Everyone knows what a beignet is. That wonderful piece of fried puffy dough, served hot, in a brown paper bag. A generous dusting of powder sugar thrown in to just make it all that much more betterer. You anticipate the flavor as you shake the bag and watch the small puffs of powdered sugar come out of it. Grab that steaming cup of café au lait, and sit down in gravid anticipation of a decadent repast. You tear open the paper bag to see those warm brown bits of fried dough peeking through the powdered sugar coating; It’s enough to send shivers down the back of grown men.
How I hate them.
Why, you ask would anyone hate something so wonderful and good? What could possibly bring on such a deep and vile hatred of this wondrous pastry?
Let me tell you, and you be the judge.
My story starts in 1804, hard to believe I know, but bear with me. This restaurant has stood here in one form or another since that time. Originally it was an inn and pub, run by a gentleman named Benjamin Babineaux. To his credit he was one of the better cooks in New Orleans. His beignets were the talk of the town, and people came from all around for them.
This fame did garner him some attention, mainly in the form of Lilly Malveaux. Lilly was a very beautiful woman, and for that time was also a very assertive female. Her biggest asset, if you want to call it that, was that she was THE Voodoo High Priestess of New Orleans. Apparently Ben did not realize what this really meant.
They dated for a year or so before Ben proposed to Lilly. Of course she accepted because he really had won her heart, she was fiercely on love with him. That is until one evening a week before the wedding. Lilly wasn’t supposed to be in town that evening, but her plans fell through and she decided to surprise Ben. The problem was that she was surprised instead, she found him in bed with the chambermaid. She was hurt to the core, and ran off into the night.
Ben looked for her everywhere, and couldn’t find her. It was like she had disappeared from the face of the earth. He was (according to his journal) starting to become very worried about her. But he had a business to run, so he turned to his cooking. Ben became obsessive about cooking beignets than ever before. He would not let anyone touch the cooking oil for them, and after a few months would not even leave the inn.
Lilly walked in almost one year to the day she caught him in bed. She sauntered up to him and asked how he was doing. Ben was incredulous, he had thought she was dead. The poor sod would have been better off if she had been. He fell to his knees and begged her forgiveness, sobbing like a mad man into the hem of her dress. His apologies fell on deaf ears.
Lilly grabbed him by the ear and stood him up, slapping him across the face as she smiled. The kind of smile that makes warriors shiver and lesser men faint. Drawing him close to her, she whispered in his ear…” I have cursed you, and your food. You will live forever, and never leave this place”.
She let go of his ear, turned on her heel and walked straight out the door, not to be heard from for many a year.
Ben stood there staring at the closed door, knowing in his heart that she told the truth. He had already started to experience the effects of the curse. He had not left the inn for months, even though he wanted to, all he could think about was the beignets. Looking up he realized he was back in the kitchen making more of them.
That winter the curse worsened. Now he could not even let the oil cool off, it seemed that he couldn’t go more than a few hours without cooking those damnable beignets. They had taken over his life, and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it.
Well years passed, and he had started to notice that someone each day would leave the inn tired after eating the beignets. This was odd, and he put it down to just being one of those things. He did not make the connection for a few more years.
In the spring of 1835 he was summoned to Lillie’s death bed. This is when he found out the enormity of the curse. He could not change the frying oil or he would die, it could not grow cold or he would die, one beignet per day would suck twenty-four hours of life from the person eating it, and give it to Ben. He could contemplate letting the oil cool or changing the oil, but the curse would never allow him to go through with it. He was stuck in the inn making the god cursed beignets every day.
Sucks right? That would never happen, this is 2014 and that kind of stuff is fantasy. I only wish that were true.
My part in the story starts in 1928, yes I am over 90 years old and don’t look a day over thirty-five. You see I went to work in this very restaurant in the fall of 1928. I worked here for over a year till one night when my luck ran out on me.
Ben had gone upstairs for a nap before the supper rush started. I was cleaning up and getting the prep work done for the evening. While I was doing this I knocked a box of powdered sugar into the beignet oil. I knew that Ben had said it was never to be changed, but burnt sugar in the oil would ruin the product. I poured out the oil and cleaned the skillet. Made a few beignets to make sure the oil would cook correctly. I knew he would be mad, but surely if I explained he would understand, right?
I was scared of what he would say, and about five o’clock Ben still hadn’t come down. His partner Jean went up to wake him. That was the first day the restaurant had been closed since it opened. Jean found Ben’s desiccated corpse on his bed, when he came down he looked so frightened. No one could figure out why his body had dried out like it had, or why he died so young. Ben only looked to be in his early forties, and the picture of health.
Ben had been hiding the fact that he was immortal, for many obvious reasons. Personally I think it was partially the curse at work.
Anyway, later that night I found myself in the kitchen somehow making beignets. I thought this was really odd, and went home to get some sleep. I chalked it up to the stress of Ben dyeing .
Things returned to normal pretty quickly. I started making the beignets, and the inn/restaurant kept going.
A few weeks later Jean was cleaning up and going through Ben’s things, as he had no relatives that we knew of. In the back of a safe he found an old journal dating back to 1810. The journal went into detail about the story of Ben and Lilly. Jean seemed to find the story fascinating, if not a little fantastic, however he brought it down and showed it to me. The last entry about it, stated that whoever changed the oil would inherit the curse.
When I read it I broke out in a cold sweat and sat down hard. I realized that over the past few weeks I had started to obsess over the beignets. Jean asked what was wrong with me. He said I had turned white as a sheet.
I looked at him and said “I murdered Ben”
Don’t be silly he said, Ben died strangely, but you were down there when it happened.
No, you don’t understand. I changed the oil and he died.
Coincidence, Jean said. I am not sure he was convinced though. He had that look on his face of nit being real certain about reality.
We did not speak of this again for a few years. Around 1940 Jean was getting old and wanted out of the business. He called me into the office and asked me what I thought about the business, if maybe I would would want it.
“Jean, I seem to be married to this place, I can’t seem to get away from it.” The words seemed to slip out of my mouth on their own.
“I know, he said. I have been watching you over the years, and you haven’t aged a bit. I have started to believe in that curse.”
“Me too, Jean. I tried to change out the oil, and I can’t, I can’t stop worrying about it. I really think that the curse passed to me that night.”
Jean just shook his head and handed me an envelope. Inside it was the deed to the restaurant.
“Chris, he said, you are going to live a long time, and you might as well own this place. It will give you more control over things. Good Luck.”
With that he got up and walked out the door.
Since then I have been making beignets, and contemplating my death. The curse is in full force, and I am helpless to do anything about it. You see I smoke like a furnace, and have the lungs of a sixteen year old. Hell, I even tried to overdose once, all I got was a horrible headache, and two hours of projectile vomiting.
I can’t kill myself, I can only die one way. I jealously guard the oil and the restaurant to the point of paranoia.
I am tired, and I loathe these god cursed beignets.
Would you like to be a partner in a very successful restaurant?