They ate home-made burritos every Friday.
They had both been raised on chicken casseroles and macaroni and hot dogs in the summertime. They had never travelled south of the border and the only non-English words they knew were the same non-English words everyone knew. Hola. Mi casa es su casa. Adiós amigos.
It began on her 23rd birthday. She opened the card and read the details slowly.
“A cooking class?”
The dimples didn’t appear in her cheeks when she smiled at him.
On the day he waited in the driveway and watched as she locked the front door, fumbling with the keys she wasn’t used to yet.
“New jeans?” he asked. He was asleep when she left work work in the mornings and by the time he got home she was usually in sweatpants sitting at the kitchen table or on the sofa with her legs tucked underneath her and a cup of tea nearby.
“You’ve seen these before,” she said. “I’ve had them forever.”
“They look nice.”
The class was held at the local college. Andrew and Olivia were the last to arrive. The room was half full of couples and a few mother-daughter pairs.
“This reminds me of eighth grade home economics,” Olivia whispered as they made their way to one of the work stations.
“My high school didn’t have this sort of gear,”
“I’d love one of these for our house,” she said, stroking an electric mixer as if it was a kitten. The drawers were crammed with utensils that looked like high-end car parts.
“You look like you know your way around the kitchen,” a middle aged lady said to Andrew, who was spinning a whisk between his fingers like a circus baton.
Her daughter began straightening a set of chopping boards, cheeks red behind the hair that hid most of her face.
“He has been known to fry an egg or two,” Olivia said. “Once he even chanced a grilled cheese-”
The door burst open and a man with frizzy red hair and a purple chef’s hat dumped paper bags on the big counter. All conversation dissolved.
“When Mario says cook, you cook!”
In a flurry of colour he began tossing vegetables across the room and weaving between work stations distributing tubs of beans and tins of corn.
“Smell it,” he said, and thrust an avocado underneath Andrew’s nose.
He pressed it into Olivia’s palm and walked off before either of them could respond.
The two hours that followed were bizarre and informative. Andrew learned about the chemistry behind rising dough and the trick to frying vegetables so that they released and retained the highest threshold of flavour. Olivia spilt a pot of salsa down her top and taught their teenage neighbour how to chop peppers. Their instructor sang them Alphabet of Seasonings in a high soprano, beginning with Allspice and ending with Za’atar, and told them about the restaurant he owned in Malaysia where George Clooney, Woody Allen and Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter had all eaten.
“Ready?” Olivia’s face was flushed from the heat of the stove-top. She tapped her burrito against his.
“Cheers,” Andrew said.
It was 6:30 a.m. and his cornflakes had gone soggy. The light in the kitchen was dim but he could still make out the picture that was framed above the electric mixer he had bought her for her 24th birthday. She had sauce on her chin, her hair fell messily out of her ponytail and she was smiling. With dimples.