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The Hunter and the Hooker

THE HUNTER AND THE HOOKER by Lyn Nave

Once upon a time Guido, a hunter (cacciatore), was out in the wilds of the Tuscan hills trying to roust up some dinner. He was wily. He was intrepid. He was a good shot. But this day he was unlucky. The rabbit (coniglio) made a run for it. The deer (cervo) dashed away, and the wild boar (cinghiali) bolted wildly upon his approach. The ducks (anatra) had all ducked and, having heard report of his gun, the pheasants (fagiani) were no longer present. And for all Guido knew the woodcocks (beccaccia) were attending Woodstock– there were none to be seen. He returned to Montecatini Val de Cecina tired, hungry and miffed that his hunt had gone so badly. He stopped at the grocery and got chicken, onions, tomatoes, red peppers and a nice bottle of primitivo. Even though he’d bagged no game, he’d set his mind on having Chicken Cacciatore. After all, he was a hunter and therefore he’d dine like one. Screw stereotypes!

While Guido had been out blasting up the countryside to no avail, his neighbor, Carmen, had slept the day away. Although it was early evening, she was just sipping her cappuccino, having only recently awakened. Naturally enough, this is how it goes when you’re a hooker (puttana). She had just been thinking about breakfast—which would really be dinner—and thinking that she may have to succumb to that stupid, old cliche since all she had in the house was some garlic, olives, capers, canned tomatoes and spaghetti. Apparently, Pasta Puttanesca (whore’s pasta) was the only thing she was stocked to make. Sick and tired of living the stereotype, she sighed and looked out her window just in time to see Guido coming home with groceries. Seeing an opportunity, she adjusted her red silk robe to allow him a gander at her fine Tuscan cleavage (scollatura). She opened her front door to let the cat (gatto) out making sure her leg widened the short hem of her gown enough to stop Guido in his tracks.

“Ciao, bello! What’s in the bag?” She grabbed at the shoulder of her robe just as it slipped to her breast (seno) and pulled it up.

“Ciao, Carmen. Chicken Cacciatore.” Guido tried to act naturally but he was stressed. Seeing Carmen always made him stressed and seeing her in her red silk robe with her breast (mamella)  momentarlly exposed made him much more stressed than usual.

“No luck on the hunt?” She smiled her most beguiling smile and leaned into him.

“Not today.” 
There was an awkward pause while Carmen waited for Guido to help the conversation along but he seemed to have nothing else to say and was intent on staring at the toes of his boots.

“The hunting was good last night for me,” she said.

 Carmen winked, tilted her head from side to side and put her hands on her slightly swaying hips causing the clingy fabric to highlight her Sophia Loren-like form. Guido’s boots lost the battle for his attention and he tried very hard not to stare at her. He knew for sure she was wearing nothing at all under her silk. He tried not to think about how many men she’d been with the night before. Instinctively, he could tell she was very good at her job. Not wanting to think about her expertise or hear anymore about her hunt Guido tried to end the conversation .”Well, I gotta go.” He began to turn away.

“Guido! What’s the rush?” She put her hand on his bicep, kneading it slightly.

“I … just …” Eyes back to his boots, he turned toward her again.

“Come in. Have a coffee.” She slipped her finger through his belt loop and tugged.

Guido, having had a disappointing day, had no will to fight and allowed himself to be pulled into her flat. Maybe, he thought, it wouldn’t be so bad to be the one who was hunted for a change. 

In addition to her other courtesanly talents Carmen was charmin’. Carmen was also a gal who knew what she wanted and Chicken Cacciatore sounded like just the ticket. And truth be told, she’d always thought Guido had a certain something—maybe an odd mix of Roberto Begnini and Marcello Mastroianni—quirky but handsome. She decided tonight might be the night to look into it a bit further.

It didn’t take long before she persuaded Guido to unload his groceries onto her kitchen counter. And being a girl who had her own things to bring to the table she contributed olives, capers, garlic, olive oil, thyme, basil, spaghetti and a little sweet vinegar to the fixings.

They cooked. 

Together they made Chicken Cacciatore Puttanesca. And it was good. It was indeed so good and the wine so powerful that they decided to make a night of it. Carmen did not go out for her evening hunt so that she and Guido could continue to cook—really cook. After they cooked in the kitchen, they cooked in the parlor and after the parlor, they cooked in the bedroom and when they’d worn the sheets off the bed they cooked in the shower. In fact, they cooked so well together Carmen ended up with two buns in the oven. Now that’s what you call cooking.

So they decided to go with the cosmic flow. They married, had their two buns (Franco and Francesca) and opened a restaurant. Carmen gave up hooking for cooking. Guido never once regretted being the prey instead of the predator. They continued to cook more sensibly and use precautions because with a restaurant and two babies, they had more than enough on their plates. Their special house dish was Chicken Cacciatore Puttanesca.


Chicken Cacciatore Puttanesca.

Ingredients:
•    Chicken breast, 1 large boned, skinned. Cut in half, and halves cut longitudinally into 4 pieces to equal 8 strips.
•    Red peppers, 3, seeded and sliced into  1/4″ strips
•    Onion,1 medium, chopped
•    Basil, 1/2-1 cup, chopped
•    Thyme, as much as you like
•    Garlic, 2 cloves, minced or pressed
•    Capers, 2-3 TBSP
•    Black, pitted kalmata olives cut into halves, 1 cup or more
•    Heirloom tomatoes, 2 medium chopped
•    Sweet vinegar–scant TBSP–fig vinegar, balsalmic or something along those lines. If you don’t have anything else, add a little sugar instead.
•    Red wine
•    Olive oil
•    Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging chicken

Dredge chicken in seasoned flour, and cook in hot olive oil (med.-med. hot) about 3 minutes on each side, until chicken is cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

 Add a bit more oil to the pan and saute onions, then add peppers and garlic. Cook until soft, about 4 mins. Add some red wine to help deglaze the pan and add tomatoes, thyme, capers, vinegar and olives. Let that cook down for a little bit, 5 mins. at most, and add back the chicken and basil. Keep at medium heat until the chicken has rewarmed. You can add some more red wine if you think it looks dry. It should be a chunky, thick sauce.

 Serve over pasta or rice, as desired.

P.S. To say they lived happily ever after would be over simplifying. 18 years went by before they were able to use the parlor or kitchen table for cooking. But when the twins went off to university, they were able to once again cook all over the house.

Lyn Nave is a biologist/writer living in the low rent district of Marin, aka, Novato. Since recently quitting her research job, and while looking for a new gig to pay the bills, she’s been cranking on her keyboard like a coked up kitty, and distracting her friends, family and former co-workers with her writings.  These days she measures her success by the page views on her blog, The Girl Can’t Help It!


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