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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Channeling Julia Child

January 18, 2013

One day during my freshman year of high school an idea wormed into my head: it occurred to me that cooking could be nearly as satisfying as eating, so I got up early and made breakfast for everyone. My mother usually restricted herself to coffee and toast in the morning, with Dad and David settling for cold cereal. That morning I made scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes for everyone including David, even though my older brother treated me with the same disdain as my nemesis Chris Ferris. They all chowed down. I cleaned the kitchen and barely managed to get to school on time. That was when it dawned on me that I hadn’t had any breakfast at all.

    

Before long, I’d turned our kitchen into a breakfast café. I soon branched out on weekends to include lunches and dinners. Mom didn’t mind taking a vacation from cooking and didn’t mind being served her meals. Dad always had a healthy appetite and David was just happy to eat mashed potatoes that didn’t have our mother’s trademark lumps. Soon, I was cooking most of the meals and preparing the weekly shopping list. By transferring my attention to preparing food instead of eating it, I started slimming down. 

    

I continued to cook my way to thinness, and it wasn’t long before the bathroom scale confirmed a loss of twenty pounds. Actually, these pounds were not so much lost as redistributed among other family members. Even David was starting to sport love handles. He later claimed I’d made him gain weight on purpose so he’d lose a school election.

    

At the end of David’s sophomore year he decided to run for junior class president. It came as no surprise since he’d already been president of his freshman and sophomore classes. It was unthinkable that he could lose, yet he did. I couldn’t remember David ever experiencing defeat. Someone at school must have taunted him about getting pudgy because he had blood in his eyes as he headed for the bathroom scale. He was more morose than usual that evening as I presented the family with a delicious meal of scampi served in a lagoon of butter, eggplant parmesan and pasta mixed with hazelnuts, fennel and sour cream. David didn’t eat a thing, not even the tiramisu I prepared for dessert, which he ruined by screaming that I was trying to kill everyone with all the fattening food. He demanded to know why I wasn’t eating any of my own cooking.

    

When I didn’t say anything our mother agreed with David that all the heavy food wasn’t good for everyone. She also didn’t appreciate our mushrooming grocery bill. I was ordered to cut back on the rich cooking. From then on I had to rely on willpower and exercise in my quest for thinness.

    

My satisfaction at David’s political misfortune was short lived. He quickly lost his love handles and set out to turn defeat into victory. He decided to rock the high school establishment by running for student body president. No sophomore had ever attempted this. Typical of David, he was undeterred. Other than tradition, nothing actually prevented him from running, so he did. Of course he won. He later ran for student body president a second time and won in a landslide, with me being the only one screaming about the importance of term limits.   

    

I was the nerdy kid brother of the most popular guy ever to grace the halls of Wilcox High. David not only ignored me at home, he shunned me at school. When our paths crossed, he averted his eyes like I was an untouchable from Calcutta. I witnessed endless scenes of David parading the school corridors with the “in” crowd hanging on his every word. Pretty cheerleaders and song girls couldn’t get close enough to him or his letterman’s jacket.

    

My life as a freshman wasn’t as horrible as it could have been, thanks to my best friend Ricky Delgado. Ricky, having learned how to fight in juuuuvy, was one of the few kids in our class not impressed by my older brother and not intimidated by Chris Ferris. Ricky and Chris had gotten into several fistfights over the years. Ricky never won but he fought like a mongoose battling a cobra, bloodying Chris enough to be left alone. Ricky did his best to promote my image as a quiet bad boy, but as I’d march off to Home Ec class to deliver tips for creating perfect sauces and soufflés, suspicions lingered at Wilcox High School that I was a dork. 

 

 

 Submitted to the nice people at Yeah Write.

              



Comments

23 Comments
Now that's a novel way to lose weight- too bad you had to quit. Great story! My husband is on a quest to eat ultra healthy, and since the new year, he's volunteered to make our dinners, but they are freshly juiced kale, romaine, beets, etc. Not quite as appetizing as yours...
By: Shelly on January 18, 2013
What a novel way to learn to cook and lose weight at the same time! Are you still cooking a la Julia Child and does your borther David appreciate your cooking now? I'm sure your wife does! Have a great weekend!
By: Kathe W. on January 18, 2013
So that's how you trimmed down. That makes sense since slaving over a meal makes you far less hungry. I would have loved to have some of those dishes you prepared too. Yummy. Okay just a taste. Have a terrific day and weekend. :)
By: Comedy Plus on January 18, 2013
Little known fact is that Julia Child was the toughest kid in her high school! Especially when she had a meat clever in her hand, "Save the liver!" Great post. Love to know what ever happened to Chris Ferris, and if you are now great friends with your brother, but that knowledge might ruin future stories.
By: Cranky Old Man on January 18, 2013
If your cooking is as good as your story telling, I'm coming over for dinner!! What time shall I be there?
By: fishducky on January 18, 2013
This was so enjoyable to read...but I'm suddenly feeling full...gotta go...bathroom scale calls! :) Have a wonderful weekend.
By: Stephanie D on January 18, 2013
What a delicious way to lose weight. I don't think that would have worked for me. I can't imagine not eating all those yummy meals after preparing them.
By: Hilary on January 18, 2013
Gosh, when you take on a project, you don't mess around. I am a good cook but there isn't going to be fancy cooking unless company is coming. Regular fare for the most part. I am like the commenter Hllary...it it is there, I eat it. Funny how siblings deal with each other. I was the younger child by one year and I made my brother's life a living hell. I probably was much like your brother and my brother was always compared to me. That wasn't my idea but that is how it worked out. I am glad in our adult lives that he found is place and today we are friendly. Hope you and David found your way to be friendly.
By: Cheryl P. on January 18, 2013
Shame your technique for losing weight hasn't worked on Jamie Oliver!
By: LL Cool Joe on January 18, 2013
If you ever want to lose weight that way, by cooking and inviting my family to come eat it all for you, i'd love the vacation from it, too.
By: mimi on January 18, 2013
I don't think that weight loss secret worked for me. I do all my own cooking and I'm still fat. I guess I got off easy that my older brother wasn't much more popular than me. Yay?
By: PT Dilloway on January 18, 2013
I loved your cooking story, and the whole scampi/egglant dinner sounded fabulous! I've had to change my way of cooking now, too, since my hubby had two stints put in his heart. I miss the good old days of fat-filled fried meals! :-D
By: Lexa Cain on January 18, 2013
You make tiramisu? That's it, if things don't work out with Mrs. C on your end and Mr. Peeper on my end, I'm marrying you!
By: Pixel Peeper on January 18, 2013
When my mom had a job that made her arrive home just at supper time, my younger sister volunteered to cook. It was my job to wash the dishes. Funny how she made the meals I did not like. And how she would dump ingredients into a pan, then say, "Oh, silly me! I didn't mean to use THAT pan." Then she'd get out another one.
By: Val on January 18, 2013
You were just ahead of your time. When we were kids boys didn't cook, or at least talk about it among friends. Today boys that cook are cool. I like, or rather don't mind cooking, but I'm certainly not in your league with those menus you served your family. I'm envious. :) S
By: scott park on January 18, 2013
Highly entertaining!
By: jenny_o on January 18, 2013
my son who likes to cook was undeterred by the grief he got from his brothers..he told them then just don't eat it,..well, the tables have turned in his favor...they now PAY him to cook for them. he's 12.
By: momto8blog on January 18, 2013
I am very impressed with your legerdemain (sp) in the kitchen at such an early age.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on January 19, 2013
I never did learn to cook. But I worked in a restaurant the summer after graduating from high school ... and gained 10 pounds because I got to eat all I wanted, and while the food tasted good, it wasn't low-calorie by any means. I still like to eat at restaurants, but B maintains that home cooking is better for you. I think maybe you proved her point. As for older brothers ... that's a whole other issue!
By: Tom Sightings on January 19, 2013
I could never lose weight by cooking because I have to sample everything--LOL! I'm glad you had ricky as a friend. :)
By: Rita McGregor on January 20, 2013
I never channeled Julia Child (maybe when I drop things on the kitchen floor), but sure admire your talents. Definitely not a dork!
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 21, 2013
I missed seeing Meryl Streep in the Julia Child film. This post reminded me of the iconic television cook! Have you thought of a television cooking show, Stephen?
By: Michael Manning on January 22, 2013
Chez Chubby where French cuisine reigns supreme. You make Julia proud!
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 23, 2013

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