Tales of a Sous-Chef (aka: No More Pecan Pie!)

By Emberchyld

Rating: G

Genres: humour

Keywords:

This story has been read by 632 people.
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A Tale from Below Decks
By: Emberchyld (cib7088@njit.edu)

Disclaimer: Lalala… Paramount owns everything, I’m just a poor little fan-fiction writer. Okay, so I own Bertie and a few others, but they needed a place to play and live, soooooo… I’m still a poor fan-girl.

Summary: There’s only so much pecan pie that one sous-chef can make before it just becomes too much
Rating: G bordering on PG (pies were injured in the making of this fic) Can be archived.

“It may not be good for the body... But it sure is good for the soul.” Trip Tucker, on pecan pie

Rolling out crusts for pecan pie had become second nature for Bertie. Xindi attacks, battles with Romulans, regions of space that warped the ship randomly—through it all, the crew needed to be fed and pecan pie had practically become a prerequisite.

Whole pies had been known to disappear from the galley in the past.

So, when Chef found out that his sous-chef, Bertie, had been top of her class in pastry, he had quickly unloaded pecan pies (and all other pastries, but especially that darned pie) onto her.

It was somewhat frustrating because, well, Bertie hated pecans. And anyone within their right senses would hate pecan pie after months upon months of mixing that gooey filling. She had tried varying the desserts, playing with all of the complicated and luxe desserts that she knew—profiterole towers, mousse bombes, bananas foster (although that was kyboshed quickly when the environmental controls kicked in and rained on her dish), gingerbread crème brulee, to name a few—but she was always ordered back to that darned pecan pie. Requested, most of the time, straight from the Captain’s table. Sometimes, she could get away with a peach pie, once in a blue moon a shoo-fly pie, but the reprieve didn’t ever last long.

That Commander Tucker was the one to blame—turned out that the Chief Engineer had quite a sweet tooth (combined with the massive amounts of red meat that man ate in a week, she was amazed that he had keeled over from a massive heart attack already.) Problem was, as a senior officer, it was hard to say no to his requests—as Chef told her on her first day aboard Enterprise, “You can feed an ensign anything you want, but don’t mess with the people running the ship. Now, go and make some more pie.”

Worse than that, though, was that Tucker had contaminated others. It used to be so easy and predictable to bake for Commander T’Pol—since she was a vegetarian, Chef always handled her meals and her preferred desserts had been limited to fruit, perhaps the occasional rare cobbler—but, now? Now, even the Vulcan science officer had been known to indulge in this blasted dessert. Seriously, anyone with eyes could see that something was going on between the two officers (neuropressure, my butt), but did it have to extend to dessert?

Bertie put the crusts aside and then, with a grimace, started mixing up the filling. There had to be a way to stop this nonsense once and for all… but how?

She began to stir the pecans into the filling, carefully measuring in just the right amount. Inspiration hit her as she folded the whole nuts into her bowl. “Pecans!” she exclaimed out loud, then bit her lip and looked sheepishly over at Chef.

Chef looked up with a frown from the marinade that he was preparing. “Yeah, yeah, I know how much you hate those things, but suck it up, will you?”

Bertie ducked her head, cheeks flaming, and muttered, “Yes, sir… sucking it up, sir.”

“Good,” Chef grunted before turning back to his work, “because I really don’t want to hear it anymore.”

She only half heard him as she stirred furiously, an idea forming in her mind. Pecans were the key to solving her problem. They were integral to the pie, and if there were no pecans left aboard ship, pecan pie would be impossible.

Images of pecan dishes danced through her brain. A few mornings of pecan cinnamon buns, a dinner dish of pecan-encrusted flounder, pecan brittle, cookies made from pecan flour, and a few “accidents” while roasting the pecans… she calculated that she could wipe out their pecan supply in a week. Two, max. And they weren’t due to get new supplies for two more months. Two glorious, pecan-free months in which she could work her dessert magic, Tucker be damned.

*****************************************

Pecan-free day one went off without a hitch. Any possible requests from the captain’s mess were quickly averted with a cobbler made specifically from Georgia peaches.

*****************************************

Pecan-free day two and a spattering of pie requests made it to the galley. Most were easily averted with spice cookies and chocolate-covered gingersnaps, but she had to take evasive action with two orders came straight from the captain’s table. In a heartbeat, she whipped up a key-lime pie and slipped the slices onto these kitschy 1950’s-style Florida souvenir plates that she had ferreted up months ago in anticipation of a situation like this one. Nostalgia and state pride thankfully trumped pecan pie addiction and Bertie was in the clear.

In fact, word came back from the stewards who were given the task of clearing the dinner plates that the entire presentation had been a big hit. The plates had set off a series of reminiscences between the Captain and Tucker about everything from Kennedy Space Center to a place called the “coral castle” that apparently fascinated Commander T’Pol for its apparent lack of use or significance despite its longevity.

*****************************************

Day three and Commander Tucker invaded the galley while Bertie was working on that morning’s breakfast danish. Bertie cringer when she saw him lean his still sweaty from working out self against the pristinely clean and formerly sterile counter. “Hey, Chef, any chance of having some pecan pie on the menu? We haven’t had any for a few days now and I have a real hankerin’ for it today.”

Chef looked up from the bacon that he was frying up, smiling. “No problem, Commander, that’s as easy as pie.”

“Well,” Bertie piped up, faking concern as she wiped her flour-y hands on her apron, “there is a problem.” She paused for effect before continuing. “We’re out of pecans. I put in an order, but the next shipment of supplies isn’t coming in for another two months.” She then shrugged. “People on this ship really love their pecans.”

Chef gave her a look that said ‘we’ll talk about this later’, then turned back to Tucker with a frown. “Well, that’s your answer. Sorry, Commander.”

Tucker ran a hand through his hair, disappointment coloring his features. But, within a second, his expression had changes and he jumped up and was over at the galley computer station. “Wait a sec…” Bertie and Chef exchanged confused glances behind Tucker’s back. “I almost forgot about these…”

When he turned around again, the Chief Engineer had a wide grin on his face. “Well, I’ve got you some pecans, Chef.” At their incredulous looks, he continued. “After the whole Xindi thing, I realized that there may be some missions where some of my favorite comfort foods might run out, so I had a few pecans and some Georgia peaches put into stasis.” He pointed at the screen. “This should tide us over a bit… Y’know, even T’Pol confessed to me that she was missing the pecan pie… in her own Vulcan way, that is,” he added sheepishly.

Bertie made her way to the screen, a smug expression on her face. “Well, Commander, the problem is that one pie takes a lot of pecans an we make more than one…” she dropped off when she saw the amount listed on the cargo manifest, the smug look melting into shock. “Holy cow!” There were enough pecans there to last half a year, at least.

Tucker shrugged. “What can I say? I practically had withdrawal the last time that we had to resort to rations.” He then looked over at Chef. “So, pecan pie today?”

Chef chuckled. Bertie just tried not to faint.

****************************************

Day four. Just the thought of pecans nauseated her. Bertie had woken that morning from a nightmare in which the entire ship had started filling with pecans that she had to bake into pies before the entire crew suffocated under piles of the nut. And now she was rolling out yet another crust for today’s allotment of pecan pies. Darn, darn, darn that Commander Tucker.

“It’s all your own fault, you know. If your pies weren’t so good, they wouldn’t be asking for more. It’s something to be proud of, as a chef,” Chef intoned as he passed her, and pat her on the back. “Besides, do you think I like churning out steak or pizza all of the time? It’s something you’ll have to get used to if you serve on a starship.”

Bertie gave him a wry smile. “Yes, Yoda, I will learn to use the Force of the pies.” But as she smiled and continued working on the pies, a new plan was brewing. What if the pies weren’t as good? It would be easy enough to mess up the recipe… too little salt, too much salt, none of her top secret spices, and the pie could range form so-so to rancid-tasting.

Oh, look… oops! A touch too much vanilla spilled into the mixing bowl.

Darn. And look…. she ‘forgot’ the salt in the other mixing bowl. Double Darn.

She merrily began to fill the crusts, grinning widely.

Chef passed her again, sliding past her to slip a pizza into the oven and nodding approvingly at her smile. “See, now that’s the spirit, little Jedi.”

*******************************

Commander T’Pol was in the galley later that afternoon with a half-eaten slice of pecan pie. “Sous-chef, are you feeling ill?”

Bertie looked up from the canele that she had been carefully unmolding. ‘Sous-chef’… now that was a first. “No, I feel fine, Commander. Can I help you?”

“There is something… wrong with the quality of your baking today,” T’Pol intoned, setting the plate down next to Bertie. “I was thinking that perhaps you were not feeling well and that it was affecting your skill.”

“Nope, never felt better.” Bertie finished plating the canele and began to ice a chocolate cake.

T’Pol raised one eyebrow. “You have been making pecan pies for us practically since this ship launched with no problems. Therefore, I cannot attribute your errors to lack of ability. If you are not ill, there is no logical reason for you to produce sub-par pies.”

Bertie shrugged, not looking up form the cake. “Maybe I just lost the knack. Happens sometimes.”

“The what?”

“Knack.” Icing complete, Bertie pulled out a decorator’s bag and started piping decorations onto the cake. “The ability. You know, one minute you’re making the best pie ever, the next, you can’t even make a decent crust.”

T’Pol’s eyes narrowed even more. “Baking is chemistry, it cannot be that subjective,” she stated, then continued, ignoring Bertie’s shrug. “I have taken the liberty of analyzing this slice of pie in the lab and believe that I may have found where your baking went awry. I can aid you in preventing future errors.”

Bertie glanced up at the Vulcan, who was actually starting to look somewhat agitated. “Is a pie really that important, Commander? I can replace that with tons of other pies, you know.”

“Trip--” T’Pol paused, cutting herself off, “—the crew has become rather attached to your pecan pie, Sous-chef. He—they—have expressed concern over the status of the pies as of late.” She then folded her arms across her chest, frowning. “And I overheard Corporal Cole telling Commander Tucker that she could make ‘one mean pecan pie’… I am concerned that she may attempt to bake some pies, however, I do not believe, for food safety reasons since she is not galley staff, that she should be allowed to bake for the crew.”

Had Commander T’Pol been human, Bertie would have said that she detected a note of jealousy in her voice. Instead, she replied with, “Don’t worry, Commander. No one’s baking pies in here but Chef or me.” Then, to get rid of the first officer, she added, “And I’ll do my best to fix the pecan pie problem, but no promises. Sometimes, when it’s gone, it’s gone.” She then gestured to the cake before her. “But tonight’s a no-go. Ensign Callahan has requested a French menu in honor of Ensign Hudry’s birthday. I’m up to my ears in cake and canele and other pastries and then I’m helping Chef with the main dishes. Maybe tomorrow .”

The Commander nodded and headed towards the galley exit. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Bertie breathed a sigh of relied when the doors closed behind T’Pol. Darned logical Vulcans.

Now… all that she had to do was figure out how to write “Happy Birthday” in French….

********************************

Day five… today’s pecan pies were abysmal… bad enough to solicit a comment from Chef, bad enough that she took extra time to make mini key lime pies and pavlovas and fudge tarts to salvage her reputation. Bertie accepted all criticisms with a concerned nod and a sad, “I think I’ve lost my touch.” It definitely was an easy enough mistake to fake this time—curdling the filling—and one that pointed directly to skill and not recipe. So, when Amanda Cole tried to give her some unsolicited advice, Bertie was able to brush it off with a few simple, sad nods and feigned depression.

She wasn’t ready, however, when Commander Tucker approached her while she was working out in the ship’s gym. “Have you been feeling okay, Bertie?” He asked as he sidled up to her, pulling up a weight bar.

I’d feel better if I didn’t have a pie obsessed stalker, she thought to herself, but plastered a fake smile on her face. “Never better.”

“’Cause I was wonderin’…” he began.

Bertie cut him off. “—About the pecan pies? Sorry, Commander, but I seem to have lost my touch. The pecan pie magic fairy dust has run out.”

“Shame.” Tucker sat down on the weight bench next to her. “If you hadn’t noticed, I’ll really miss that pie.” He then looked down at his hands. “I know this might sound strange, but... thanks.”

She looked at him, startled. “For what?”

“Your pies got me through lots of hard times. When I first came on board the ship, that pie was a taste of home. It helped tons when I was dealin’ with the Xindi attack and Lizzie’s death. And,” he paused, running his hand over his hair with a sheepish look on his face, “this is between you and me, okay?” She nodded and he continued, “And it kinda was a thing between me and T’Pol. You know that was the first human dessert she had ever tasted? Well,” he corrected himself, “maybe not the first, but the first decent human dessert… those fruit things just don’t count. I just remember the first time I saw her try that pie… I think that might be when I started to fall in love with her, or at least realize that I was falling for her.”

Bertie looked at Tucker with a frown, but he was off in his own world, gazing at nothing. “When little Elizabeth died, she actually snuck into the galley and stole a pie for me… to try and comfort me, I guess.” He smiled lightly and then refocused on Bertie. “Sorry about goin’ on like that. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that your pecan pies will be missed.” He pat her on the shoulder and stood up. As he started walking out of the gym, he called over his shoulder. “But if that key lime pie goes missin’, too, we’re going to have some problems.”

“Woah…” Bertie murmered as she stared at Commander Tucker’s retreating form. She tried to blink back the tears that had risen, unbidden, during his little soliloquy.

Bertie had to get herself to the galley.

**********************************

Early the next morning, Bertie was hard at work measuring pecans and beating eggs. She even had the ice cream churn running with some of her much lauded butter pecan ice cream. She was determined to make the best pecan pies of her entire career.

Chef grinned when he walked into the galley and saw her taking a bite of her test pie. “I see that the magic is back, huh?” He pulled out a bowl and started working on some eggs Benedict. “I thought you hated pecans.”

“Well,” Bertie said, wiping her hands on her apron, “I had a change of heart. You know,” she added with a shrug, “I never realized how much of a difference our job makes on the crews’ lives.”

“Commander Tucker got to you, I see. He was always a smooth talker.”

Bertie stuck up her nose, slightly indignant. “Commander Tucker didn’t get to me. I just… well… noticed how many crewmembers missed this pie.”

Chef rolled his eyes. “Well, whatever happened, it’s good to see you back in your right senses again. Your games with the pecan pie were starting to make me look bad.”

Bertie chuckled and went back to her work, happily folding the ingredients for an extra-special pie.

*************************************

T’Pol stuck her fork into the slice of pie, bringing a large chunk to her mouth. “I do not understand,” she said between bites, “how you managed to convince the Sous-chef to correct her baking technique.” Tucker’s quarters were dim, and they were curled up around a low table in the center of the room. A large, half-eaten pecan pie dominated the center of the table. “She did seem fairly certain that her ability to make this pie had disappeared.”

Trip chuckled and took another bite of the pie himself, making sure to combine the pie with a bite’s worth of ice cream. “Never underestimate the power of a bleedin’ heart appeal. I just let her know how important the pie was to me and how it would really be missed by the crew.”

A tiny snort came from her direction. “I will never get used to these human games of deception.” She then glanced up at him with a slight quirk to the side of her mouth. “But I am glad that you were able to… convince her… to make pie again.”

“Just a part of my irresistible charm,” he told her with a grin, then dug into the pie with abandon.

Good pie, good ice cream, and T’Pol. Definitely good for the soul.

Fin.

Notes: I know that there was no mention of a sous-chef in the series, and that Hoshi took over the galley in one of the episodes, but I couldn’t help but think the Chef had to have help. And who better than a pastry chef? Enter Sous-Chef.

Ensigns Callahan and Hudry are from my other fic, Figure NX-01. Canele are these awesome custard-y pastry things specific to the Bordeaux region (since Ensign Hudry is French, and, in my imagination, a Bordelais).

All foods mentioned in this fic actually exist—and are yummy! Mmmmmmm profiteroles… mmmm chocolate tarts….


Comments:

putaro

Enterprise gets a sous-chef!  I knew they were a bunch of foodies.  Fun story!

WarpGirl

I have to admit as a "foodie" I love chef stories. I mean Iron Chef is one of my absolute addictions. So any stories combining "Chef" and TnT are some of my favorites. I'd love to see you do some of the galley staff preparing Vulcan foods.

This was hilarious! I love it.
Emberchyld
:D Unfortunately, my baking is nowhere near pastry chef level (I tremble at the thought of caneles, and Duncan Hines is my best friend!), but I do love eating all of the goodies listed here. Sadly, I had to *gasp* look up the recipe for Pecan Pie while writing this (and, knowing now what goes into most pecan pies, no wonder T'Pol was so opposed to them at first)! But I'm glad you liked the story!
Linda
Nice story, sounds so authentic. I will bet you are a good pastry chef! Write what you know. I love it when fic writers bring in a touch of something a little different from their own RL.
JadziaKathryn
Now I want dessert... excellet story, anyway. You seem to have a knack for doing grand things with original characters.
Dinah
Boy, Trip could sure write a sequel to \"How to Win Friends and Influence People.\" Very cute story!
rogue
Very nice story! And I love Pecan Pie! :)
Distracted
Marvelous! I love lighthearted stories like this. What a wonderfully upbeat change of pace. And now I'm hungry. :D
Rigil Kent
Excellent job! I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and really hope to read more from you! :D Now, I've gotta track down a pecan pie...
dialee
In the interest of encouraging new writers and contributors to the site, I add my 2 cents. I like your story very much. The flow of the story was good. No very obvious spelling mistakes based upon homonyms. Believe me, that is very important to this reader. Sometimes it can take me right out of the story, especially from a new writer.
blackn'blue
Don't do this to me. I am on a diet! *sob*
T\'Parm
Now you\'ve got me craving Peacan Pie. I really enjoy stories told from the point of view of minor crew members. And you do a good job of it.
Lois Schneider
Very sweet story. Thanks

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