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A TASTEFUL REVOLUTION / Josip Novakovich Time: The first decade of XX century. Place: Potgrad, a smaU town in Slavonia—the southern province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. MARTHA KNELT TO THE FOREST ground and touched a soft moist round mushroom resembling the bald head of a man. She scratched the surface with her thumbnaU to see whether it was an edible mushroom; if the color didn't change, it would be. The white matter dimmed into purple. "No, I won't poison him!" she whispered, and hearing herself, was startled. GraduaUy, however, a serenity appeared on her face, and her thin lips curved sUghtly into a Mona Lisa smile, if it could be called a smUe— anyhow, a mysterious expression in the corners of her Ups. At home she cut a couple of logs with an axe in the ceUar, and put several splinters into her kitchen stove over glowing embers. She sighed as she laid the mushrooms onto a knotty cutting board of oakwood, and with her fingers broke the large mushrooms into smaU pieces the way a minister breaks bread in Holy Communion. In each mushroom piece she tucked bits of garUc and rose hips, and dipped them in peppered oUve oU. She cut large onions in half and squeezed out one layer of onion after another, making onion cups for mushrooms and chèvre, which she placed in the oven. Barging into the room, Mr. Kovach, without greeting his wife, exclaimed: "Uh, what smeUs so deücious? Wait, don't teU me!" Sniffing Uke a bulldog through his thick nose, he said, "Hm, mutton, onions," and his voice lost its clarity, because saliva was getting In the way. After his wife had helped him out of his coat, Mr. Kovach sat on a chair, which looked woefully smaU for him. He rubbed his hands as if some agreement were about to be made, or at any rate something agreeable to be done with his hands. He pursed his Ups as if to spit Into his palms as lumberjacks do when some hard cutting is to be done, but he restrained himself. There was The Missouri Review · 269 no danger of bUsters; his hands were soft owing to his occupation; he was a clerk. He put the stuffed onions into his mouth. You could hear his tongue parting from his palate, to which it had been momentarily glued by the melting food and saUva. He smacked his Ups and grunted, whUe Martha shivered with disgust. Gulping another stuffed onion, he closed his eyes so that the sense of sight would not detract from the pleasure of smeUing and tasting. When he opened his eyes, they were moist and hazy. His wife stood at the table waiting to hear what next palatial whim to please as his personal waitress and cook. And, as a matter of fact, they had met when at the deUcate age of 40, Incapable of cooking for himself, Mr. Kovach ate at the restaurant where Martha was a cook. Her famUy had been very poor and she had been bound to remain poor hersetf; she had nothing to recommend her: she was not good looking, and though she was extremely bright, she could not count on a bright future because inteUigence in a woman was considered perUous for domestic comfort. So she had been apprenticed at the Suckling Pig, where, owing to her talent, she had progressed so quickly that within a couple of years she became a chef. Undone with her succulent cooking, Mr. Kovach had sent her a letter. Dear Miss Martha Berich: My name is Peter Kovach. You don't know me but I know you. From the way you cook, I could tell you are a sensitive person with a fabulous imagination. Judging by how you use spices, you are romantic. In that way we are similar—in being romantic—except, my imagination is not as good as yours, which is a guarantee that I am not making all this up; knowing that my imagination is limited, I trust my judgment. I am an accountant at the Central Bank and my income is good enough to keep a family, yet I...


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