Jennifer Jackson pushed her plate away and leaned back in her chair.
“That was so good,” she said. “Thank you. I’m stuffed.” Her boyfriend Alan did the same.
“Those are the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’d pay for the recipe.”
Jennifer’s father, Andrew, laughed. “I should have written it down,” he said. “I had no idea it would be worth money.”
“Oh for sure,” said Alan. “What’s in it?”
“You really want to know?” said Andrew. “Diced onion and minced garlic fried in butter with rosemary, thyme, and black pepper. And my secret ingredient.” He grinned. “Which is, as you can tell by the name, a secret.”
“Oh come on Dad,” said Jennifer. “What’s the point of sharing a recipe if you’re not going to include the secret ingredient?”
“The point is to maintain my status as best mashed potato maker,” said Andrew.
“Cream cheese,” said Rose. “His secret ingredient is cream cheese.”
“And there it is,” said Andrew, shaking his head. “My life’s work ruined by a careless word.”
“Two careless words,” said Rose. “Cream, and cheese.”
“Is that seriously your secret ingredient?” said Jennifer. “Cream cheese?”
“Of course it is,” said Andrew. “It’s my secret ingredient for everything. What makes my gravy taste so good? Cream cheese. Why is my spaghetti sauce so much better than average? Cream cheese. Shall I go on?”
“Don’t bother,” said Jennifer. “I guess now I know why your baloney sandwiches were always so tasty.”
“I can’t believe I never though of adding cream cheese,” said Alan. “It’s such a great ingredient. It has everything. Cream. And cheese. Can you even think of a dish that can’t be improved just by adding cream and cheese?”
“Well, maybe one or two,” said Andrew. “But not many.”
Rose stood up. “Let’s go sit where it’s comfortable,” she said. The others followed suit and a few moments later they were all enjoying the warm rays of the sun beaming in through the glass walls of the sunroom. Outside, the skeletons of the oak trees in the backyard shivered in the north wind.
“Twenty-five degrees above in Calgary today,” said Andrew.
“How is that even possible?” said Alan. “We’ll be lucky if we hit zero.”
“Calgary exists in an alternate reality,” said Rose. “A parallel universe.”
“It’s true,” said Jennifer. “We learned about that in physics class. They did an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland where they proved that alternate universes exist by making atoms disappear from existence, and then reappear. And when they reappeared they were shaped like little cowboy hats. So, Calgary, obviously.”
“I want my money back,” said Andrew, “if that’s what they’re teaching you in university. They’re supposed to be turning you into a technologically advanced super-farmer, not a theoretical physicist.”
There was a short pause.
“Yeah, about that,” said Jennifer. “I was going to talk to you about that.”
“About what?” said Andrew. “Getting my money back?”
“The money’s gone Dad,” said Jennifer. “Get over it. No, I meant the technologically advanced super-farmer. Which I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be.”
“Which part?” asked Andrew. “The farmer or the technologically advanced or the super?”
“I’m already technologically advanced and super,” said Jennifer.
There was another brief pause.
“I see your point,” said Andrew. “So that leaves farmer.”
“Yes it does,” said Jennifer. “Farmer. Which, as I said, I don’t think I’m ever going to be.”
“Have you discussed this with the sheep?” asked Rose.
“If by sheep you mean Randy,” said Jennifer, “then yes. He says it makes sense to him.”
“So the big question is,” said Andrew, “if you’re not going to be a farmer, then what are you going to be?”
“A housewife,” said Jennifer.
“Seriously,” said Andrew.
“I’m going to be a veterinarian,” said Jennifer. “I’m going to be the housewife,” said Alan. “Good for you, Alan,” said Andrew absently, pondering the situation. “This complicates things. I think. Maybe it makes them simpler. I’m not sure.”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Rose. “Our daughter is going to be a veterinarian. Which is so much better than what I thought she said at first.”
“What did you think I said?” asked Jennifer.
“A vegetarian,” said Rose.
“Oh, horrors, no,” said Jennifer.
“Are you sure about this, sweetheart?” said Andrew. “Because it’s a big decision.” “Positive,” said Jennifer.
“All right then,” said Andrew. He raised an invisible glass. “Here’s to Veterinarian Jennifer Jackson.”
“I like the sound of that,” said Rose. “You guys are the best,” said Jennifer. “Yes,” said Andrew. “Yes we are.”