And so here he is again, throwing up behind a Michelin-star restaurant at eleven o'clock at night, one hand on a dumpster to keep from falling over, bringing up very little but bile.
"Among other things."
He must be on his fifth or sixth peach by now. He's some kind of peach-eating machine.
Whatever it is — the guy clearly has trouble finding food he can actually eat.
”Traveling’s got to be a bitch even when you don’t miss your flight.”
"A little, yes. Although when I don't miss my flight, I have reservations at places I can eat. What are you making?"
“Fried sugared rosemary. Not, like, by itself. It’s a topping.”
There’s a pan of oil heating on the cooktop.
“I used to make it ahead, but it’s better when it’s still a little warm. Plus I like the way it makes the truck smell.”
"A topping for what?"
He steals a little of the rosemary, rolls it between his fingers and sniffs it. There's an air of craving to it, like an addict evaluating his fix from a new supplier.
He opens the fridge, for a moment, to showcase rows of little tinfoil ramekins.
"What do you put in that?"
He's poking around, now, opening cupboards, still munching on peach as he does.
"...heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla bean. Y'know. Creme brûlée stuff. And rosemary."
He's too distracted now with herb-frying to notice.
"I used to put passionfruit in it sometimes but that was kind of — labor-intensive? And a little too weird for drunk people."
He's obviously puzzled by both these rationales.
"So, I'm one guy, and I prep all this stuff myself, and I rent the kitchen by the hour so I've gotta keep an eye on my time, and between all the custard and the small business loan and my ex calling me at noon I'm maybe not getting the most awesome sleep—"
He's tossing the herbs in the pan as he speaks.
"And if I'm gonna drop the cash on nice exotic fruit and spend extra to get more kitchen time to pulp it and tweak the recipe until it doesn't sometimes taste like a weird piney Juice Squeeze float and maybe sleep in the truck a little bit at 3 AM I've gotta make sure somebody's gonna buy it."
"How much is the loan?" asks the peach-eating stranger, having apparently extracted exactly one fact from this entire spiel.
"Way too fucking much," he says, looking moderately exhausted.
He tips the rosemary neatly onto a paper towel, rolls it around for a moment to blot away the oil, and pours it all into a paper bag.
"Under or over ten thousand dollars?"
He shakes the bag around a little. It rustles invitingly.
"Make me a -- whatever you do best -- and if it doesn't make me vomit I'll ... well, that's over my discretionary spending limit, so I can't pay it off outright, but I'll buy it off your lender and charge you no interest due whenever. Or you can pay me back in shares, that works too."
"You can just...do that?" he says, faintly.
"My sister told me so, after the last time I paid someone's loan off."
He's polishing off what must be something like peach #12.
He's vaguely reminded of the kind of fairy tale where somebody helps an old lady cross a river and she turns out to be a witch.
"Well — uh —"
Fuck how does he pick a thing. Literally everything he makes suddenly sounds like garbage. This guy walked out of a real live actual gourmet restaurant and puked and he absolutely cannot give him weird deep-fried broccoli stem. What was he thinking. Fuck his life.
"I guess...I'd better show you what you'd be paying to upgrade," he says, slowly.
He takes one of the little tins of custard out of the fridge and pops a jar of sugar open to scatter it over the top.
The stranger, who is just biting into peach #13 (which should perhaps be a sign that he would absolutely eat deep-fried broccoli stem) nods solemnly.
"Shall I give you your privacy?"
"—nah, it's okay. Not a lot of extra prep for this one."
He shakes the tin to even out the sugar (it's faintly green, ground fine) and picks up his torch.
He's good with an open flame, apparently. The sugar comes out glassy and smooth, stained a deep, even caramel color.
He plucks a sprig of sugar-dusted rosemary out of the bag and drops it on, sprinkles the rest of the surface lightly with single leaves.
...spoon. Here's a spoon. Spoon on top.
"Uh — careful with the tin."
He holds it out in one hand.
Mr. Peach-Eater takes the tin with all the solemnity of ritual.
He looks at it, first, holding it to the light, admiring the sheen of the sugar-glass crust, the little bubbles, the arrangement of the rosemary. There's a critical edge to his glance, but one that hopes more for success than for failure -- the hawk eyeing potential prey to find a small fat creature, not the great cat waiting for a sick antelope to stumble.
When he's satisfied with that, he breathes it in, slow and deep, eyes fluttering closed, lashes brushing his cheekbones. Then he takes the spoon and taps it on the caramel, listens to it ring.
The whole process takes maybe sixty seconds -- not enough for the food to get cold. It's hard to tell what he thinks of the results, but he's at least satisfied enough to break the crust with the spoon and eat, bite by slow, thoughtful bite.
This is terrifying.
(He's somehow less afraid to lose the potential money than he is to disappoint peach guy. He's not sure why he cares so much about peach guy's opinion.)
He waits for his judgement.
It's another few minutes.
"It's good," he says, mildly.
...that's a little underwhelming.
(But — it's better than Presto did, right?)
"...thanks," he says, carefully.