Ideal Ingredients

A speculative comedy by Thorin Tatge


DIANE: An ordinary housewife.

CHERYL: A helpful neighbor.

MADELINE: A quiet daughter.

RICK: A stressed office-worker.

DIANE and MADELINE are standing at an imaginary table, measuring out ingredients and processing foods. CHERYL is nearby, reading from a recipe book.

CHERYL: You’re supposed to dice the egotism and mix it with the filling. How do you dice egotism?

Enter RICK.

RICK: Honey? Honey, I’m home.

DIANE: Hello, dear. How was your day?

RICK (wiping forehead): Oh, I’ve just had the most awful day at work. Want to hear about it?

DIANE: Oh, not right now dear, I’ve just brushed my mind. Why don’t you go upstairs and relax? I’ve got Cheryl Lennister over tonight; she’s showing me a new recipe. We should have dinner ready in an hour or so.

RICK: I hope it’s something empowering.

DIANE: Well, I certainly think we can arrange that. Shall I add a few pinches of confidence?

RICK (vaguely embarrassed): Well, I’d…rather feel silently superior…

DIANE (knowing): It’s trouble with the boss, isn’t it? (sighs) Darling, I know it’s hard on you, but you can’t just eat your way out of every psychological trauma that comes along. They say it’s not healthy.

RICK (angry): Two hoots for what they say.

DIANE: Don’t let it get to you, dear. Go on, go upstairs; we’ll call you when it’s ready.

RICK nods and exits.

CHERYL: Your husband, good man that he is, does have the stray issue, doesn’t he, Diane?

DIANE: I’m afraid so. He’s been hard to control lately. If you want to know the truth…I think he’s been buying Tums with aggression tablets and mixing them into his lunches.

CHERYL (surprised): Not really?

DIANE: It’s what I suspect. So I’ve been trying to keep down his temper however I can…a little humility here, a little impotence there… enough extra sugar to keep him sweet…

CHERYL: Are you sure you ought to be feeding him that way? Without his knowing?

DIANE: It’s for the good of our marriage, Cheryl.

CHERYL: Well, I suppose…but impotence, Diane? Doesn’t that take away from your enjoyment as much as his?

DIANE: It’s just trace amounts, Cheryl! Just enough to keep him on the right track.

CHERYL: Well, I suppose you know best… I think you’re ready to add the chopped onions to the filling.

MADELINE: I’ll handle it. (Goes over to the other counter and transfers things from board to bowl.)

DIANE: What about the seasonings?

CHERYL: Two teaspoons cumin…one of marjoram…and a modicum of pride.

DIANE adds seasonings, but pauses.

DIANE: A modicum? How much is that?

CHERYL: I know know. Half an oodle?

DIANE (shrugging): I’ll put in three pinches. (Does so.)

MADELINE (looking over): Mother? You’ve just put in a capful of humility.

DIANE: Well, yes…

MADELINE: And pride and humility don’t mix, Mother.

CHERYL: You know, she’s right. They’ll taste acidic together.

DIANE: Hmm…true enough. Well then, since we can’t afford a spiritual blender on Rick’s salary, I suppose we’ll just need a neutralizer. Something like curiosity, or surrealism.

MADELINE: I threw out that old can of surrealism. It was looking weird.

DIANE: Oh. Well, it was probably just as well. I think it dated from the seventies.

CHERYL: Well, that does us a lot of good!

DIANE (exasperated): Well, we’ll use curiosity, then!

MADELINE (slightly irritated): Mom? What about food poisoning? Curiosity killed the cat, remember?

CHERYL: Did it? Gracious, the poor thing.

DIANE: Yes, yes, fine. Well, we can’t have the dinner be acidic, now can we? I guess we could just resort to adding some baking soda.

CHERYL: That would make sense, wouldn’t it? Except that you’ve put impotence into the batter! Really, Diane, you should stop meddling with these recipes!

DIANE: Why should it make a difference?

CHERYL: We can’t add baking soda—impotence doesn’t rise well. We’ll just have to mask the taste with something strong.

DIANE: You mean change the feel of the whole dish?

CHERYL: Well, why not? How about having your daughter whip up some creativity or innovation? Maybe a distilled Old English ballad? She could strain the high notes.

MADELINE (not looking up): I don’t feel comfortable having people eat my words.

CHERYL: No? (To DIANE): What are you sending her to a music school for, if she can’t even add to the cooking?

DIANE: There are other uses for creativity than eating it, you know. And there are other strong flavors we could put in. How about happiness?

CHERYL: Happiness? Don’t tell me you haven’t heard there’s a nationwide shortage, Diane.

DIANE: Not again? That’s ridiculous. I thought our economy was booming.

MADELINE (not looking up): That’s just because they added too much yeast.

DIANE: Madeline, stop being difficult and take a cup next door to see if the Aspens have any happiness.

MADELINE: Yes, mother.

DIANE: And hurry back. If you don’t use it right away, it turns bittersweet!

MADELINE leaves, carrying a cup.

CHERYL: Such trouble we go to…all for the sake of maintaining balance.

DIANE: I know, Cheryl, I know. Balance is hard. It’s better than the old days, anyway, when all you could do was use a lot of V-8.

CHERYL: Progress always has a price, doesn’t it?

DIANE: I certainly does. And to think they used to be worried about psychopharmocology.

RICK enters, pauses in center stage and faces the audience.

RICK: You have just witnessed a typical household drama from the year 2000, as it would have existed under an alternate reality. In this world, all the energy that was poured into general technological advances, industrial standardization, equalization of the woman’s role in the workplace, and generally becoming hipper than we were in the 1950s, was instead poured into the relatively narrow technology of making abstract qualities edible. (shrugs) Anyway, the moral of the story is, you can’t buy happiness. But sometimes you can borrow a cup of it from the neighbors. The End.

All exit.