Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Bloomin Onion

December 12, 2012

This is how The Outback Restaurant describes its Bloomin Onion appetizer: a true Outback original. “Our special onion is hand-carved by a dedicated bloomologist, cooked until golden and ready to dip into our spicy signature bloom sauce.”

    

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

    

Not long ago Mrs. C. and I ducked into our local Outback for an early dinner. We often sit in the bar area where it’s permitted to order from the regular menu. We’d just ordered our drinks when the server arrived with a Bloomin Onion.

    

“We didn’t order this,” I informed him.

     

The server smiled and said, “One of our kitchen employees is a former student of yours, spotted you and asked me to send this complimentary appetizer for you to enjoy.”

    

“How nice. Would you ask them to come here so we can thank them?” I said.

    

“Sorry but his shift ended. He’s gone for the day.”

    

“What does he look like?”

    

The server shrugged. “Basic looking guy. Sorry, but I have to go. Other tables to wait on.”

    

Mrs. Chatterbox and I sat there, sipping our drinks and staring at the onion. “What do you think?” I asked. “Do you think we should eat it?”

    

Mrs. C. has a much queasier stomach than I do. “What if this is from a student you flunked? You did flunk students when you were an art professor, didn’t you?”

    

I nodded. “I’d say a fifth of those enrolled in my classes didn’t receive passing grades, usually for not showing up for class or refusing to put out much effort.”

     

Mrs. C. wrinkled her nose at the Bloomin Onion that was turning my stomach into a symphony of anticipation. “What if this was sent by a disgruntled student and they spat on it in the kitchen? After all, this is a former student working at The Outback, not someone who’s blazing a path through the art scene by capitalized on what you taught them.”

    

She made a good point, but damn that Bloomin Onion looked good. “Maybe it was an A student. There were plenty of those. Why be so suspicious?”

    

“It’s disturbing they didn’t identify themselves. So what if their shift was over? I mean it would only have taken a few minutes.”

    

“I say we throw caution to the wind and eat it.”

    

“Go ahead if you want to. I’m not touching it.”

    

A group of college kids descended on the table next to ours. After the server checked their IDs and took beer orders an unshaven dude with red-rimmed eyes nodded at me and said, “That’s one good looking Bloomin Onion!”

   

I picked it up and handed it to him. “We haven’t touched it. Enjoy, with our compliments.”

    

“No shit? Thanks dude.”

    

The college kids attacked that Bloomin Onion like jackals on a baby antelope. I doubt a little spit would have slowed them down.

    

What would you have done with this Bloomin Onion? Would you have eaten it?

     



Comments

34 Comments
I'm like Mrs. C. With that little information to go on, I probably wouldn't have eaten it.
By: Shelly on December 12, 2012
It's strange they didn't identify themselves. Based on your other teaching stories I think steering clear was a wise move. Stick to the mushrooms. See you tonight!
By: Belize Bound on December 12, 2012
Now if you'd only given half of the thing to the college kids then you could have done the old royal thing and waited to see if anything bad happened to them and then eaten it. Though with those taste testers in the old days I always wonder what if the poison was slow acting? If the guy just takes two bites and then you eat it five minutes later it seems there's still plenty of time for something bad to happen.
By: PT Dilloway on December 12, 2012
At my table, with the children i feed, we would have made as good time on it as the college kids. And no, i wouldn't have had a bite. But i'm weird and don't eat fried food.
By: messymimi on December 12, 2012
You were worried about spit? As gross as that was, I thought you were more worried about getting the bloomin' runs.
By: Al Penwasser on December 12, 2012
I'm HERE, via Globetrottr & I LOVE the Bloomin' Onions!!
By: fishducky on December 12, 2012
Inmates used to feed me lunch. I would have ate the onion. No problem for me whatsoever. Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on December 12, 2012
I probably would have eaten it. Then again, not much scares me to eat.
By: Becky on December 12, 2012
I am the kind of person that is so tired of thinking badly of everyone that I would have eaten a few petals. FEAR is killing this country, so I would have eaten it. If I got food poisoning I would have made a stack of money suing the Outback. The only reason we do not order those blossoms is they are a heart attack on a plate even without the spit!
By: Tabor on December 12, 2012
The Bloomin' Onion is the most unhealthy "appetizer" in the world. It has more fat in it than 18 strips of bacon and a whopping 3000 calories to boot. The proper choice is to NEVER EVER order the Bloomin' Onion, and if it given to you by anyone, politely decline and say "Our country has an obesity epidemic. If the Outback were at all conscientious, they would support Michelle Obama's program and develop healthy alternatives and offer appetizers with a calorie content no more than 500." The Bloomin' Onion makes me angry. It isn't an appetizer but an entire day's worth of calories and then some along with things that will clog your arteries and give you heart disease.
By: Michael Offutt on December 12, 2012
As I hate onion I wouldn't have touched, but if it had been something I liked, I would have been suspicious too.
By: LL COOL JOE on December 12, 2012
I would have eaten it. It was free! last weekend friends were sitting in the other room of the same resturarant and they sent us their check....hahah very funny!
By: momto8blog on December 12, 2012
I would have been suspicious, too. Especially since the student didn't identify himself. But then a bloomin' onion is SOOO tempting. Michael Offutt takes the fun out of it!
By: Eva Gallant on December 12, 2012
Would not have eaten it, because of prior experience. We ordered one years ago, devoured it because they do look and smell great (at least they did). It didn't take long but both of us suffered digestive distress in as many forms as it can manifest itself. Wouldn't eat one now even if we were starving.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 12, 2012
I would have eaten it, but ONLY if they included a complimentary angioplasty, too. ;) S
By: scott park on December 12, 2012
Free food! Except yes, had one before. The first few bites are great, but as it cools don you taste the oil - soaked in it.
By: joeinvegas on December 12, 2012
Onion upsets my stomach, so I wouldn't eat it, but I would also be concerned that the former student had done something worse than spit on it. Mrs. C is wise. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 12, 2012
I was going to write something about "heart attack on a plate" and then noticed that Tabor beat me to it. So I'm skipping my comment.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 12, 2012
Um- I think we would have might not have eaten it, but not because of "spit fear" but more likely because we have had them and they are not too tasty when they start to cool down. Michael O. needs to calm down. and have a tofu sandwich.
By: Kathe W. on December 12, 2012
I'd eat it, those things are awesome. I would assume the worst that would happen is I spend the evening on the crapper.
By: Jeff Laws on December 12, 2012
Only you know the relationship you had with your students and whether or not some might pull a stunt like a spit-laden appetizer. I'm perplexed by why you would ask what the past student looked like as opposed to what his name was. I figure you wouldn't remember every one of your students by name but it's more likely that his name would ring a bell than a vague description. I wouldn't have eaten more than a nibble. Fried foods are kind of gross to me.. except for well made fries (french fries), that is.
By: Hilary on December 12, 2012
I love fried food. I would have eaten the whole damn thing & been glad you didn't want any! Bloomin Onions are awesome! Omigosh if only I'd been there.The student would have been a starvin' artist working in a restaurant. An A student no doubt at all. Jeesh Stephen don't you regret this? :o)
By: Kerry on December 12, 2012
I tried a Bloomin' Onion one time. I remember it being salty...and not much else. I must have lapsed into a coma.
By: Val on December 12, 2012
I'd have eaten it. But I'm gross.
By: The Insomniac's Dream on December 13, 2012
I probably would have eaten it until you gave me all the reasons why I shouldn't have. I wouldn't even have thought I might of pis--d anyone off until you mentioned. http://arewethereyettravelblog.blogspot.com/
By: Are We There Yet!! on December 13, 2012
well, the first thing i might have done was ask for the name of the person who had made it - you don't mention if you did, but if you did that then you might remember how they scored I have various food allergies, so it would depend what was in it - but i try to always expect the best of people until proven otherwise, so i guess i would try it if i could
By: Don't Feed The Pixies on December 13, 2012
I would have eaten it. We're obsessed with health in this country, despite what the naysayers think. Yeah, there are a few thousand boatloads of obese folks around. Yeah, eat enough of those onions and you'll die. But, guess what? EVERYBODY is going to die. It's only a matter of when. In the meantime, it's about quality of life. And if eating an onion makes someone happy, good for that person. And, if I were eating it, I'd take extra delight in knowing it was pissing off someone else whose pleasure comes from trying to control my choices.
By: Suldog on December 13, 2012
First of all, I wouldn't touch that bloomin onion with a ten foot pole. If I'd known the sender, I would have devoured it, but mystery and foodstuffs do NOT mix. This is the first time I've been able to comment in a while. Blog looks great. I've been reading your posts, but for some reason, I am unable to comment from my phone. Had to break out the laptop to leave this gem. Great post, as usual.
By: Whoa! Susannah on December 13, 2012
I guess I'm naive and trusting because it never occurred to me that they would have done something bad to it. Duh! I would have been pleased with the gift.
By: Rita McGregor on December 13, 2012
Of COURSE I would have eaten it! Free food is hard to come by!
By: Bruce/Catalyst on December 13, 2012
I would have been all over it. If he had done something to it, I would never have known.
By: Brett Minor on December 14, 2012
It would have been history..........
By: John on December 14, 2012
the server should have known the guy's name and offered it. the excuses and vaguaries were suspicious.
By: lime on December 14, 2012
oh Stephen, i'm disappointed in your lack of faith and trust. but, maybe he did do something to it, who knows. and you redeemed yourself when you handed it over to the college kids. well done after all. :)
By: Fran on December 14, 2012

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