One Menu at a Time Excerpt

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One Menu at a Time by Carolyn Hughey book cover“You and Bailey are coming too, aren’t you?” Cassie asked as she buzzed around the room gathering her winter coat and purse.

“Are you sure Mom wants us there?” I asked.

“Are you kidding?  She loves having you and Bailey, and quite honestly, when Bailey’s around, she’s off my back about having babies.  So puh-leeze come,” she exaggerated.

“Hey, Bailey, want to go see Nana Lucy?”

“Ana Ucy,” my three-year old niece said from the hallway and bounded toward the living room. “Eat?”

“Yes, sweetheart, that’s exactly what we do at Nana Lucy’s.  We eat lots of good food.”  Bailey nodded.  “Okay, let’s get your coat and scarf on before we go outside in the cold.”  Bailey held her arms out to the side so I could slip her coat on.  When she was bundled up, I put on my coat and we all headed outside toward the subway to take the train to the Port Authority for a PATH train to Nutley, New Jersey where the Pirellis lived.

Cassie was my best friend and roommate—that is before she married Josh Benson.  Of course, she was still my best friend, just not my roommate.

They’d met during her externship at Chez Francoise one day while she was sloshing around in spinach.   Josh was remodeling the kitchen of her boss, Charlie, who was a good friend of the Pirelli clan, and a strong advocate of marriage, just like Mama.

The way Charlie tells the story, Cassie’s face lit up like she’d won the lottery when she laid eyes on Josh, and that’s when Charlie’s matchmaking skills went to a whole new level whenever Mr. Rock Hard Chest was around . . . and probably when he wasn’t around. And what better way to get two people together than to have him remodel the Pirelli Deli for Cassie’s very own business.  Convincing her to have Josh do the work was like feeding candy to a baby . . . and well, the rest is history.

Six months later, The Kitchen Widget and Cooking Club was born, and Josh and Cassie were dating.  Talk about doing the Tarantella?  Lucy Pirelli had finally snagged a son-in-law even though she had to forego one who was Italian, but she didn’t care so long as she got what she wanted—grandchildren, and lots of them.  After the job was finished, Josh enrolled in culinary school while Cassie and I taught cooking classes to the masses and sold kitchen gadgets.

“I’m hungee,” Bailey said as we walked through the terminal.

“I have a banana in my purse,” Cassie offered.

Josh rolled his eyes.  “I guess that’s in case you don’t get enough food at your mom’s house?”  Cassie shot him a look, and I laughed.

“You two really crack me up.”

She pulled the banana out from her purse and handed it to me. I hadn’t quite gotten the hang of this parenting thing yet—like having food on hand at all times for such an occasion, but I was gaining knowledge from a stiff dose of reality after my sister’s death and being named Guardian. We walked down the steps to the train and meandered down the aisle to the vacant seats.

“Eat, Amie,” Bailey emphasized as I peeled the banana down a short way and broke off a piece and handed it to her.  She was doing fine until she noticed a brown spot and handed the small mushy piece of banana back to me.

“There’s nothing wrong with it, sweetie.”  The child shook her head back and forth, puckered up her face, and pushed my hand away as I tried to encourage her to take another bite.  “Okay, but now you’ll have to wait until we get to Nana Lucy’s house.”

The words were no sooner out of my mouth than she began to wail like a ship’s foghorn. Panic eked out of every nerve in my body.  Josh, at least had some training with kids because of his nephews, but Cassie and I were the parental rejects of the century.  Nevertheless, we frantically searched through our belongings for something, anything, to calm Bailey down. Normally, New Yorkers pay no attention to what’s going on around them, but Bailey’s wail had them all seething and shooting daggers directed my way as the bad mommy.

Fortunately, Josh found a red lollipop, one of Bailey’s favorite colors, hidden in the inside pocket of his jacket.  And boy was that a good thing because the cranky old bitty who sat behind us was about ready to have a hissy fit.  Bailey somehow knew something was up and blew the woman a kiss when she’d turned around in her seat.  Fortunately, the old bitty’s face cracked into a smile and her hand extended for a slight pat on my little cherub’s head.   Bailey’s astuteness of sensing something was wrong never ceased to amaze me.  I don’t know if it was just a proud aunt speaking or whether she really was that smart.

I untied her hat and smoothed her hair back.  She was a beautiful little girl with huge blue eyes and curly blond hair, and a clone of my sister, Missy.  Sometimes it was hard to look at her knowing Missy wasn’t ever coming back.

Needless to say, my life had taken on a drastic change—not that I was complaining, but at twenty-six, parenting wasn’t as easy as Missy had made it appear.

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