My name is Takata Fore. Fore isn’t short for anything, just Fore. My mother told me once that it was a joke my father had after… well, it doesn’t matter. I still don’t get it. Apparently, he was a golfer, and wanted me to be one as well, but that would have required him to stick around, and for me to actually like the sport. So even though I grew up to be a chef, I’m stuck with the name.
I had always wanted to be a chef, worked at it all the way through school. I even became pretty good, because I got a good position at a high end bar in Neumond. It was an amazing opportunity to leave the gravity well and work on Luna right out of school. But ultimately, I didn’t take to the pressure (no pun intended), and left after a few weeks.
So there I was, jobless, just out of school and not even on the same planet as my family… with only a set of knives to hock. I got pretty desperate, and then into trouble, but that’s a story for another time. Needless to say, I spent a number of years in Lunar lockup.
It was an enriching time, or so that’s what people usually want to hear. Really, it was shit. Occasionally, there were brawls, which were at least interesting to watch in low-g, but most of the time was a drag. Eventually my background as a cook came out and I was assigned to the mess.
That made my tenure bearable. I became pretty popular with the guys, and they even started opening up to me on occasion. The guards took notice too, even the warden eventually. Apparently I had a knack for reproducing old recipes. After a while the guards got comfortable with me and would bring me their mother’s recipe for lasagne, or their late uncle’s famous goulash.
I guess this favoritism played in my favor, because after a particularly accurate batch of racitura for the warden (I tried it first, not really something I’d like to do again…), she offered me a reduced sentence if I agreed to a special position.
Seeing as I didn’t have any real plans for the immediate future, I took her up on the offer. Probably should have asked what the position was in hindsight, but that never was my strong suit, as recent history had already proven. I became Luna’s first dedicated “End of Life Culinary Specialist”; essentially, I made the last meals for condemned prisoners before they were “recycled into the system”—not my job, don’t wanna know.
I know it seems a bit morbid really, but when you look at it like it’s a challenge, like I chose to, to make the best meal (if not just the last) a prisoner would consume, there’s a certain degree of selfish pride.
The best part about the position was that it allowed me to travel. Not just outside the prison, but I could hop on any transport back down the well and then off to any locale I needed to complete my “missions”, as I chose to see them.
See, the thing about people on Luna, nobody’s really from there, they’re from all over Earth, and they came up the well for all sorts of reasons. Given, the people I met daily generally came up for more shady reasons than most, but still, there was variety.
The men and women of the “End of the Line Promenade” in Neumond’s supermax really put me to the test. I travelled to Shaoxing in China to find the ingredients and learn the right technique for 100352’s grandma’s Stinky tofu, to Banjul in what had been The Gambia to spear dive for John Dory fish for 201255’s Benachin that she had growing up. Quick note, if you ever have to travel into orbit with seafood, select the freshest before you leave; customs can take a while.
There were many others, as well, my tasks were as varied as there are dishes and cultures. All in all, I held the position for a good fifteen years. After that, the monitor was removed, and I was free to travel unfettered. As much as I had enjoyed my time and adventures, I had made a bit of a name for myself not just in Neumond, but in Prima and even some of the bigger ports back down the well.
My terminal was often full of offers from various restaurants and eccentric clientele, but I usually brushed them off if I didn’t need the cash. I had grown accustomed to low-g and preferred it, and if that meant I never had to go spear-fishing among stonefish and sharks again, I’d live.
Until everything changed.
Just as I turned the ripe old age of seventy-five, and would have been eligible to receive stipends that would have seen me working less, the Authority arrived (no not that one, I had gone straight after Neumond). The Authority is a collection of races around our arm of the galaxy that had formed an alliance some time before anyone was even thinking of aliens at Sol.
While most of the human race was running around like chickens with their heads cut off, mine was spinning with the implications! What did they eat, how do I make it, where would I even get the ingredients, would it even kill me to make it if I tried?
Luckily, their ambassador had arrived just outside Prima, which was where I was living at the time. I had just agreed to cater an event for some self inflated bureaucrat in the local office. The event was promptly cancelled when said bureaucrat thought the human race was doomed, but he contacted my terminal not a week later with an updated date and time. I turned out that he had finagled his way into planning some reception for the newly announced ambassador.
This was my chance! I would be one of the first humans to even meet an alien and I got to cook for him/her/them/whatever! I received a list of acceptable dietary ingredients for the guest (nobody wanted to be responsible for a poisoning incident at first contact), and buckled down. Obviously, nobody knew much about the race that the ambassador was, let alone what form its food took. I didn’t even know how it ate…
That’s when I contacted a biologist, okay, really she was a chemist, and was into some not so above-board cooking experiments before we met… but she minored in biology. Hey, my pool of available colleagues was limited. Either way, Okonje, as I learned after she got out (before, we only knew each other’s booking numbers), it turns out was just as excited as I was at the opportunity. She had been trying to find a way to study our guest’s physiology, but was having a hard time of it due to her “personal history”.
After a bit of convincing of my ‘Crat, which wasn’t hard, as he didn’t want to be responsible for a poisoning incident either, he agreed to set up an audience for Okonje, the ambassador and I, strictly as research for the impending meal.
I won’t bore you with the details, at this point, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t know about the Orlen, and what they eat, as I think it was included in basic xenobiology in grade school nearly ten years ago. Needless to say, Okonje’s insights into the ambassador’s tastes and my creativity with polystyrene and soy sauce was the beginning of a storied partnership.
We left with the ambassador once their mission was complete as their personal chef/pets and have been sustainably employed as something between traveling researchers and trick monkeys ever since. Okonje has met more races than any other human will in probably the next hundred years, and her research has informed governments back home what to expect once Earth is accepted into the Authority (probably long after we’re gone). Personally, I’ve been doing much the same as I was back when I had the tracker in my neck, though this time it involves more biome suits and hand gestures (translators are in short supply for English out here). Most of the dishes I prepare for our host I either can’t pronounce, eat or both, upon pain of I’d rather not say. I have an assistant though, even if it’s more to make sure I don’t get myself in trouble cutting up some unknown volatile ingredient, than it is to actually be a sous-chef. Its English is passing, and the additional appendages makes it surprisingly adept at kitchen duties, but with Okonje gone most of the time, it can get pretty lonely.
I’d kill for a hamburger.