The chest that belonged to my grandmother sat on the table in front of me, the lawyer had left it there right after I signed off some papers. I was still amazed that this is all Granny could leave behind for me, but it had to be of some value to me. I put it aside and went about the business of the day, weekends were stressful and every second mattered, especially for a caterer like me.
I had just gotten home when my phone started ringing, it was a last minute order for jollof rice for a bridal shower. I mentally took stock of what I had in the pantry and agreed to it. That aside, I placed the chest on the kitchen counter and looked at the lock.
“That’s weird,” I muttered, wetting the end of a napkin to wipe off what seemed like rust on the top panel, the engraving read in Latin: ab intra, I rolled my eyes and reached again for my phone and entered the words into the translate app.
“From within,” I read aloud, looking from my phone to the chest. I grabbed and held it up to the light, noticing a receptacle of sorts protruding from the lock mechanism. In the back of my mind, I remembered granny always sporting a Band-Aid on her thumb. I pulled out a drawer and rustled about for a paring knife, with it I made a small cut across the pad of my thumb, then placed the finger over the receptacle, holding the box with my other hand to steady myself.
I gasped and the blood bubbled and slowly vanished into the chest. It seemed to come alive in my hands, as it warmed and started beating with a slow but distinct pulse. My eyes almost popped out of my head as opened on its own. In its depths sat cards with faded handwriting on it, I realized they were my grandmother’s secret recipes. Granny won all sorts of cooking contests back in the day, that’s actually why I wanted to be a caterer, having her recipes in my stead would change everything, starting from my next order. I rustled through the cards until I found the recipe for jollof rice. When I was little, I watched some judges from a contest visit my grandmother, offering huge sums of money for the recipe I now held in my hand.
I skimmed over the ingredients of the recipe, after noting that the method was essentially the same: onions, tomato paste, fresh cherry tomatoes, curry, basil… a pint of blood. I froze as I read it again, the fact that I even considered it sent shivers down my neck, but curiosity was getting the better of me.
“I need blood to cook my jollof rice.” I said to my reflection on the fridge, “I need blood to cook my jollof rice and it doesn’t still sound crazy…okay.”
I ran a hand over my face and pinched my upper arm. Oh shit.
I glanced at the clock and picked up my keys. As I drove around mindlessly, I questioned if it was really necessary to cook with my own blood. I found myself in front of a hospital supply store, I walked in numbly and planted myself in front of the attendant.
“What can I help you with?” he intoned dryly, his face betraying his impatience. I rattled my list, counting the items off my fingers: cotton wool, methylated spirit, bandages, and a tourniquet. He nodded and picked the items off the shelves.
When I got home, I went ahead to do meal prep, letting the chicken marinate, chopping the vegetables for the salad, I set the hospital supplies on the counter and went to bed, hoping that sleep will chase away the crazy idea of cooking with my blood.
I got up before my alarm went like a person possessed. I went into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water, eyeing the pharmacy bag on the counter. Turning away from it, I measured out the rice I needed, gave it a wash and set it on the stove to parboil. I placed onions and fresh tomatoes in a bowl and reached for a knife. The words ab intra floated eerily in my head as my hand went over the card I left on the counter. I dropped the knife in the bowl and groaned, making my mind up in that moment, I picked up the bag and sank to the floor, spreading the contents of the bag on my thighs, I went in for the tourniquet first, snaking it around my arm, one end of it in my mouth like a heroin addict as I tightened it. I took a plastic plate and set it on the ground beside my tied arm, I took a deep breath and tapped my arm repeatedly, the vein popped up in response, I reached for the cotton wool and spirit next.
When I was done disinfecting my fingers and the area, I tapped it made a fist. I got the needle and put it in a holder, the tube was attached to the holder, and I unsheathed the needle and reached for the insertion point. I hissed a little as the needle broke skin, but as I watched my dark red blood flow down into the bowl, I was mesmerized, I untied the tourniquet from my arm and just sat there, watching my blood flow.
Moments later I found myself stirring the dark contents of the bowl into the boiling rice, my stomach heaved repeatedly at the thought of other people eating my blood unknowingly, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that the meal was prepared under the best hygienic conditions…and my blood was clean. With that, I placed the lid over the pot and let it cook.
The brides’ best friend came by to pick up the food a few hours later to pick up the order and virtually apologized as soon as she got down from the car. I assured her that everything was okay and offered her a sample plate of the rice while I got everything together. As she put the first spoonful in her mouth, I self-consciously itched the gauze covering on my arm, I heard her ooh and aah in the way people do when they enjoy food and a small smile graced my lips. I swung round to meet her gaze, she seemed to be lost in thought, and suddenly she stirred.
“What did you put in this rice?”
I coughed delicately, “you don’t like it.”
“Oh no, I do, there’s an extra flavour I can’t place. It’s delish.”
Mistress of the Mistresses Thoughts
Hersey97.WordPress.com – is a young female who seems like a rose garden caressed by an afternoon breeze. Short story writer, Born skeptic. Has a great smile