Wine bottle

Purple Prose

            The chef fell in love with the paintings before he fell in love with the painter.  She was in what the artist statement at The Collective called her “mauve” phase, neither red, nor purple, nor blue, nor pink but somewhere among and between those colors, lost in them, and painting vegetables.  Spring had just sprung, and, inspired, the chef went home to his garden to plant red potatoes, ruby chard, red lettuce, purple kohlrabi, red cabbage, beets, radishes and radicchio, turnips and red onions.  That night, he dreamed their colors against the dark soil, against the mauve palette of the painter.  On Memorial Day he planted purple basil, purple beans, red and purple chiles, amaranth, eggplant and Purple Cherokee tomatoes. 
            Midsummer, the painter’s show was doomed to come down, the chef’s new potatoes due to be dug.  He washed a small basketful and took them to the gallery where she was lifting her vegetable paintings from the wall.  She was red-faced from the work; so was he.  “I’m not much of a cook,” she said. 
            “I am,” he said, and invited her to dinner.  “I can cook to please your palate, just as your palette has pleased my eye.  Inspired me, in fact.” 
            She raised her eyebrows. 
            “You’ll see,” he promised. 
            And she did.  The tour of the garden first, that rainbow of mauve.  Then dinner, a borscht, followed by a basil/radish/chile salad, then a purple ratatouille–eggplant, tomatoes, beans and red onions–served with a pinot noir.   They ate sorbet, losing themselves in a syrup of grape succulence, and he confessed that just as vegetables had been her muse, so she had been his, and their lips touched and they created something together then that was blind as a seed sprouting, as thick as pure paint, as palatable as purple prurience could be.  For they were, after all, artists.

"Purple Prose" was first published in North American Review








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