Our cheesesteaks arrive just then. Little cut up bits of meat and onion, coated in cheese. Mine has mushrooms and sweet peppers. But Wren Noel ordered Phil’s original, which has pickles and hot peppers added, and it’s all smothered in tomato sauce. Normally that wouldn’t bother me. But, seeing Wren Noel lift the sub to those blackened lips, taking a bite that causes the sauce to run from mouth to chin, I’m done in for a moment.
The sauce looks like blood on Wren Noel's face. Splatterpunk isn’t something this person is just into, it’s a way of life. I wonder how dark it gets? It might be a bit unnerving. How far down the rabbit hole has Wren Noel tumbled?
On one hand, given the creatures in my home, this could work out well. Don’t think this potential roommate would run screaming. On the other hand, I might be the one to run screaming. Not that I scare very easily. Or can actually run for more than a minute or two, even on my best day.
“So what did you buy at the shop?” Wren asks between bites.
“It’s an interesting looking game I heard of once. Supposedly, it’s based on The Great British Baking Show. Have you seen that?”
“Yes. I adore Paul Hollywood. And I love to bake, so that’s a win-win. Plus, unlike most American food competition shows, there’s less drama. Players are nicer to each other. It feels uplifting to watch, and you get more of a connection to the contestants. Do you know what I mean?”
I nod and smile. “Yeah. I feel the same way. Anyhow, so the game is sort of based on that. It doesn’t say it, of course, because I guess the creator doesn’t have the rights.”
“Have you played it before?” Wren Noel asks before digging into some fries.
“No. I saw it on a YouTube video a girl I knew from Penn State posted. In the first round, the Signature Challenge, it’s called the Start with a Twist. The judge player picks a card. It’s a well-known savory bakery item. The baking players have to make it with a twist of their own.”
“Just given whatever is around the house?”
“I don’t know. I think the game takes place over a day or two. Like the judge draws the cards on a Thursday, and people come over with ingredients on a Friday. Except I think the judge has to buy the items for the second round.”
Wren Noel nods while cleaning the sauce off lips and chin.
“So that’d be the Technical Challenge, which the game calls Loki in the Kitchen. It’s a difficult item to bake to perfection, made more difficult by some random mischief. Each player is hindered by a different mischief. A missing ingredient, a broken preparation tool, five minutes less on the clock, whatever.”
“That sounds like Cutthroat Kitchen,” Wren Noel says.
“You know what, it does. Except for only one bit of mischief instead of nothing but mayhem.”
“I do adore Alton Brown. Hands down, my favorite celebrity.”
“Yes. He’s really something.” I take a swig of my drink.
“Is there a Show Stopper round?” Wren Noel asks.
“Yes. For the Show Stopper, which is called the Jaw Dropper, players have to bake a mind-blowing dessert. Everyone does the same type. The judge picks that in advance, too. Cake, pie, cookies, whatever. I think there are ideas in the game box. Anyway, bakers have to reuse the twist from round one. So if they decided their signature, or twist, was using the color red, they now have to incorporate that color into the dessert.”
“Yeah. I think I could play without the game. But, since I saw it on clearance, I figured I’d pick it up. There might be a rule or something I missed in the video.”
“And it’s good to give money for someone’s creative ventures,” Wren Noel says. “You wouldn’t want to steal an idea without crediting the source in some way. Got to nurture people who put their souls out there for sale.”
*** 680 words
(Author's note: The game does not exist. I made it up for this story because the letter V was freaking hard to write.)