In the time before the creation of seasoning, the world was merely a vast and bottomless abyss, as empty as the sky and as wide as the ocean. Nobody knows what the abyss came from, and nobody will ever know. It stayed there for an eternity, but only a brief moment, because Time was not employed yet. Then, through the middle of the abyss rose a bronze pillar, glowing brilliantly in the early dusk. Standing atop this pillar was the Chef, whose heart was chiseled from the core of the earth, and if you looked straight in his eyes you would be blinded by the fire.
Now there were three Gods at this time – Flavor, Aroma, and Texture. They were excellent Gods with great minds, but they had only ideas, and needed someone to carry them out. This person would have to be patient, careful, and physically built for the job of creation. When the Gods saw the Chef rising up from out of the vast abyss, poised like a god himself, they knew at once that he was ideal to carry out their plans. So when the pillar stopped growing, the Gods called down to him in unison: “You there, we see that you have patience, because you just did something impossible, and you obviously are well built, and you’re standing very carefully on that pillar, so listen: You’re going to carry out some orders.”
The Chef wanted so badly to respond, but he couldn’t, because he didn’t have the gift of speech. The only reason that he could hear was because the groaning of the abyss was so loud it woke him up. So when he did not answer the Gods saw, with their omniscient powers, that his tongue was tied, and Flavor freed his tongue so he could speak and taste, Aroma opened his nostrils so he could smell, and Texture brought life into his numb hands and mouth so he could feel. Then the Chef took his first deep inhale, and said softly, “W-what do I need to do?”
The Gods were pleased and gave each other many immortal high-fives, and in response to the Chef’s question said, “First of all, you need a weapon,” and a kitchen knife fell from the sky, landing in his hand.
Next, they created vegetables of every kind; spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, broccoli, arugula, etc. These were both beautiful and bountiful, but the Gods were not finished. They also created meat of every kind; lambs, lambs, cows, ducks, goats, mutton, etc. Then, to finish off the frenzy, the Gods created seafood of every kind; salmon, mussels, striped bass, fluke, oysters, cod, etc. By the end, everything was too hectic to be together, so the Gods gave the meat solid ground to walk on, with grass for grazing and water for drinking. They gave the seafood waters to swim in, and the vegetables they gave a garden.
Finally, they made for the Chef a flickering orange flame called Fire, that would give the Chef heat and an oven to cook with.
This was all very satisfying, but the chef felt that there was something missing. Although he didn’t know it, he was hungry.
Instinct led him to the lambs, tenderest of all the meat. He killed one with his kitchen knife, and it was instinct again that planted an idea in his mind: Fire.
There were four fires at that time – one in the north, one in the south, one in the east and one in the west of the land. As the chef was already to the west, he chose the east because he had no sense of direction. Once he had reached the fire, he skinned the lamb with his knife, and then pulled of a branch from the nearest tree, an elm. Then he skewered the lamb and laid it across the fire. He called this a kebab, meaning “the first meal”.
He went to the garden, and picked some habanero peppers. He then adorned the kebab with the peppers and fell asleep heavy with fatigue.
The gods were quarreling moments ago, shooting lightning and hail at each other, but when they saw the Chef’s kebab lying across the firepit, wonder filled their eyes. They knew that the Chef was not only born to eat, but to cook as well. But when he awoke and took a bite of the kebab, his face turned pale and they were struck with horror: he had been asleep for as long as a human’s lifespan, and the kebab was burnt coal-black.
Texture, who was the wisest of the gods, scolded the chef, saying, “You cannot fall asleep while cooking, my boy. Cooking requires attention.”
Aroma, the craftiest of the gods, said, “You must smell your food before you eat it, fool of all fools!”
Taste, the strongest of them all, simply sighed and echoed Aroma, “Fool of all fools.”
The Chef then began to cry, and he tasted his tears as dropped down from his eyes. And he had a right to cry, for it was unjust that they had not told him beforehand. They had no right to call him fool of all fools. He did not know the difference between good and evil. He wanted to ponder more but his mind was distracted by thirst.
The gods then directed him where to drink, saying “You may drink from any of the springs in the land, except the one that runs through the middle of the pillar. If you drink from that one you shall die.”
The Chef listened carefully, but he still ended up wandering towards the center of the pillar, because he had no sense of direction.
Now there was a tribe of creatures called the Critics that inhabited the area. They were known as the most cynical beings in the land, and they invented words such as “vibe”, “decor”, and “rating” that they either used for you or against you. But they always told the truth, however ruthless or brutally honest it may be.
So when The Chef saw them with their pens and pads of paper, he asked them: “the Gods said that I couldn’t drink from that spring, or I would die. Would I really die?” and the Critics responded, “Of course not! What a stupid question!” without even looking up from their pads. So the Chef looked over at the spring, and it looked like all the other springs, but he couldn’t rely on just that. He remembered Aroma and smelled the spring, and it smelled delicious and fragrant. Thinking of Texture, He put one foot in, and it was cool to the touch. So he drank it.
It was unlike anything he had ever tasted.
The Gods then saw that he had drank from the spring, and screeched at him like hawks: “That was not water; it was olive oil, which is reserved for us only. This is your second sin, fool of all fools! If you sin again, you will roast like your very own kebab, laid across the smoldering flame of the Underworld, and we shall sleep soundly, unheeding of the great pain you suffer! And you will go back to where you belong, from fire to fire.”
The Chef was afraid now, and he hid behind the pillar for a while. When he grew hungry, he picked vegetables from the garden, and ate them raw. These he called “salad”, meaning “hiding food” in the old language. They were nutritious, but very bland, having no flavor. One time, eating a bushel of kale, the Chef remembered the taste of the habanero pepper (I’ll call it spicy), the lamb (savory sounds good), and his own tears (definitely salty). Then he was struck with an idea. What if he combined all three tastes?
It was brilliantly well done. He collected a cup of olive oil from the spring, another habanero, and a teaspoon of his own tears. This mixture he called “dressing” because it gave clothes to the bare salad. And when he drizzled a bit on top of some arugula, he knew that it was delicious before he even tried it.
Now although it was hidden from view, the aroma of the salad wafted up towards the heavens and the Gods smelled it. As soon as they took in the scent, their souls swelled up with jealousy, for they could not create salad or dressing. They murmured together, “This fool of all fools has committed his third sin. He must be punished. He must be killed.” At that time of evening the owl was passing by, hunting for mice. She overheard the Gods’ murmuring with her sharp hearing, and decided to defend the Chef, for he had let her go from his trap in the woods. The owl instantly had a plan.
Flavor was up early tasting tomatoes, and saw the owl coming across the horizon. “What’s the news, early bird?” he asked in God slang, for it was too early for sophisticated talk.
“Oh, nothing, just some small talk about your brother…”
“Which brother?” Flavor said with dogged interest.
“You know, the one with the extremely large nose,” The owl hooted mockingly.
“Aroma. What about him?”
“Well, if you really want to know…”
“He’s plotting to overthrow you and become the God of taste himself.”
Flavor was shocked. Although his brother was known to be mischievous this was beyond the limit. He wanted to ask the owl more, but he was already off, flying swiftly as a bullet towards Aroma, for there was really no time to lose.
Aroma was busy smelling a rose garden in the clouds, but when he saw the owl he was all ears.
“Your brother is plotting against you, Aroma,” The owl cried menacingly.
“The one whose tongue hangs out like a tired dog.”
“Flavor. What will he try to do?”
“Steal all your olive oil, and you will become mortal.”
Aroma, in contrast to Flavor, was not shocked at all. In fact he became more self confident because this meant Flavor was envious of something he had. What was that thing? He was going to ask the owl but he was off, flying towards Texture.
The owl looked back over his shoulder and saw Aroma and Flavor fighting through the clouds. They were wrestling each other, and stayed wrestling for eternity. That is why taste and smell are just as strong, and if you lose your sense of smell, your sense of taste is gone as well.
The owl did not bother Texture, for he was harmless.
Over time, the Chef knew his wife and consequently gave birth to three children, Mario Batali, Julia Child, and Chef Boyardee. All three lived prosperously and cooked for all their lives.
But the chef noticed that they cooked blandly as children, and decided that it was time to pass on the legacy. On his deathbed his last words were: “Remember the 5 S’s, kids; Salty, Savory, Spicy, Sweet and Sour.”
As soon as these words left his mouth the universe was created.
Luca Scoppetta-Stern, Age 12, Grade 7, Saint Ann’s School, Gold Key