This paper presents a dramatic monologue adapted from the play titled The Kitchen by Luna Vidya; one actress plays all the roles. The story was originally published by University of Hawaiis Press in 2014 and translated by John H. McGlynn. However, this version of the play represents postwar France in 1946 at a small town called Colmar. It takes place in a kitchen at small restaurant owned by a widow whose husband died in the World War II. The play employs themes such as alienation, hope, racism, war, disillusionment, and so on.
Cast of Characters
SABINE, owner of the Restaurant
ABELLA, Chef de cuisine
ADA, Daughter of the restaurants owner (also acts as the waitress in the restaurant)
The stage is dark. A static light from above shines on the actress who plays the roles of Sabine, Abella, Sophia, and Ada.
ADA Excuse me? The payment is not enough. You have to add three francs. The price is well written on the menu. Well, you should read better next time. Usually, the procedure involves writing a check or trading with something worth the bill. You cannot fail to find a few pennies in that suite, can you?
Why do you wear that suite? You look like a banker yet youve got no check. Am sorry I cannot help you, I have to call my mother to handle this. What? She wont do anything crazy, maybe chock you with that tie.
You should have thought about that before eating her food. You have to pay for the meal. I saw the way you ate that soused herring and potato salad. Mmmm... You were licking your fingers. Now you just have to return the favor by clearing your bill. Wait! I love your watch. Present from your wife? Lucky you, my father had one too before he was killed by the Nazis. Racist, fascist pigs!
Do you know that Hitler is still alive? Do not just believe everything you hear. Maybe he is hiding somewhere in Germany. Reorganizing his army for the Third World War, waiting for Armageddon. Maybe am just paranoid.
The lights go off.
Onstage is a cardboard design of French country kitchen. A four-spattered kitchen table is in the middle. The kitchen cabinet is made of cardboard too. Inside the kitchen cabinet, there are French rolling pins, spoons, rondelles, cups, and juliennes, both made of cardboard and painted silver. On the table, there is a prototype of the Dutch oven, the chinois, mandolin, and a steel crepe pan. The table also contains jars of spices, a few leaves of vegetables, red and yellow cherries, and a loaf of baguette. Parenthetical dialect in the dialogue is a translation of French dialect spoken by Sophia.
ADA Poor man in a suite, giving up his watch because of some few francs. Should I show sympathy? No. Every man for himself, God for us all. My father told me that before he left home for the battlefield. Since then, this restaurant has been my refuge. Especially the kitchen. It is the industry where traditional French dishes are manufactured. Beware of the wrath of fire. Fire makes food to soften. Fire makes food makes food hot! Fire produces weapons of war. Fire kills germs. Ask Abella, she knows better.
Isnt that right Abella? Tell them about the fury of fire. Tell them what happens when you play with fire. I am a living witness. You are a living witness. That soup in the bowl is a living witness. Ooh, mighty fire. Mightier than the French Legion.
Even though the fire is hot, we always find comfort in this kitchen. Everything here is resilient to fire. The Chef, the pans, the spoons, and the knives. Isnt that right Abella?
ABELLAYes Ada. Fire is very dangerous. But not as dangerous as me when am preparing a chicken basquaise. My recipe is the best in town. I doubt if they can make a magic spicy stew like I do, even in Paris. A good saucier must know how to regulate the amount of pepper he or she adds in the stew.
The same is applicable when preparing Soupe a l'oignon. The ingredients must be in the correct proportions. Caramelisation of the onions must be done at the right temperatures. Addition of brandy or cherry must only be done at the end of the slow-cook process. A good cook must adhere to the recipe. Otherwise, he risks losing the excellent taste of the dish, and her customers as well.
Like you said Ada, this is a factory. You miss a step, and you risk interfering with the whole process.
SOPHIA [Entering inside the kitchen.] Qui va travailler dans l'usine? Mes parents, je pense qu'ils travaillent dans une usine a New York. J'entends qu'ils ont de nombreuses usines la-bas. Quand je gagne assez d'argent, je vais les rejoindre la-bas).
(Who is going to work in a factory? My parents, I think they work in a factory in New York. I hear theyve got many factories there. When I make enough money, I will join them there).
ADA Dont you like working here? What will mother do when you leave the kitchen? You know you are the best chef in Colmar. People will miss your dishes. The tarte flambees will smell like the Nazi death camps if somebody cooks them instead of you.
SOPHIA Desole mon cher, mais je dois trouver ma famille maintenant que la guerre est finie.
(Sorry my dear, but I have to find my family now that the war is over).
ADA But, we are your family.
SOPHIA Oui Ada, tu es ma famille. Je connais. Mais pas ma vraie famille.
(Yes, Ada, you are my family. I know. But not my real family.)
ABELLA I do not think you will ever find your family. They would have already come looking for you. Besides, they were too old to survive the war. [Laughing.]
[Sophia storms out of the kitchen while sobbing. She comes back a minute later.]
ADA Stop it! That is a very mean thing to say.
ABELLA I am just telling the truth. Everyone in town knows her parents were taken to Auschwitz. They were Jews for Christs sake! That is the reason why she had to change her name. I do not know she cannot let it go. The war is over, and everybody is moving on. She has to adjust too. Lying to herself will not bring her parents back.
Ada, you need to talk to her. Her situation is getting out of hand. She is becoming psychotic. She must know that we are all lucky to be alive, and thus we should be grateful for that.
ADA Yes, we should. If anything, the Germans are to blame for all the misfortunes. Fascist pigs!
[Sabine, Adas mother, enters the kitchen and stops suddenly. She notices the somber mood of Sophia who is busy making baguettes. She dusts a piece of dough with flour while using her floured fingers to roll and stretch the dough into a log gently. She then skillfully transfers the dough to a prepared baking sheet.]
SABINE Can somebody tell me why my Chef de cuisine is looking unhappy?
ADA [While starring at Abella.] I do not know why mother. Ask Abella.
SABINE Well, let me start by asking you. Ada, why is Sophia unhappy?
ADA MmmhShe was talking about going to New York.
SABINE Then what happened?
ABELLA Then I told her the truth. She keeps on believing her parents are alive. You do not believe that Madame, do you?
SABINE It does not matter what I believe. We all know that Sophia is going through a rough time, and we must try not to make it harder for her. We are her family now. Therefore, we need to treat her like one.
That is why we must always try to give her hopes of seeing her parents again. The government did that. They told her of the possibility of her parents fleeing to the United States during the German capture of Paris. I mean, many civilians moved by ship to U.S.A, probably her parents too.
Poor Sophia. She is the best cook I have ever had and am planning to retain her as long as this kitchen survives. Sophia is a strong one. Just like this kitchen. It survived the war and is still surviving the odds of time. Look at the rolling pin. After all these years it is still used in making the dough. What about that cooking pot in the fire? Very resilient to heat from the fire. It defies the heat as if it is nothing.
What I mean is that most of us today lost at least a loved one during the war. We console ourselves through different ways. My only consolation is this kitchen my husband left for me. Sophias comfort is hope of seeing her parents again. What is your encouragement, Abella? Your father, mother or siblings? No need to answer that. Keep it in your heart. But be ready to unearth it when you feel low. It will help relieve you of your worries.
[Notices the watch on Adas wrist.] Where the hell did you get that watch?
ADA From a poor man in a suite. He could not clear his bill. It is lovely, right mother?
SABINE Yes my daughter, beautiful indeed. It just looks like your fathers. Wait. Let me see. That is your fathers watch. See the engravement at the sides. It is your name. See, it is written, Ada.
I bought this watch for your father during a wedding anniversary. A year before he left to fight the Nazis.
Can you remember the man who gave it to you?
ADA Not very vividly. But he just looked like my father. Waitthat was my father. The man was my father!
ABELLA No. It cannot be true. Your father died in the war. He was a soldier.
SOPHIA Peut-etre qu'il travaille dans un bureau a New York. Nous devrions aller le chercher, ainsi que mes parents.
(Maybe he works at an office in New York. We should go and look for him, and my parents too.)
The lights fade.
END OF PLAY.
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