The Perfect Recipe

“Razzamatazz! That’s what we need for this year’s street party.”

Dochastown’s mayor opened his arms wide and beamed at the assembled dignitaries of the town’s business guild.

“I’ve got exciting news–Harry Montel, the movie director, wants to film his next blockbuster here. He needs a town with PIZZAZZ! Let’s show him what we’re made of! Let’s put Dochastown on the map!”

As the audience cheered, Julia, Dochastown’s only pharmacist, skulked at the back and sighed. She’d lived in the town all her life. It was a peaceful Scottish community which enjoyed moderate prosperity. The people were just unhealthy enough to keep her pharmacy open, but not ill enough to overload her. She loved it just the way it was.

“Just think of the income, the jobs, the movie tourism–the town will be made up for generations to come,” continued the mayor…

Julia brooded. It was all Clanach’s fault. The tiny village, just thirty miles up the valley, had shot to fame as the location of an extravagant Netflix series. Dochastown’s Mayor had been campaigning to bring Hollywood to town ever since.

Julia looked up. The meeting had moved on, but what had she missed?

“…haggis, of course,” said Hamish the Butcher.

“Haggis is such a cliché; we need some modern gastronomy too,” said Jeremy, the English teacher, who had once travelled to Paris.

“We have to have butter shortbread, though. Some traditions are worth keeping,” said Sandy the Ironmonger, whose late wife had made the best shortbread this side of the Cairngorms.

Julia blushed as all eyes swivelled to her.

“Look, I’m sorry, I won’t do shortbread this year,” she stammered.

Julia recalled the celebrity that had been the guest of honour at last year’s party. He was an actor, famed for his glittering smile. Some even said he would be the new James Bond. She had offered him a beautifully sculpted shortbread petticoat tail. Julia flinched; she’d never forget the loud crack as his tooth broke on the hard biscuit. The mayor said they’d be paying compensation for years. Julia hoped that he was joking.

She’d drifted off again…

“Julia can help with the sandwiches,” someone called out.

“Ahem, I think you’ll find that the Women’s Institute has the sandwiches covered, properly covered, with margarine right to the edges of the bread.” Margot, President of the Women’s Institute, sneered in Julia’s direction.

Julia cringed, that had been two years ago. Honestly, what sort of people got agitated about the proper distribution of margarine?

“I’m sure everyone will do their very best to showcase what our town has to offer,” soothed the mayor. He turned to Julia.

“Given what’s riding on this maybe we can hope for a little more diligence this year. Maybe you could come up with something representative of your profession Julia, something herbal perhaps?”

Julia bristled. She was a member of an ancient and noble profession, not some hedgerow apothecary. However, she just nodded, she’d have to come up with something.

Julia mused for a month. She’d be the first to admit that she wasn’t one of the town’s cupcake divas who wielded their icing syringes with such intense resolve. She was an old school pharmacist who’d qualified when medicines were prepared from scratch in the dispensary. She had kept the beautiful mahogany fixtures and antique brass scales that had come with the pharmacy. She also had a leather-bound foolscap notebook that she’d found it in the previous pharmacist’s office. Its handwritten pages had the details of the unique nostrums and strange liniments that had kept the town’s population healthy in the days before Big Pharma.

Julie flicked through the pages–hand-made suppositories were unlikely to be popular, despite the legendary stopping power of Hamish the Butcher’s haggis. There were formulae for powders and cachets, mixtures and–emulsions. Achieving and maintaining a stable emulsion between two immiscible liquids was a nice challenge; incorporating an active ingredient was even more difficult. Julia snapped the book shut. She would make a special culinary emulsion, something that the village would talk about for years. In a good way, she hastily added.

Over the next few weeks, Julia practised her formulation, trying different combinations of ingredients and flavours. She also enlisted the help of Willy the Greengrocer, whose comedic carved vegetables would be a perfect accompaniment.

The day before the party, Julia muttered the directions for her formulation like an incantation, but this was not magic…

“The secret of a successful emulsion is to have all the ingredients at the same temperature…”

She checked the oil and eggs, which had been sitting in her dispensary for 24 hours to reach equilibrium. The oil had come from a fancy deli in Edinburgh. The eggs had come from her mum’s hens, raised in a croft in the highlands. Their yolks were rich and a deep burnished yellow, touched with the fragrance of the heather that her mum used to line the nesting boxes.

She started to blend, savouring the science of mixing the immiscible.

“A stable emulsion may be diluted infinitely without affecting its integrity…”

She looked at her perfectly stable emulsion and stirred in an almost infinite measure of local peated whisky, which intensified the emulsion’s golden colour. Just in case the whisky wasn’t euphoric enough, she added a sprinkling of nutmeg and mace. Then she seasoned the mix and tasted it. Oh yes, she thought.

Now for the last ingredient. It had taken her days to calculate the dose. After all, her code of ethics wouldn’t let her harm anyone with her formulation. She’d carefully confirmed the number of adults that would be attending and checked their medical records. Her arms had ached from the effort of crushing the tablets in her traditional granite mortar.

She tipped the fine blue powder into the bowl. The unctuous emulsion took on a beautiful green hue as she stirred. Julia smiled, everyone would think she’d just added herbs, but her Viagra mayonnaise would pack more punch than a bunch of leaves.

At first, the street party was a wild success. Julia’s whisky dip, for adults only, was a popular choice. Revellers dipped Willy the Greengrocer’s suggestive crudités into the mayonnaise and kept coming back for more. The mayor grinned. The gathering took on an air of joyful naughtiness as the adults danced and flirted.

But after an hour, the crowd thinned as couples rushed away hand in hand, giggling. The town’s teenagers, who had been barred from the dip table, were bored and repulsed. They waltzed off to their favourite skulking spots only to find the town’s pensioners already canoodling there.

“I’m terribly sorry, I had hoped that the celebration would last all da…” the Mayor faltered as he turned to face the guest of honour, who was enthusiastically fondling his young wife…

The director came up for air and smiled hugely,

“No worries, we need a nap anyway; the air here is intoxicating for newcomers like us.”

Harry Mantel grabbed his wife’s hand and ran towards the Grand Hotel.

A year later, the Mayor proudly unveiled a billboard for the forthcoming movie that would be filmed in the town. Harry Mantel addressed the townsfolk gathered at the ceremony…

“I am delighted to bring my movie company to your lovely town; I’m sure we’ll have a fruitful relationship in the five years that it will take for us to finish this movie. Nothing will give me greater pleasure than to watch my precious baby girl grown up in this healthful town, where she was miraculously conceived after years of bitter failure.”

Julia smiled and winked at Willy the Greengrocer; they’d become quite close since that day.

She strolled back to the pharmacy, it was time to look up some traditional recipes for gripe water and teething powders. The town would need to take care of little Dochas when Hollywood came to stay.


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