Walter


Walter in high school was not voted most likely to.

Walter in college did not distinguish himself.

Walter as an agent in his father’s insurance agency fell asleep in front of the green blinking data entry screens that measured out his days one blink, then another, then another.

Walter as a fiancée was comforting but not hot.

Walter slept well and drove a 4 door Buick when he was 22.

Walter’s hairline began to recede, slowly, at 27, but never blossomed into full-on male pattern baldness.

At 35, Walter’s wife, Elaine, left him for a slightly younger version of himself. Walter was mystified but not furious about this. They had no children, and Elaine disappeared back into the lake of his undistinguished youth without a ripple.

At 38, Walter went to his neighborhood Whole Foods market, where he bought a pint of black bean, corn and red bell pepper salad. Walking to the men’s room on his way out, he passed the community bulletin board. He read all the ads, in order, from left top to right bottom. At the far right corner, almost expired per the store’s 30 day policy, was an ad for International Cooking Classes, to be held in a home some two miles from the store. Walter pulled the tab with the phone number and stuck it in his wallet, where it stayed for months.

Around Thanksgiving, Walter, reflecting that he was almost 40, divorced, childless and uninterested in himself, found the tab in his wallet and called the number.

“No, no international cooking classes any more. I didn’t get enough people signed up. I’m teaching homeopathics now. You could sign up for that, it’s here at my house,” said the woman, whose name was Reina. No, Walter told her, he didn’t really want to study homeopathics. He wanted to learn to cook. Did she do private cooking lessons?

There was a short silence on the phone, and a brief negotiation about the cost of private lessons.

On the following Thursday, Walter went to Reina’s house. He brought with him an apron and a chef’s hat, both virginal white, and a set of hot mitts. Reina promised to provide the cooking utensils and the food.

That first week they sat at the table looking at cookbooks, identifying utensils by name, defining some basic cooking methods – dry heat, baking, braising, sautee, and so on. Walter took notes.

The second week they met at the Whole Foods in the produce department and they talked produce – quality indicators in different fruits and vegetables, seasonality, local growing patterns. They touched and smelled, they looked at prices and they looked at weather. Walter took notes.

The third week they met at Reina’s house. Walter brought pancetta, walnuts, chard, goat cheese, baguette, wine, beets and olive oil. At 7 p.m., they began.

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