Steak bleu

by James

That night they had steak cooked by a chef who rode in from town on a snowmobile. Slick with his precise instructions, how he wanted it blue, charred on the outside, but not black, coloured as though it was seared by the flame of a campfire. Their travelling chef was called Claud. He brought with him a large chrome toolbox packed with his own knives and pots, and he had with him a tall wooden box with twin doors at the front that opened to reveal ranks of herbs and bottles of sauces.

With one eyebrow lifted, Claud said, 'You like it bleu?' and so Slick, with a sigh explained in great detail how it was an idiom, a way of describing meat served rare. And then he went and explained that rare meant it should run with blood in the middle. As the chef began to unpack his pans Slick said to Colin, 'Country boys,' but his big glass of red wine half gone made him loud. Claud's whisper soft pans now began to ring.

With Slick and Eddie gone through to their lounge diner Colin relaxed a little, trying his best warm smiles each time that Claud shot him a look. It was good to watch the skill of the man, knife blade a blur, each down stroke finished with a tap, the sound of it running together into a sharp hum. Each time the blade neared fingers Colin held his breath but each time the knife popped safely back to the start like a typewriter being moved to the next line.

He waited until the vegetables were diced before he approached, then he counted out fifty dollars Canadian, laying them down on the granite surface.

'Can I have mine not like his?'

Claud stared at him for a moment, then with a curt nod, said, 'Oui,' and scooped up the notes.

The tension was gone from the kitchen, and perhaps so should have Colin, but that meant going next door to his friends and listen to their bullshit. He could hear them, Slick and Eddie, city dentists transformed into frontiersmen after one day on the snow, Slick proclaiming he was like the mightiest oak in the forest, a tree that would never fall. Eddie then got in on the act – the next bad snowstorm back home, or if his car wouldn’t start? He could just hike it into work, it was no problem.

Colin sipped his own wine, and snorted. ‘One day,’ he said. ‘They’re out here one day and now they’re Davy Crockett.’ Colin felt a great wave of melancholy wash over him. One day with a high-powered hunting rifle and Slick had got lucky, took out a mighty ram with one fluke shot. One more heart never to beat again.

Colin asked Claud had he ever cooked ram. Or elk, or deer? Claud shook his head to each one. Claud cooked beef, sometimes salmon, but not once in six years driving his snowmobile to five different cabins a night had he cooked anything brought home by a weekend hunter.

He paused from his slicing, lay down the down the knife with its worn handle but still razor-sharp blade and looked up at Colin.

Claud said, 'If ever they bring anything back it's the head. What's good to eat from that?'