For two months in a row (April and May), I made the long list of the Furious Fiction challenge. Needless to say, I was highly motivated to write a story for the June edition of the contest. Unfortunately, I had a hard time coming up with a good story that met the criteria:
Looking for ways to use the four *OCKET words, my mind pushed me toward a story about food. This was the story I cooked up for Furious Fiction's challenge in June:
‘Do any of you know the origin of the word Mediterranean?’
Mr. Pavone looked at twenty bored and hungry faces staring back at him but was unaffected by their lack of enthusiasm. He had gone to great lengths to organize an expensive field trip to Rome for his students. He owed it to their parents to make their investment worthwhile. He was determined to seize every opportunity to educate the pupils under his care, even while waiting to be seated at a restaurant.
‘It is derived from the Latin words medius, meaning “middle,” and terra, meaning “earth,”’ he continued without waiting for an answer. ‘Two thousand years ago, Rome was the center of civilization, and the Romans considered the Mediterranean Sea to be the middle of the world.’
Mrs. Stevens let out a sigh of relief when her colleague was interrupted by the waiter who told them their tables were ready.
Unfortunately, Mr. Pavone was unstoppable. He couldn't resist sharing more knowledge as soon as he was handed a menu: ‘For those of you who like pizza, I would recommend the Calzone, which is the Italian word for “trousers.” It's a pocket pizza, named as such because it resembles a folded pant leg. If you're looking for something healthy, you might consider the Insalata di Rucola, which is rocket salad. However, for the adventurous ones among you, I suggest trying the Lumache con Aglio.’
‘Aren't those just snails with garlic?’ Mrs. Stevens asked. ‘That sounds disgusting, Roberto!’
Several students cringed at the mere thought of eating those slimy creatures, but Mr. Pavone carried on, pretending not to notice.
‘Give it a try, Anna. It's a real delicacy,’ he urged. ‘I've read online that the chef of this restaurant swears by their artisanal preparation method. The garlic cloves, for instance, are crushed in the socket of a mortar to release the aromatic flavors to the fullest.’
Mrs. Stevens couldn't suppress a growl. ‘I understand that you want us to experience the authentic Italian cuisine to prove your point that it is unsurpassed in the world, but we're simply hungry.’
‘In that case, I would suggest the Medaglione di Manzo, the beef medallion. It's called a medallion because the meat is shaped like a locket.’
‘You know what, Roberto?’ Mrs. Stevens interjected. ‘I saw a Domino's on our way here. I'm sure they'll have an English menu. I might even order Hawaiian pizza. Who's with me?’
The room emptied in a flash, leaving Mr. Pavone speechless. The waiter, who had overheard the entire conversation, wasn't sure whether to be angry with the teacher for driving away his customers or feel sorry for him for being abandoned by his company. In the end, he returned to the kitchen, uttering a single word: ‘Barbari!’
‘The word Barbari refers to people who were considered uncivilized by Roman standards,’ Mr. Pavone explained as if his audience hadn't just vanished. ‘The Romans used the term to emphasize their own cultural superiority.’