Cherry Strudel. Fiction by AstridL

AstridL

Cherry Strudel

Lucia loved food. She loved the look, the taste, the feel, the smell, even the sound of it as she kept it that second longer in her mouth before she let it slip away. Maybe the reason she loved sex was because the first time she was seduced, her hands were deep in some pearly dough.

Lucia worked in a restaurant kitchen, learning, among other things, to knead the dough for strudel. Bruno, the Austrian cook, had convinced the restaurant owner that strudel—not just apple strudel, but cherry strudel, plum strudel and even rhubarb strudel—would be novel additions to the dessert menu of The Hungry Taste Bud.

Bruno was an artist and like most artists preferred to get on with the creative part, leaving the routine of preparing the strudel dough to the kitchen help. Yet he always kept an eye the preparation of the dough.

‘250 gm of flour, Lucia. Mix it with one eighth of a litre of water.’ Bruno paused in his instruction as the girl in her white wrap-around apron gingerly measured the flour, tipped it into a bowl and added the liquid.

Lucia glanced up at the man. She needed him to give her time, time to see that it didn’t matter if some of the flour powdered onto the marble top counter.

‘Add two tablespoons of oil…that’s it…just pour it on…one whole egg, now…careful with the shell. Take the wooden spoon…stir it all about at first.’

His voice rolled low as Lucia stirred the dough, her silky black chin-length hair swaying to the motion of her arm; her eyes fixed on the changing matter in the bowl.

‘And now, Lucia, just a coffee spoon of vinegar and a pinch of salt.’

She added the last with a flourish and a satisfied smile.

‘Take the spoon out now—this is where you need to use your hands—if you want to make a really good strudel dough.’

Lucia scraped off the wooden spoon and watched as Bruno sprinkled more flour on the counter.

‘So it won’t slip,’ he said.

She pushed a strand of hair from her forehead with the back of her hand causing tiny speckles of flour to fall and trace her jawbone. As he lifted the mass of

dough from the bowl and began kneading, a faintly sour scent rose to her nostrils. She gazed at the long, strong and even movements of his hands as he kneaded the dough until it had a pearly sheen.

‘It has to look and feel like silk,’ he said. ‘Why don’t you go on for a while…just to get the feel of it.’

Lucia nodded, wiped her hands on her apron and plunged both hands into the dough.

‘Push down, Lucia. Push with both heels of your hands.

Draw the dough back with your fingers. Keep the rhythm.’

Lucia pulled and pushed and pulled and pushed. It felt as though her whole body was moving in harmony. As she leant forward to push with the heels of her hands across the counter, her knees bent so slightly in a rolling motion, causing the hem on the back of her dress to rise with the swell of her shoulders bearing down on the dough.

Bruno took a step back to gaze at the hypnotic movement. The only sound that could be heard was the cool flap-flap against the marble and the sound of rhythmic breathing.

Lucia kept on kneading, eyes half-closed. She felt a hand brush a trace of flour from her cheek as another glided from her

shoulder to rest on her hips. Lucia kept on kneading. She sensed the knot at the back of her dress surrender as the hands crept beneath the loosened cloth.

‘Hush,’ Bruno whispered in her ear. ‘Keep the same pace. It’s good for the dough.’

Tiny shivers rippled up from somewhere deep inside her as the hands cupped her breasts and a finger and thumb gently tugged at her nipples to the rhythm of her kneading.

‘This will be a wonderful strudel dough, Lucia.’ Bruno’s voice was softly hoarse. ‘But we must put it aside and cover it … then let it rest for half an hour.’

Lucia turned, her hands behind her back tightening the knot and drawing the white cotton of her dress tautly across her breasts.

‘And what shall we do in that half hour?’ she asked.

Bruno stroked a finger down her cheek and brushed her lips with his. ‘The strudel, Lucia. We have to finish it.’

Her palms warm and her breasts flushed, Lucia’s brown eyes searched Bruno’s.

‘We’ll need half a kilo of those dark red cherries, 60 gm of butter, 120 gm of breadcrumbs and about 250 gm of sugar,’ he said.

Lucia stroked a hand over her hip and turned towards the cooler chamber where the fruits and vegetables were stored.

‘Half a kilo of cherries,’ she whispered.

The cherries lay in a basket, plump and red, a red so deep it was almost black. She took a pair and slipped it over her left ear. She took a single cherry, placed her lips against it to feel its shine, then sank her teeth slowly into the flesh. Juice trickled down her lower lip as she smelled the rich full scent. She held the stone in

her mouth to suck the last of its pulp and, puckering her lips, spat the stone into the bin.

‘Lucia,’ Bruno called. ‘I’ll show you how to pip the cherries.’

She came towards him, the basket propped on her left hip, the cherry earring laughing at him like her dark brown eyes.

‘I shall wash them first,’ Lucia said and emptied the basket into the enamel sink filled with cold water. She felt Bruno’s eyes upon her as she swished the bobbing cherries about in the water. She tried to ignore him but inside she was throbbing with a strange excitement. When she had strained the cherries, she turned to Bruno and looked him straight in the eye. ‘What now?’

‘Ah, Lucia. We must remove all the stones.’ With a small kitchen knife he made a cut down the cherry. ‘Now take it and open gently, so as to keep it whole. Then pluck the stone.’

A flush rose passed from her neck to her cheeks as Bruno gently opened the fruit. They stood side by side; the tall blond man and the slim dark-haired girl; they worked the cherries until the fruit was ready. The fresh smell was heady and clung to their fingers, staining them dark red.

‘Now roast the breadcrumbs in the butter, Lucia, until they are golden brown. I shall prepare the strudel dough, it should be ready now.’

Bruno sprinkled more flour onto the marble counter and pulled gently at the dough, drawing it out to cover the counter-top. ‘You have to be careful with the dough, Lucia, pull gently in all directions…take care not to make any holes. Yet it must be as thin as you can get it…you should almost see through it.’ The dough lay like silk fabric on the counter. ‘Stroke some liquid butter over the dough…yes, with your finger…all over. Now the breadcrumbs, then the cherries.

Leave a space at the end…about 10 cm and then take some sugar, rub it between your fingers and sprinkle it over the fruit.’

Lucia did as he said. The feel of the butter slipping across the fragile dough, the smell of the roasted breadcrumbs, the rubbing sound of the sugar between her fingertips, how it fell like a soft snow on the cherries; plump and luscious, their juice on the verge of bursting. It all delighted her senses.

‘I’ll roll it up,’ Bruno said. Lucia watched as he tenderly rolled the dough and teased it into a horseshoe, making sure the cherries were well spread and that the dough didn’t break. He stroked some melted butter on a baking tray, brushed liquid butter on the rolled-up strudel It makes it glow, he said, and popped it into a medium-high oven.

‘Now Lucia, it will take 40 minutes to bake.’

‘And can I taste it when it’s finished?’

‘Come here, Lucia.’

Lucia came to his arms and breathed in his smell. Bruno’s lips caressed her cheek. ‘We shall taste it when it’s finished,’ he said.

Lucia pressed against him as if to quiet the ripples he aroused. ‘And we shall taste it while we wait.’

First published at Mind Caviar  and subsequently at Ether Books, Excite, and in the collection by AstridL entitled Consuming the Muse – erotic tales.

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AstridL is a little old lady who lives in the back of Sylvia Petter´s garden where she likes to dream up stories. She has a much neglected blog with information on her doings.

Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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