2012-10-08: Cooking For Cats


Ahmed_icon.jpg Christopher_icon.jpg

Summary: Christopher and Ahmed discuss food, family and love.

Date: October 8, 2012

Log Title: Cooking For Cats

Rating: PG

Westchester - Parker-Mayfair Home - Kitchen

The weekend has shown there are many strange up sides and down sides to having an Ahmed living in the home. Firstly… he tends to sleep in cat form, usually in front of a warm spot or on the couch, or some other inconvenient place for moving about, save for the kitchen. But at least the feline fur doesn't shed, and he's hypo-allergenic. Since he's begun mutating a bit more as his puberty progresses, you've discovered through a little bit of judicious testing that he can start eating other things other than nearly raw meat. Secondly, for once, someone else is up early to do things like make breakfast, do the dishes, and pick up around the place… so for a young man, there's hardly any mess! Monday, post school finds him sitting on the kitchen, his laptop up with the black screen that tells you he's online with his friends on one of his online chat things, while an episode of Phineas and Ferb is on in the background on a youtube video. When you enter he looks up and says, "Hello, Mister Parker."

No matter where Ahmed falls asleep and in no matter what form, he'd always find himself waking up with a blanket over him. As Christopher comes home from working at the salon, he now stumbles in with an arm full of groceries. The door shuts and he walks into the kitchen. "Hey there Ahmed, do you mind helping me for a moment?" One thing Ahmed would notice about Christopher is he likes to go food shopping many times during the week, always at Trader Joes, as he likes having fresh ingredients to cook with. "How was school today? I got us some stuff to cook up for dinner."

Ahmed's first instinct is to do a little powers practice, but then stops himself… sliming the food is a no-go, so he tells his friends he's going 'RL' for a couple moments and then pushes off the counter to come over and grab some of the bags from the older man's hands, moving them back to where he was sitting, "Just the usual Monday stuff. I had some fun in the Danger Room, but there was only fifteen minutes available. Dr. Reyes said that she's stepping back my Ritalin dosage because she thinks I'm changing again. Dunno why though." The young man seems to avoid mirrors whenever possible, evidenced by being caught brushing his teeth in the dark, or looking at his computer, rather than looking at the image.

There's beef, mushrooms, fresh herbs, rice, onions, garlic, beef broth and a lactose free milk. "I thought we'd try a beef and mushroom risotto for dinner, I figured some of this stuff might be a bit easier on your stomach, and with all the spices and such I figured we can add as much or as little you want. But if it doesn't work out, I have some strip steaks to make to go with it. I also got some stuff to make a salad to go with it and some fruit for dessert. If you don't like anything or you don't want to try it you don't have to but I do want you to help me make this." He says in the friendly tone he always has.

Picking things out to organize into your fridge in the easy part, as Ahmed replies, "All I can say is I'll give it a shot… I mean… I guess rice is okay. I didn't get sick from that fried rice dish you made last night. It just tastes weird to me still." That everpresent tail of his brushing by a stranger's legs in hello as he sniffs at the milk, and then his ears droop a little, "I miss real milk… even goat's milk." Grinning at the end of that little tirade.

"Well I've seen cats drink milk but I know it's not that great for them. Maybe we can look into seeing if those lactose pills help. Or who knows, I wondering if they ran some tests back at Xavier's if they could figure out what kind of enzymes are needed to help you digest foods and figure out concocting something for you?" Christopher doesn't think Ahmed would go for it but it's an idea. "Or maybe you just have to get used to things tasting different. I almost hate to admit it, I was looking what cat food flavours they have at the supermarket and seeing what was in them, and I figured that it might help figure out what you can eat that doesn't look or smell as gross as the stuff in the can." He says as he really doesn't know what goes into a big cats diet. "I also figured that by balancing your diet with more meat heavy than grain heavy might be good for you too." It seems he has been trying to do some research for Ahmed.

Ahmed points over to his computer, "Mister Parker… I could have given you a lot of information on big cats, if you asked. Especially snow leopards." Tail flitting with a bit of irritation over it, but he then smiles, a little bit of fang poking out from one side of his mouth, "Anyways… I'd rather it be here than at the cafeteria… I mean… it's nice and all, but they don't exactly have someone there with you who'll eat something after you've sampled it. Especially since everyone thinks I'm going to slime their food." Which has happened, three or four times, but not in the last month, "Anyways… sec." He goes back and logs out, saying goodbye to someone before the screen is shut off, "There. I've got friends trying to coax me to go up to Philidelphia now for a convention. I'm just kinda scared of going into public, even if it's furries."

"Well Ahmed, you're not fully a snow leopard, you can eat a lot more than just meat unlike them. I think you're diet has to be a balance between the two since you've still got some human anatomy in there. We just have to find where that balance is. I think right now it's more getting used to food flavours again and since you've probably been eating just meat for so long that your body might have trouble in general digesting over things." Christopher says taking out a cutting board and knife and setting up a station for Ahmed to cut the meat into small cubes. "On two of the strips I'm going to put a light marinade on and on the other two I'll leave plain." He starts to mix up some balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper to soak the strips in. "I'm not sure if I'm right or wrong about your diet honestly, I just figure it's best to see what works for you."

"But still… Cat food, Mister Parker?" It does make the young man grin a bit as he moves to start cutting up the meat as requested, knife skills still not quite what would be considered professional quality, but a lot better than most good home cooks, "I suppose I've just been hiding from food too. I keep getting told that some of this is psycho-so-something… or all in my head… and that's affecting how the goo affects me. I really wasn't listening well. There was a warm spot under the window." The admission making his flatten his ears once more, and curl his tail in, "Do you ever go visit your sons?"

"It possibly is, I couldn't tell you yes or no, but as long as you don't get sick or anything, it's just better to try?" Christopher says mixing the meat into the marinade and pouring them into a bag and washing his hands. "But I don't think it's just food you're hiding from, I think it's you you're hiding from. You love cooking so much Ahmed, it's obvious you love food. It just might be that you're hiding from the thing you love, because you love it and you don't think that this new you deserves to love what the old you loved. You're appearances have changed, and that's not an easy thing to accept." He says giving Ahmed a warm smile before walking over to use his vaccum food sealer pack in the flavour. "Oh yes, I go visit Eddie and his boyfriend Ricky and Jared when I'm able to. Mostly I'll fly over or Jeri will run over for a visit. Once a month I send them all a care package."
Done with his part, Ahmed washes his hands and then moves over to sit back down, this time on a stool in the kitchen, tail wrapping around one leg, and making quite the decoration, "I wish I was more like you. I mean, yeah… I love to cook, but cooking was something I always did for everyone else. It was never for me. It was so my parents had food, or my sister had dinner, or there was good stuff for a block party or gathering. I never really thought about cooking something because -I- liked it. The only stuff I liked I always kept in private… in my room. Because I didn't think people would get it. Maybe if I'd really loved Captain America, I'd have turned blonde, and chinny, and muscly… but instead I loved big cats." While his nose and tail-tip twitch at the thought, he sighs once, "But you do it because you want to, and you love them all. It's a big difference, to me anyways."

Christopher walks over to stand behind Ahmed and wraps his arms around him in a hug. "A part of enjoying cooking is enjoying feeding people you care about, seeing their faces as they enjoy your food. And believe me, it took me a long while to gain this confidence and a lot of it I have to attribute to my family. I was so shy when I was your age, hiding in the library praying that no one would find out I was gay or a mutant. So I kept to myself. It wasn't until college I started to open up, head out to gay bars and just started meeting people. Finding myself and finding out who I am what I loved were big parts of me being comfortable to do stuff because I want and loving…well, I remember how much my parents and sister supported me, they still do. I remember how that's what got me through, and working at Xaiver's I see kids who don't have that love or support. I know I'm not their parent but, if they can have someone who believes in them, and their happiness then…well everyone deserves to have at least one person love and believe in them."

Ahmed oofs into the hug, and then exhales once as he leans into it a moment, tail uncurling and wrapping around one of Chris' legs, and squeezes in a manner unlike what a real cat could do, "I guess… I'm kinda like most of the kids growing up in my community… we're all close that we don't think about going outside of things except to do something to bring back to the same." Sighing once, he shakes his head and then starts to tear up a little, "Why does it feel like when I talk to you about stuff that I knew was allright, it suddenly seems wrong?"

"It shouldn't seem wrong Ahmed." Christopher says as most of the cooking is forgotten for the moment. "People are raised how they're raised, your parents and friends back home wouldn't view it as wrong. It's just, your perspective has changed. Instead of being what their idea is, you're not and you're getting to feel what it's like to be different. It's just different is all but right now the best thing to do is listen to your heart."

The young man sniffles a few times, but does not tear up as it were, instead just remains close for a long moment, and then takes a couple deep breaths before saying in a slightly trembling tone, "This whole Church of Humanity thing scares me… I mean… I -KNOW- about this kind of stuff. A day didnt go by that I wouldn't hear about it in some way. I mean we're Jewish… it's kind of something you don't DO in the middle east." Shaking his head once, he pulls back from the hug and looks up at you, ears flicking up once more, "Can we work on dinner instead? I don't wanna start crying today… again."

Christopher gives Ahmed a tighter hug before breaking it. "No problem Ahmed. As for the Church of Humanity, you'd be silly not to be scared. Anyone with that much hate…" He just shakes his head and gets Ahmed up off the stool and starts directing him on how to make the risotto. He's trying not to do anything himself and just like Ahmed make it off of verbal instruction. "Now when cooking it, I want you to taste the flavours frequently, adding things as you think would work, I'm just giving you the base ingredients of rice, milk, beef, mushrooms and beef stock. But first we have to brown the meat slightly."

Ahmed nods once as he begins by heating a pan to drop the meat into, and starts to prep a second for the rice. Listening to the older man, he tilts his head, one ear flicking before he replies, "Okay, so get a little brown on the meat and off to the side, and then we start the rice… in stock, right?" Looking around for the base of the risotto, and then adds, "UMmm… doesn't risotto do like… wine or something?"

"It depends, this recipe I found doesn't use wine just a lot of beef broth. And this is all made in the same pan, we cook the rice with everything." Christopher explains. "Here let me see if I can dig out a copy of the recipe, I believe it was one I found online." He opens a cabinet and pulls out a large three ring binder marked P-T and starts flipping through. "I print out recipes I like and then put them in these plastic sleeves so they're like my own cookbook, ah here it is!" He pulls out the page and puts it on the counter for Ahmed to look over. "I got it off of Emeril's website."

Ahmed take a breath while he shifts the second pan off the oven, and switches to the single pan as Christopher told him, "Lagase's okay, but I prefer Wolfgang Puck, or Giada off Food Network… but I tended to look for simpler recipies, stuff that I wouldn't offend with." But his hands still however move with sureness that the rest of his demeanor doesn't seem to have, and very soon the rice and meat are simmering in the broth, and the vegetables are prepped on the side in order to place everything in for the final touches of spice, "Anyways… that's cool. Old school… I keep the ones I like on my laptop, usually in order."

"Oh I look everywhere I can, some days when I don't have anything better to do I just google things and look up recipes. I don't think I really have anyone I prefer but there is a certain charm to Ted Allen." Christopher says with a chuckle. "One thing you'll learn eventually is it's fun to try, and create, recipes that step away from the usual methods. Being unconventional can lead to surprising outcomes. But that's just for cooking, for baking, I almost always follow the reciep to the letter."

"Well, I read someplace once that cooking is art, baking is science." Ahmed replies, looking to the man with a smile before he goes back to stirring the risotto, keeping it nice and even, "I actually want to try barbeque… it's not something I've ever really done. The closest was the meat from falafel, but even then… well… beef doesn't go over as well as lamb with the community. That's another thing I kind of miss… not enough places use lamb."

"Well we can try to do a lamb barbeque if you wish, do you mean barbeque like smoking meat and smothering it with barbeque sauce or just grilling? Because if you wish we can try to have one last out door grilling day here and I can help you out with all of that." Christopher says as he watches over Ahmed, just letting him follow the recipe and directing him here and there as needed. "I do love a well cooked lampchop, or a grilled chopped."

Ahmed shakes his head, "No, I'm talking like the smokers, or the briskets, or the other really good stuff you see like on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. You know where it's something you prep in the morning, come back at lunch to get ready to eat for dinner?" Smiling a bit as he then puts the veggies in as instructed, finally making the dish come together, "Lamb's really the best with just simple ingredients… cumin, mint, and some lemon… salt and pepper. Don't mess with it, and let it's own flavor come out."

"A lot of people try to hide the flavour of lamb because they don't like that gamey flavour." Christopher says casually before breaking out in a smile. "But, like you, I'm not most people. I've only done the smoking barbeque thing once, and it's a lot of prepwork but the pay off is delicious. If you like, we can look into renting a smoker for the school and you can help me prepare and season everything before we load it all in and let it cook for hours. But we might have to wake up early to do it."

There's a brief chuckle from the young man, and he then ducks his head, flicking his ears a few times, and then giving a playful lash of the tail before replying, "Meat is best slow-cooked… it's been proved out far too many times. My aunt Shobka has this weird recipie that always goes over well. She takes a whole chicken, and then slimes it in off the shelf yellow mustard she mixes with some morrocan spice… then she stuffs some veggies in a soda can, pushes it inside the chicken, and then cooks it in the stove for a couple hours. I don't know what it is, but it smells sooooo good. But she's never told ANYONE where she got the recipie." Ahmed pauses and then closes his eyes, "I miss her. She always had stories about living in places like New York, Boston, Chicago. She sort of self-moved herself across the US, and then settled with her husband in Canada after meeting him."

Christopher watches Ahmed cook for a bit before getting a thoughtful expression on his face. "Yes, that is true, but a lot of it also depends on what you season it with, if you cook it without adding all that flavour, it kind of just turns out tender, it's letting it cook in all those juices, flavours or smoke, for so long that makes it great. Anyway, your Aunt Shobka, how did she react when you manifested as a moment? With some of the cities she's lived in…"

"I don't know." Ahmed replies as the finished risotto is set to the side and he tastes it one last time before pinching in a little more salt, and stirring the still heated mix, "After the first change, and my skin started lightening up, they made me wear make-up and dye my hair… keeping me as close to normal, and not letting anyone see me close up. Dad would tell company I had a skin condition and couldn't go outside. I didn't really see people that much, and the times I was with people, it was always me in the back."

"Is she your real aunt or just a woman you grew up with and are so close with you call aunt?" Christopher asks as he watches Ahmed and smiles with a bit of pride as the rissotto looks finished. "How does it taste?" He asks. "Anyway, I'm just wondering if your aunt would be accepting of you, at least someone you could still have in your life. If she lived in so many cities, she seems a bit more….worldly."

Ahmed shakes his head once more, "See… this is how it works…" Already moving to serve up the risotto in two shallow bowls, "Everyone is sort of family. Aunt and Uncle isn't just for your fathers and mother's sisters and brothers, or their wives. It's respect to the elders who help take care of everything." Sitting down at the table, he looks at you for a long moment, and then he motions for you to sit and try first, looking a bit pensive about the risotto. His version smells a bit saltier then your own standard, "I haven't tried calling… I know what you're saying, but at the same time… if I don't press the issue, I don't cause any problems."

"I'm not going to press the issue on it, but maybe it's a good idea to try someday, just so you're not so lonely, you never know honey, but anyway…" Christopher doesn't want to press Ahmed to try, he wants to wait until Ahmed can handle the possible rejection. Right now he figures Ahmed can't handle false hope, besides it's always better to be honest. "This is very delicious Ahmed, I'm going to cut up some bread to go with it. How do you like it, and do you think you'll be able to handle it?"

Ahmed nibbles at it slowly, licking a bit of the broth around it, and then up comes a mushroom and he swallows it down before he says, "It tastes a little off to me… I think it's the beef… I don't taste it as… much as I do when it's tender or raw." But he licks up another piece of meat and chews on it, with some rice, "My stomach's not growling at me, and I don't feel si…" And then he stops and says, "No… no no… okay… I would have done it with a combination of shallot and leek… but that's me. I always liked leeks from the store. Something about them… anyways… sorry… babbling."

Christopher breaks out in a large smile. "Well that's always the nature of beef, the more you cook it the more flavour it does lose. Maybe it's just your taste buds have become more acute and you notice tastes more. And now you have ideas so maybe the next time we can try making it with shallots and/or leeks, give it a stronger onion flavour. That's why you try the recipe and add and subtract to your tastes. So how about after dinner you and I can watch Food Network together for a bit, I believe it's Diners, Dives and Drive ins…ooh, I have an idea. We can look up and see which places are in the are off the show and when it's safe to really go out again, take a trip out to a few of them."

Hesitant to respond to that offer, Ahmed ends up fidgeting a bit in his seat as he licks at his spoon, flicking bits of rice into his proto-muzzle. That feline-like smile comes back, and then he just says, "Thank you for letting me stay here. You do a lot to make me feel like… well…" And he blushes a bit, "Well… like nothing's wrong. That I'm not Ahmed this, or Ahmed that… that I'm just… me."

"You're welcome Ahmed and I'm glad to have given you that opportunity." Christopher says almost beaming at Ahmed's words. "My house is open to anyone who needs it, sometimes it's hard adjusting to a new school, new living situation, new friends, new everything and being surrounded by kids who are going through the same thing doesn't always help. Sometimes, you need to get away and just breath, and I'm here for you when you need it and my house always has room for you."

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