The Perfect Recipe
Dedicated to my good friend and mentor, Denae. :)
"What we need," said Miami thoughtfully, "is a perfect
I looked up from the list I was compiling. "There's
no such thing as perfect. There's close-to-perfect, and nearly-perfect, and
perfectly dreadful, but not perfect."
Miami scratched her nose, oblivious to the smudge
of flour she was putting on it. "Or something so close that people would think
it's perfect. After all, we're making a perfect cookbook, so we may as well
have an almost perfect recipe."
Miami and I are both Xweetoks (she is blue, while
I'm brown), and we were writing a Perfect Cookbook. We had compiled huge lists
of salads, biscuits, cakes, meals, drinks and almost everything else edible;
and had chosen the best recipes out of them.
I had to admit, Miami was right. All the recipes
we had so far were delicious, but we really should have one that stood out from
the rest. Something extra special.
"How on earth are we supposed to choose one?"
I asked, perplexed, as I sampled the cake batter Miami was making. "We've hundreds,
and after a while they all start tasting the same, anyway."
As usual, Miami already had an idea. "We'll run
a competition. People can send in their family recipes, and we'll chose the
best one out of them."
I had to admit, when it came to ideas, Miami
left me for dead. After we had finished cooking the cake we spent the rest of
the afternoon drawing up a poster. It read;
We are looking for the perfect recipe for
the perfect cookbook.
If you have one, and think it deserves to
be called perfect, send it in!
The winner will receive an edition of the
Perfect Cookbook free!
Competition starts fourth day of hiding, and
finishes on the eighteenth.
Send your recipes to Miami and Louise, Soup
Miami chewed on a pencil as she looked at it.
"That should do."
"I wonder if we'll get many entries?" I asked.
"Oh, one or two, I guess."
* * *
I looked at Miami helplessly. "One or two, eh?"
The post had just come in, and we were standing
knee deep in recipes of everything cookable, from Omelette Cake to Spardel Biscuits.
Miami shrugged and gave a hopeful smile. "Well,
we won't need to get firewood for a while."
I gave her a withering glare, and we fell to
work sorting through the recipes. Almost an hour later I gave up and sat down
where I thought the chair was; it was pretty hard to tell now that everything
was covered in scrapes of paper.
"This is hopeless!" I groaned. "No way are we
going to get through all of this."
Miami sat down next to me and put an arm around
my shoulder. "Are you regretting ever starting this cookbook?"
I thought back to the day two months ago, when
my best friend and I sat in my loungeroom, feeling hopelessly bored, flipping
through recipe books and wishing someone would make a decent one. I remembered
her saying excitedly; "Why don't we make our own?" and I remembered the enthusiasm
we had when working on it. We hadn't had a dull moment from then on, and as
I thought of all the laughs we had, and kilos we'd gained, I knew I didn't regret
it. Not one tiny bit.
I smiled at her. "You're right, Mim. No, I don't
regret making the cooking book; I just wish we didn't have to sort through this!"
I waved my hand in the direction of the letters.
"Who said we had to?" Miami laughed. "Why don't
we just chose a recipe; any one at random; and try it. When we find one we like
and that's close enough to perfect, we'll declare it the winner and turn the
rest into kindling."
I smiled, my mood brightening. "You're an ideas
person, Mim. No doubt about it."
I waded into the Sea of Papers and picked a random
one up. "Chocolate and voidberry cupcakes; sounds good. Let's go!"
The rest of the morning and a good part of the
afternoon was spent trying recipes. Some were good, some very good, and others
disgusting, -"Sock Pizza?!"- but we still didn't find a recipe that was perfect.
It was grueling work, cooking, and we couldn't
even use lunch-break as an excuse. Also, the cleanliness of our kitchen began
"Look at this!" I cried as I tried to balance
another tray on the stack of washing that was sitting in the sink. "Much more
and we'll have to cut a hole in the roof so it can fit!"
Miami looked more like a ghost than a blue Xweetok,
with her fur covered in flour. "I think we'd better start cleaning now. It's
going to take the rest of the afternoon to get this place in order."
"I think you're right."
After three hours of scrubbing, washing, wiping
and pressure blasting, the kitchen looked fairly similar to how it had been
before. It was time to cook dinner.
I looked at Miami. She looked at me.
"Want to get take-away?"
* * *
When I woke up the next morning all my muscles
ached. I groaned as I crawled out of bed; and when Miami arrived she didn't
look much better.
I gazed over the recipes still littering the
livingroom. "Maybe today's going to be the day we find it," I said with as much
optimism as I could muster.
"Maybe." She sounded very doubtful.
The doorbell rang, and we ran to get it. Any
excuse to delay looking through the recipes.
We opened the door to see an elderly brown Lupe
standing on our doorstep. His fur was grayed, his eyes had a remarkably sad
look to them, and clutched firmly in his paws was an old, discolored piece of
"Miami and Louise?" he asked softly. We nodded.
"I have a perfect recipe."
I sighed. Was there no way to escape that confounded
"Thank you, sir, if you leave it with us we'll
look at it in due course." I held out my hand to take it, but the Lupe just
pulled it closer to his chest.
"Please, you must understand, this document is
very precious to me. I cannot give it to anyone; but I can let you read it,
and try it. It's the recipe for a cake, and I can guarantee you it will be the
best cake you've ever eaten."
He looked very sincere, and something about him
made me curious. "Come in, and we'll try it now," I offered, smiling. Gratefully
he entered, and though his bushy eyebrows went up at the sight of the Sea of
Papers in our living room, he was polite enough not to say anything.
We sat down in the kitchen, and he very carefully
put the manuscript on the bench top. As Miami and I began to look for the ingredients,
I asked him, "Why's that recipe so important to you?"
He sighed and looked at it for a long time; so
long I began to wonder if I'd asked a wrong question, as I often did. But then
he looked up at me, and I saw his eyes were brimming with tears.
"My only daughter wrote that out." He swallowed
and looked back at it. "There's a long story, but you young things don't want
to have to listen to an old Lupe like me waffle on."
Miami has a lot more compassion than I do. While
I was about to agree with him, she saw how lonely he was and said quickly, "Nonsense!
We have all afternoon, and anyway, we like stories. Please tell us!"
The Lupe's weathered old face creased into a
pleased smile and he began his story.
"When I was younger I was the captain of a beautiful
ship, the Sea Scallop. My daughter and I had what's called the wanderlust. It's
where your feet won't keep still, and you just have to go sailing. She was a
sparky little thing, ever since she was a cub, and wouldn't let off begging
until I let her come a sailin' with me.
"Well, Tara and I sailed the seas and saw some
pretty amazing thing, yes'm. When she turned twelve we went to an island that
had been rumored of across the oceans, but on the way there our ship ran into
a terrible storm, and nearly capsized. The crew was one of the greatest a ship's
ever known, though, and they pulled her through, and we made it to an island
"All that night we sat awake on the shore, huddled
near our fire for fear of natives with sharp spears. There aren't many cannibals
about today; but back then they were common, especially on undiscovered islands.
"We made it alright until morning, when we woke
up to find ourselves surrounded by natives. They spoke in a strange tongue,
and we couldn't understand a word they said, but they marched us up to their
tribe's home. They gave us food and water, and talked to us plenty, even though
we couldn't understand them, and the crew started thinking that maybe these
chaps aren't so bad as we thought.
"That night my little Tara couldn't sleep, and
went wandering through the tribe's town. When she got to the center of it, she
heard voices and hid behind a canoe. There in the middle of the town is a huge
cauldron, all full of bubbling water, and surrounded by these strange natives.
Lying next to the cauldron is a pile of old bones.
"Well, my Tara knew exactly what was going on,
and ran as fast as she could back to where we were sleeping, and woke us up
to warn us.
"'There's nothing for it, chaps!' I cried. 'It's
stay here and be eaten, or back to the ship and see if we can't get her to float
us out of here.'
"Down we ran to the beach as fast as we can,
but the natives heard us and were faster. They got between us and the ship,
and we had to run back up the way we came.
"It was then we saw an old temple overgrown with
vines, and hoping to hide from the natives we opened the stone door and ran
"I'm sure the natives saw us go in there, but
they wouldn't follow for the world, but only slunk back to their homes, and
left us shivering in the darkness.
"It was nothing but a maze of corridors in there,
and we were lost for ages. Finally, when all are about to give up hope, my Tara
finds a box with a brass lid. Inside are a piece of paper, a candle, and some
"We took heart again, and lit the candle. We
couldn't read the symbols on the old piece of paper, but as we're gazing around
ourselves my Tara sees arrows carved into the stone floor. With her leading
and holding the candle, we followed the arrows for an hour or so, until we finally
come to the door.
"Not wanting to get caught by those pesky cannibals
again, we started walking through the forest, and at last we come out in the
middle of an island market place. Turned out we were on Mystery Island all the
"We told the islanders about what had happened
and gave them the parchment, which they translated for us. It was a recipe for
a cake that was supposed to be so good, it was perfect. My Tara wrote it out
in English as they translated it.
"Well, I can tell you we didn't wait to take
the first ship out of there and home, but on the way we ran into a storm which
broke the ship apart. I survived hanging onto a piece of wood, and got washed
up on the shores of Neopia Central.
"We sent out search ships for Tara, and though
we found and saved most of the crew, we never found my little girl."
As the Lupe finished his tale, I had great difficulty
stopping my tears from falling into the cake mixture.
"What happened after that?" Miami asked breathlessly.
The Lupe shrugged. "I sold my home and moved
away. It was too painful to live where there were so many memories. Yesterday
I saw your poster for the perfect recipe, and I thought I'd let you have this,
as a last testimony to my girl."
We were all silent as the cake cooked; thinking
about the Lupe's lost daughter. When it came out, the cake was everything you
would hope a cake to be, and more. It was light and springy, and had a wonderful
rich, spicy smell to it. We cut it up and tasted it, and it really was as good
as the Lupe had said it would be. Even better, I thought. I had never believed
that something could be perfect, but now I knew I had been wrong.
We gave the Lupe some, but as he tasted it tears
began to run down his face, and he said he couldn't eat it.
After we copied the recipe onto another piece
of paper and gave him his original back, he left, giving us his address in case
we needed him for anything else.
As the door closed Miami turned to me.
"Wasn't that just the saddest thing, Louise?"
I nodded, but didn't say anything. Words were
* * *
That would have been the end of our story, except
for what happened a month later.
Our book had been published, and Miami and I
were enjoying the publicity it brought. We were sitting in our livingroom talking
(having somehow managed to dispose of the Sea of Papers) when the bell rang.
Opening the door, we met a brown Lupess who seemed
vaguely familiar. She was tall and pretty, and there was a fire blazing in her
eyes. In her hands she held a copy of The Perfect Cookbook.
"This recipe!" she gasped breathlessly before
we could even say hello. She was panting heavily, and seemed to have run a long
way. "Where did you get it?"
Before we could even get our tongues around an
answer, she went on.
"My father? He gave it to you? I know he did.
No one else had it!" Tears welled up in her eyes. "Where is he? Please tell
Something clicked in my mind, and I ran to our
address book where we had kept the old Lupe's street and number. Coming back
to the door I gave it to her, and she was off running before we had a chance
to say anything.
"Wow." Miami said quietly. I had to agree.
After much debate we decided to follow along
to the house to see what was happening. Half way there we met the old Lupe and
his daughter coming back. Both had been crying.
Tara, the daughter, embraced us both. "Thank
you! You gave me back my daddy!" She stood back and beamed at us. "I am his
daughter. I believe he told you our story? Well, when our ship broke apart in
the storm, I clung to some wood and swam to an island. I stayed there for three
months until a ship left for Neopia Central, and when I got back I found my
home had been sold, and daddy had moved away. I've been looking for him ever
since, and this morning found your cookbook. I just knew that my daddy had given
you the recipe, and came as fast as I could."
"So I guess that cookbook was useful for something
after all," Miami said quietly. "You two have each other again."
The old Lupe smiled and hugged his daughter.
"I've never been happier. How can I thank you?"
Miami and I glanced at each other mischievously.
"Well... why don't you come over some time and have some coffee?" I asked.
Miami grinned and added, "We have a really nice
recipe for cake, you know."