In the Kitchen with Nightmares


All my dreams seem to be nightmares these days.

I don’t know if it’s the summer heat, the full moon, or something loose in my psyche, but each night holds its little envelope of terror.

Take last night’s dream.

As in so many dreams, the chief sensation I had was one of being a complete fuck-up, unable to get somewhere or do something vitally important, heading toward paying the piper because of my incompetence.

In the dream, my kitchen was not really mine, but I do remember it being too small and sardine-like for the dozen ladies who suddenly appeared, ready to cook for me, with me making it a baker’s dozen as the unlucky thirteenth cook. One, wearing a red dress with a wide-brimmed black hat perching on her graying hair, criticized me relentlessly about the size of my kitchen, asking me how was it possible that I’d even dared think of asking them to cook in such an inferior space.

I dragged out the Xeroxed copies of the recipes—for some reason, there were five recipes to make—and suddenly everyone ran to whatever available counter space they could and started cooking. But what they cooked was not on the sheets I thought I’d copied, no, everything was different.

While I tried to get everything and everyone organized, like a chaotic fireball the room burst into a frenzy of activity, as three dishes neared completion in the split-second magic of dreams. On a huge white oval platter, cheese-stuffed frothy balls of some of dough fried a light golden brown tempted me. I reached out for one and shoved it in my mouth, the ethereal morsel melted in my hot mouth, oozing over my lips like a Dali watch. All the ladies sat stone-faced and stern at the table. Then, in unison, they started eating. One of the ladies was a my good friend Annette. At first, I couldn’t see her. No wonder. She lurked behind the feathered hat of another lady. There didn’t seem to be a chair for me, and I thought, of course not, for weren’t two dishes not yet done?

I frantically thumbed through the Xeroxed recipes, trying to find the recipes I’d chosen and which the cooks were supposed to cook. Instead, there was a lean round beef roast, partially cooked, two ladies starting to boil it to death with some green muskmelon chunks.

“No, no,” I yelled, “You need to pound the meat flat first!” Cutting the raw-on-the-inside bloody red meat into 1/2 –inch slices made me feel better, but as soon as I relaxed, I panicked again. Where was the mallet? Where was the waxed paper? How could I pound the meat with twelve disapproving faces staring at me?

Frantic to find the mallet and the wax paper, I ran outside, across the path leading to another part of the house, slatted wooden trellises masking wooden steps and stone walls. It seems I was in Europe somewhere.

As I turned around, I saw several of the ladies coming toward me. Behind them, a huge open pit of loose dirt sank almost 30 feet into the earth. And behind that gloomy pit loomed a place where I thought that I might get the wax paper and the mallet I needed so desperately. To find those things, I had to get from one side of the pit to the other, so I jumped high into the air, throwing myself forward, landing just feet from the top of the pit.

With everyone watching, I scrambled up the side of the pit, loose dirt crumbling beneath my hands as I grabbed for the green grass edging the edge of the pit. I made it, pulling myself out and lying there breathless on the ground, staring at a long line of kitchen counters looming in front of me. Each drawer held kitchen implements, which I could see through the glass-fronted drawers. Hurrying toward the drawers, I woke up just as I grasped the mallet, the leering faces fading away behind me.