Bedtime Stories for Snobbish Children: The Adventures of French Press and Corkscrew

Sous Vide Comes to Call
It was a morning much like any other, and French Press, his early-hours work complete, was relaxing on the kitchen counter, listening to Mozart and reading the paper. Corkscrew was just waking up.

Réveille-toi, Corkscrew!” French Press said playfully. “It is time to greet the day!”

“Ohhh,” Corkscrew moaned. “My poor head. This Family and their all-night dinner parties!” 

French Press poured his friend a cup of strong coffee, which Corkscrew accepted with a groggy grin. After taking a few sips, he set down the drink, stuck out his lower lip, and made a face that could only be described as quizzical.

“French Press, what day is it today?”

French Press looked up from Le Monde. “Well let’s see, yesterday was Tuesday. So I suppose today must be . . .”

“Wednesday! It’s Wednesday!” Corkscrew exclaimed. “And Wednesday is the day Sous Vide is arriving!”

Sous Vide’s letter had come the week before. He was writing, he’d said in the note, on the recommendation of their mutual friend Whisk, who’d been Corkscrew’s college roommate at the École Normale Supérieure. Sous Vide had just been purchased by The Family and was soon to visit the kitchen counter for something called a “trial run.” He didn’t know how long he’d be staying; that wasn’t really for him to decide. But, he’d written, he was quite looking forward to arriving, and to making everyone’s acquaintance. 

Now, when French Press and Corkscrew read Sous Vide’s letter they’d done so with some trepidation. It’d been a while since a new implement last visited the kitchen, and on that occasion things hadn’t gone well. Mandoline was atop the counter just three hours before inadvertently lopping off The Man’s left-hand fingertips. After first aid requirements had been attended to, Mandoline was promptly boxed up and never heard from again.

But there wasn’t time to fret this morning. For just then, with Corkscrew not yet halfway through his coffee and French Press not yet halfway through his newspaper, the kitchen door swung open, and in walked The Woman. She was carrying a shiny metallic cube. She set the cube on the counter and plugged its power cord into the wall. She started pressing buttons and turning dials. Slowly, the cube began to glow and hum. The Woman smiled. Once she’d left the kitchen, the two friends hurried over to the cube to make introductions.

Bonjour! You must be Sous Vide! I’m French Press, and this is Corkscrew.”

Sous Vide whirred. 

“Yes, I’m Sous Vide—or so my label says!” Everyone chuckled good naturedly. “And herewith the famous French Press and Corkscrew. What a pleasure, and good to know my letter reached you without incident.”

“Indeed it did,” said Corkscrew. “And I must say: your penmanship is exquisite!”

But before more flattery could be bestowed, a booming belch resonated throughout the counter. French Press and Corkscrew turned round to behold their two nemeses, the kitchen’s dregs: Spork and Spam. What a shabby duo they were, Spork and Spam, and this morning, each seemed to be in a particularly potent state of dishabille. Spork clearly hadn’t washed in at least a week and was flecked all over with crusty fragments of Jell-O and macaroni and cheese. Spam’s lid was ajar, fully buckled and bedraggled—when he’d last refrigerated was anyone’s guess.

Spam spoke first. “Who’s the square?”

French Press sighed. “The square, as you so rudely call him, Spam, is Sous Vide. He’s visiting the kitchen and will be staying with us for an indeterminate period of time.”

Spam grunted. “What’s the square do?”

Now this question caught French Press and Corkscrew a tad flat-handled. Each was embarrassed to realize he hadn’t a clue about Sous Vide’s purpose. Thankfully, their “square” confrère took the opportunity to answer for himself. 

“Well, Monsieur Spam, what I do is rather complicated,” said Sous Vide. “You see, I cook ingredients in a water bath at a sustained temperature, thus ensuring an even distribution of heat, if you will. This allows the ingredients in question to retain their natural moisture. At a minimum I’ll cook a food for several hours, but occasionally I’ll cook it for several days!”

Spork and Spam glanced at one another, and then promptly fell over laughing. “Days!” Spork snorted. “I’d like some lunch . . . but not for a few days!”

“Now look here, imbéciles!” Corkscrew barked. “You roughnecks couldn’t tell a fine fillet from a can of corn syrup! Sous Vide is a sophisticated appliance, not to mention our guest, and I won’t stand to have him treated so rudely!”

“Oh yeah?” said Spork, smirking. “Well if the square’s so sophisticated, so good at cooking stuff, why doesn’t he prove it?”

Spam chimed in. “Right. And there’s only one way to prove it. The square has to win—a kitchen cook-off!”

To be continued