Writing Prompt: A pinch of salt, a dash of . . . well, The Surprise Ingredient

A clandestine chef? A simple accident? Table-side tomfoolery?  

Strange times in the kitchen …

(And be sure to check back Friday for a chance to win a copy of Promptly inaugural contest winner Patricia A. Hawkenson’s new book, Magnetic Repulsion.)


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An unexpected ingredient finds its way into a main dish at your dinner party.

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4 thoughts on “Writing Prompt: A pinch of salt, a dash of . . . well, The Surprise Ingredient

  1. Martha W

    So… I’m being a rule-breaker tonight. No "shower" and over 500 word count. *evil horns have sprouted*…

    Had a good time with this prompt!

    Dorraine & Mark – awesome stories!!


    "Are you sure about this?"

    Dr. Zophiel paused in adding the final ingredient to the soup. "James, it has to be done."

    The timid boy twitched. "But-"

    "Those men must be taken care of. Tonight."

    James shifted back and forth on worn out Nike Airs. He didn’t feel right about this. "But your daughter-"

    "Don’t speak to me of her. She isn’t important anymore." Dr. Zophiel emptied the last glass tray into the bubbling chowder. "Soon, I will see the fruit of my labor."

    Scooting back into the corner, James slid to the floor and covered his head. He didn’t want to hear more. He knew that Lily wouldn’t have approved. That’s why the doctor had used her as the first test subject.
    He needed to leave. James stayed in the shadows while the doctor scooped four bowls of his new concoction. As the food was set on the trays, James slid through the swinging door toward the hall.

    All four men seemed dangerous and cruel, but the one at the end looked to be in charge. James lowered his head and crawled to his chair. The big man grasped James’s shirt and hauled him up on his feet. "Why are you sneaking?"

    James shook, his knees refusing to support him. "I… I have a warning."

    Dark brown eyes so deep they looked black narrowed. "From who?"


    "What do you want for this warning of yours?"

    "Take me with you."

    The man laughed and let James fall into a heap at his feet. "I don’t have time for games."

    "I swear, no games." The kitchen door swung open and the doctor appeared carrying a tray filled with food. "Please. What ever you do, don’t eat the soup. Leave it. Watch the others."

    He could feel the decision being weighed out in the man’s mind before he spoke. "Fine."

    James could hear conversation but closed his eyes and rested his head on the table leg for a minute, only to jerk awake when the doctor hollered his name.

    A powerful leg crossed in front of him, blocking his easiest exit. "Quit yelling, the boy went out the same door you came in."
    Black polished shoes clicked across the slate floor, stopping by the man’s chair. "He was in here?"

    "Briefly, he looked around then left again."

    "Hhm. Soup for you?"

    James gripped the knee directly in front of his face with both hands. He squeezed until the man waved a hand under the table. "No."

    "Come now. You should have at least a taste."

    A low rumble started low in the man’s belly and rolled up his chest. "Can’t you hear? I said no."

    "Oh my. Of course." The shiny shoes shuffled away. "I need to find James."

    Within moments, moans could be heard from the other three men at the table. A strong hand wrapped around James’s arm and pulled him out into the light. He flinched, blinked his eyes. And stared into the endless dark gaze of his rescuer.

    "What’s in the soup?"

    "Flesh-eating bacteria." No point beating around the bush. They needed to get the hell out of there. This strain was so advanced that once it finished with the other three, it would look for more. And the two of them were it.

    Both turned at the sound of retching coming from the other end of the table. The man stood, propelled James in front of him as he headed for the door. "It’s time to go."

    "Oh thank God. I thought you’d leave me here."

    "No choice. You saved my life. I owe you."

    James indulged in a faint smile as they climbed into the cab of the truck waiting outside. "I have an easy way for you to repay me."


    "Kill the doctor." Lily’s dying wish.

  2. Dorraine

    Zac, you are the blog host with the most! Always enjoy your prompts.

    Eight for Dinner

    My husband called from his office that Friday morning and said, “Honey, you’re such a peach. I just love you.”

    “What’s up?”

    Aww, can’t I just tell my wife how much I adore her?”

    What’s up?”

    “Okay, remember I told you my boss was in town. Well, I kind of mentioned having him over for dinner tonight, and it kind of got around that you’re a fab cook and I make great martini’s and err… there are a few more than I intended.”

    I took a deep breath. “How many?”

    He coughed. “Six.”

    “What the heck, Dave. You can’t just spring something like that on me last minute. What am I supposed to do with the kids?”

    “I already called Mom. She said they could spend the night.”

    “Did you happen to call a chef, too? Now that would put some jingle in my jangle.”

    “Oh, you can do this, honey. You’re a crazy woman in the kitchen. I’m forever bragging up your cooking skills. They can’t wait to get over there.”

    After I threw a pair of high tops across the living room and had four cups of coffee, I was good to go. Thank God I’d gone grocery shopping yesterday. I had a pork loin and asparagus and some crunchy French bread. I could whip up chocolate mousse for dessert.

    Thankfully Frankie was at school, leaving four-year-old Lilly at home with me. She begged to help me cook, so I sat her on a stool next to me while I made stuffing for the pork loin. I let her add bread crumbs and raisins and some peppercorn and took the pan off the stove, transferring stuffing into a bowl, so she wouldn’t burn herself. While she stirred with gusto, I gathered ingredients for the chocolate mousse: whipping cream, miniature chocolate chips, vanilla, etc… Then the phone rang.

    “Keep stirring, Lilly girl,” I said, taking the call as I picked up the living room.

    A few minutes later, she was still going at it. “Great job, sweetie. Looks delicious.” She beamed, jumped down and ran off to play.

    Because I was running behind, I quickly spread the stuffing on the flattened pork loin, preoccupied with everything else I had to do. I rolled it up, wrapped it in foil and put it in the fridge until time to bake.

    I started on the mousse, noticing that someone-Lilly, the chocolate monster- had eaten half of my miniature chocolate chips. My fault. They were too tempting. I got more from the bag and finished up, before jumping in the shower.

    Later that night, everyone arrived to gleaming candles, Dave’s martinis and the smell of pork loin and rosemary. “Smells divine in here,” they said sniffing. When’s dinner?”

    We assembled at the table, silverware and glasses clinking. Stiff, blue linens were snapped open and placed on laps as steaming plates of food were passed around.

    My husband’s boss, Sam, seemed delighted with the spread. “This looks splendid, Sophie. I can see why Dave is always bragging on you. Thanks so much for having us last minute like this.”

    Dave and I watched Sam take his first bite of pork loin. I was holding my breath. Chewing, he perked his eyebrows, a puzzled expression on his face. Then he grinned wide. “Fabulous!” He chuckled. “By gosh I love chocolate, but who would have thought to put it in stuffing? And with pork! You are a genius, Sophie. Pure genius.”

    I choked on my martini. So that’s where those chocolate chips disappeared to. I’d have to thank Lilly later. Maybe bring her a big ole chocolate bar.

  3. Mark James

    Zac, I had a lot of fun with this. . .

    I knew I shouldn’t have hired an assistant who couldn’t read that good, but when Giovanni quit because I told him his sauce had too much salt, I was between a hard place and unemployment unless and I came up with something.

    The good thing about Stefan was, he was a regular at the downstairs part of the Beef Pit.

    Let me explain. The Beef Pit is two restaurants, one upstairs where humans eat cooked meat, and one downstairs where werewolves eat.

    I read all those books about werewolves chasing down she-wolves and human girls, and not holding down a steady job, and I ask myself what I’m doing wrong. I’m just a working wolf; got bills to pay and overhead to cover. I’m lucky Stefan lets me pay his salary in free meat and a warm spot under the stove.

    Werewolves were getting mad at me because their cuts were getting smaller and smaller. Is it my fault humans pay more for cooked filet mignon than a wolf pays for tripe? I always tell them the same thing. They want free, go hunt. They want easy, come to the Beef Pit. I’m only one wolf. I can only do so much, you know?

    Two weeks ago, I got a write up in The Picky Gourmet. A week after that, I get a phone call telling me Chef Revish, the biggest chef on the west coast, is coming east to sample my menu. He’s got a whole chain, and talk was he would have a contract with him for me to buy into his franchise. If that came through, my reservations would have reservations.

    Then Giovanni quit. I put out the word and Stefan climbed up from the pit. “Work with me,” I told him, “and you’ll have all the meat you want. First cuts.” He almost salivated on me.

    He maybe didn’t read so good, but he had a memory like a blackboard that never got erased. We went over menus and did practice runs for the invite-only dinner for Chef Revish. I thought everything was perfect.

    The night of the dinner, Stefan looked like he’d graduated top ten in his culinary school. No one had to know he could barely read the menus on the tables.

    I started out with a buffet. I figured it was the best way to give them a chance to try everything I was good at. Stefan set up that table like we were at the UN and every president and king in the world was coming.

    I didn’t see the pickled human tongue on the buffet until the place was full. I tried to get Stefan’s attention, but he just stood there in his big chef’s hat, with his name tag that said, “Stefan, Assistant Chef”, slicing it real thin, and drizzling it with horseradish.

    When he put a couple slices on Chef Redish’s plate, I thought my career was over.

    It’s funny how things turn out, huh? Now Stefan’s “Tongue Delight” is a big hit, Chef Redish’s name is on a new awning over my place and I’m booked solid till past New Year’s Eve.

    When it showers, it pours, right? Stefan still likes his warm spot under the stove, and the diners in the downstairs pit, they really pitch in with getting Stefan all the “Tongue Delight” he needs, and we all get first cuts now.