lot of reptiles and invertebrates would agree with me.
The waiter could tell I was onto them and tried to placate me with cryogenics, offering me a crystallised liquid nitrogen mouse made from sea horse ovaries, on the house.
“You’re not infusing me you pervert” I sneered “and you can shove your rustic Prawn Head and Kimchi Taco right up your Hand-pulled Milk Donut
I knew what had to be done.
I rushed out the door before they had a chance to say ‘sorry we don’t accept credit cards’, hailed a taxi and whisked Emmallee off to a small French Café in North Carlton and ordered her a Crock Monsieur and a bottle of Chablis, while I opted for a ham and cheese sandwich with béchamel sauce.
It took barely two sips of wine and Emmallee was chirping like Piaf at the Paris Olympia.
My work was done.
Emmallee, with two ‘ms’ an ‘a’ instead of ‘i’, two ‘Ls’ and ending with a double ‘e’ and no ‘y’” invited me back to her apartment to watch a re-run of “La Cage Au Folles” and my usual Friday supper – a can of King Oscar Sardines and a glass of sodium bi-carbonate.
I’d found love and Emmallee had found her accent.
As we strolled down Little Bourke we stopped to kiss under the muted glow of the street light outside the café with no name.
“Perhaps just the one Charred Pineapple Mojito” I suggested
“Ja meine liebe, ein cocktail” smiled Emmallee
It was going to be a long night
© Copyright 2019 Ian Bland
Also have a listen to “Everything or Nothing”