THE BEST MEAL

THE BEST MEAL ©
vOz / All Rights Reserved 2017

SCENE 1 / The Statue

A priest and young girl silently watch as workers prepare to place a statue honoring the Blessed Mother.
The priest looks at the girl, the girl at him. Turning toward the statute the priest bows his head and prays.

PRIEST: O Holy Father; thy forgiveness is our salvation, by grace of the Blessed Mother; grant us mercy for our sins; feed those who need be fed, fill those who whose emptiness makes them bitter, and bless our humble Master for his generosity with this wonderful gift honoring the Blessed Mother. Amen

***

SCENE 2 / Venzenita Home

Nearby “Bonita” pleads with her husband “Enrico” to stay home.

BONITA: Must you go, I plead with you Enrico; you’re ill; no one will miss you.

ENRICO: Bonita; It’s my duty, my life, my honor.
Besides, (emphatically pointing his finger upwards) no one can cook the meal like I!

BONITA: (Gently) Enrico; will people miss the meal if you don’t prepare it?

ENRICO: No… just the best!

BONITA: Deus; forgive him… (Looking to the ceiling she crossing herself)
(Exasperated Looking back to Enrico)
You’re too proud; people survive without your cooking, and will continue when you no longer cook…
(Pleading) What is a day?

ENRICO: (Extremely bothered) What is a day!
The day Enrico does not his duty, his passion; his love, is a day Enrico will not tolerate!

BONITA: (Firm) You are stubborn as a mule…

ENRICO: (Softly) And you’ve been a kind master to this faithful mule.
But like a mule; (Firm) I must work!

***

SCENE 3 / Enrico’s Childhood

Enrico Venzenita, (Ven-Zen-Nita) was a master chef. As a young boy, at his mother’s side he learned to cook. With great skill and pride, mother prepared the family meals. It was there Enrico’s most cherished memories were made.

His Mother would say;
MOTHER: “Enrico, the best meal is the meal that feeds the soul”.


She would remind him;
MOTHER: “Respect the blessings of the table, for Deus shows mercy, nourishing all who partake”.

During Enrico’s childhood, the custom was, before a boy earned the right to wear long pants, he must first learn the duties of the house. There was no difference between girls and boys, all must learn to cook, sew and clean.

Throughout his life, Enrico used these lessons with exceptional skill and devotion. Those fortunate to taste the savory meals recognized his talent. He was chosen for a position at the great house, where for many years he prepared feasts of distinction for the master and his guests.

***

SCENE 4 / Walk to Work

While walking to work, Enrico comes upon the Priest and young girl.

ENRICO: Padre, Deus be with you

PRIEST: And with you Enrico… how is your Bonita?

ENRICO: An Angel when I do as told; (sly) A Devil when I do not!

PRIEST: Be kind Enrico; only Bonita's enduring patience tolerates your disobedience. 

ENRICO: (Head bowed) Forgive me Padre; (looks at the Padre and smiles) you are so right… (They both laugh)

PRIEST: Enrico; I’m taking this poor child to the Master’s house, she has earned the honor to serve the Master and his distinguished guests on this special occasion.

ENRICO: (Enrico looks at the young girl) Dear child, what is your name?

(The girl turns to look at the Priest)

PRIEST: (The Priest speaks for her) Her name is Suzette, she is an orphan and is deaf…
Do not worry; look at her when you speak, she can read your lips.

The Sisters of the Abbey tell me Suzette is very bright and a good worker.
They want to thank the kind master for his generosity and reward Suzette.

(Enrico turns to Suzette, smiles and nods) 

***





SCENE 5 / A Meal Surpassing Any

This day was to be a day of great consequence.
Enrico knowing it’s importance is determined to prepare a meal surpassing any he’d cooked before.

Leaders from all over had been invited. Even the Master’s great rival “Don Cicci” was asked.
All past insults were to be set aside in honor of the Master’s generosity.

***

SCENE 6 / Don Cicci

Don Cicci was the boyhood rival of the Master, always jealous of his success.
Though possessing much, Don Cicci was never satisfied, demanding absolute recognition for his status as a man of importance.

It was rumored when they were boys, Don Cicci was selected to led the children in singing the Ava Maria.

But a nun overheard Don Cicci bragging to others of his high rank.
She admonished him and instructed the Master to lead the children in the singing.
Don Cicci never forgave the Master for that perceived insult.

***

SCENE 7 / Alfio

They all arrive at the Master’s house, upon entering the kitchen Enrico is welcomed by his worried sous chef Alfio. 

ALFIO: Enrico, Enrico I was worried you would not come… I have been lost without your guidance.

ENRICO: Alfio, it’s ok, I would not let my master or his guests go without, but ah you. You have been a capable pupil and soon, it will come to you to be the maestro of the kitchen. But for now, as always (roll the r’s) “learrrn”!

Enrico instructs as they walk through the kitchen.

ENRICO: Alfio, (pause) Alfio, every detail must be exact.
None less than perfect is required; and expected by our guests.
But most importantly; by us.

ALFIO: Yes Maestro, I understand, I understand.

Stopping at the stove, Enrico watches over a boiling pot. Alfio moves to get a spoon.

ENRICO: Be still; the food will cook on its own; though you must be alert.
Wait and watch; the food likes to cook. (pronounced Kook)
But, if not looked after, will consume all for its own pleasure; leaving none for the guests.
(Loudly) Don’t let it Burnnnn.


***

SCENE 8 / The Great Hall

The priest and Suzette enter the Great Hall. Activity everywhere, workers scurrying left and right. Signore Bandino “captain of service” is contemplating the seating arrangements. Fretting over where to strategically sit each guest befitting their rank and importance. 

The priest takes Suzette to Signore Bandino.

PRIEST: Ciao, I see you are very busy Signore Bandino.

BANDINO: Si Padre; much to do. How may I assist you?

PRIEST: It is I who has come to assist you Signore Bandino. I bring you this child Suzette.
She cannot hear, but is very bright and learns quickly. She wishes to help in anyway.

BANDINO: Yes indeed, there always is a place for those who help.

PRIEST: Then I will leave her to your care.
Just look at her and speak what you need, she will read your lips and do as you say.

The Priest looking at Suzette

PRIEST: My dear child, do as Signore Bandino asks. I will return later to bring you back to the Abbey.

BANDINO: Grazie Padre, I will take great care of your Suzette.

After thanking the priest Signore Bandino spots Alfio coming from the kitchen. 

BANDINO: Alfio, Alfio, come here.

BANDINO: This is Suzette. She lives at the abbey and is here to help.
Take her to the kitchen and show her were the table settings are stored.

Turning to Suzette Don Bandino points to the tables. He then tells her to follow Alfio and retrieve the table settings and place them on the tables before the guests arrive.

***
SCENE 9 / Attendees Arrival

Excitement and joviality abound, as one by one the guests begin to arrive.
Signore Bandino watches the workers, directing all as they rush to complete tasks. 

Aromas fill the hall, escaping the kitchen each time the door opens bringing this or that savory dish to the tables. Enrico, overseeing all, knows this will be his final and “Best Meal” he’s had the privilege to prepare for his Master.

***



SCENE 10 / Seating of Guests

As guests arrive, a commotion is heard outside the hall. A man nudges his way through the crowd. 

DON CICCI: Scusa, scusa.

Don Cicci, impatiently moves through the gathering. He spot’s the Mayor near the front, pushing harder to get to him. 

DON CICCI: Out of my way, move; I must get to the front…

He’s about to reach the mayor when suddenly the doors of the Great Hall open.
The mayor and his party enter the Hall leaving Don Cicci in the wake.

***

SCENE 11 / The Mix-up

While Signore Bandino is busy with the guests, Suzette, notices a table setting is missing. 

In the kitchen, Enrico sends Alfio to the hall to see after the food. 
Suzette, hurrying to get a table setting enters the kitchen. 
Alfio, turning to go to the hall, slams into Suzette, sending her to the floor.

ALFIO: Signorina, Signorina…

Suzette, dazed, catching her breath looks up at Alfio.
Alfio stunned at what just happened, looks directly into her eyes and immediately is smitten.

ALFIO: Are you okay? 

Suzette nods yes, Alfio extends his hand to Suzette, she smiles taking his hand.
Once up Suzette continues into the kitchen. Alfio, follows her as she gets the table setting. 
Suzette turning to return to the great hall, looks at Alfio, who sheepishly asks. 

ALFIO: Ah, may I help you? 

Suzette pleased, smiles. Alfio; stung by Cupids arrow, returns her smile.

When looking for Love, Love’s difficult to find.
But when the eye sees, love seizes, love finds, love binds …

As they enter the Great Hall people begin to come in. Don Bandino motions for Suzette to come to him.
Suzette looks at Alfio, hands him the setting and points to the area where it’s to be placed. 
Suzette smiles and goes to Don Bandino, Alfio goes to place the setting. 
   
***


SCENE 12 / The Insult

Once inside the great hall, Don Cicci moves to the tables reserved for prominent guests.
As Don Cicci is about to sit down he is greeted by Signore Bandino.

BANDINO: Good day, may I assist you?

DON CICCI: No!

BANDINO: Are you with the Masters family?

DON CICCI: No!

BANDINO: Are you one of the Master's friends?

DON CICCI: “Annoyed” No!

BANDINO: I’m sorry sir, these tables are reserved for family and friends. May I show you another? 

Indignant, Don Cicci turns to walk away, when he spots the Mayor speaking to several dignitaries.
As he starts toward the Mayor, Signore Bandino politely says;

BANDINO: Sir, I have just the right table for you; if you please, follow me.

The Mayor then steps up to the podium, Don Cicci thwarted once again, reluctantly follows Signore Bandino.

***

SCENE 13 / The Blessing

All the guests now seated, the Mayor asks the priest to bless the meal.

MAYOR: Padre would you kindly give the blessing. “The priest Rises”

PRIEST: O Holy Father, may this meal be a blessing for all who hunger. Whose thirst be quenched by grace of the holy spirit. We receive this gift from the Master, whose mercy is great, who teaches; love of thy neighbor, is love of thyself, and so doing is eternal peace; for “the best meal, is the meal that feeds the soul” ... Amen

SCENE 14 / The Kitchen

In the kitchen, Enrico oversees every detail. Tasting foods, watching the preparations. All he’s learned as “maestro of the kitchen” he uses to create his grand finale, this glorious masterpiece of a meal. 

ENRICO: Exact, exact; we must be exact, measure twice before you cut; watch, be careful.

Enrico knowing this to be his final and “Best Meal” is pleased at what he sees.
Proud of his staff and their efforts, Enrico with great pride says to all.

ENRICO: MAGNIFICO …

***

SCENE 15 / Deus & Diablo

Enrico’s father was a laborer on the master’s land. He came from a poor village where it was claimed, Deus and Diablo never visited. The rumor was, as hard working and virtuous people, their faith and deeds satisfied so much, that Deus was not needed. And due to their poverty and suffering Diablo was pleased, seeing this as a sign of his worldly victory. So, the villagers toiled in humble obscurity praying for the best, knowing the worst.

SCENE 16 / The Walkout

Now seated, Don Cicci, looks around at the gathering and is not pleased, feeling slighted, not to be set at the main table. 
While the servers bring food to the tables, Don Cicci notices his placements are not in the correct order. The proper setting should be, fork to the left of the plate, knife to the right and spoon next to the dull side of the knife. In Alfio’s rushed attempt assisting Suzette, he misplaced the fork with the spoon. 

Seeing other guest's table settings correctly placed, Don Cicci is further agitated by his perceived ill-treatment. 

The mayor rises to give a toast.

THE MAYOR: My Dear Friends, the Master reminds us; To get; we must give…

As the mayor ends his toast, Suzette sets a plate in front of Don Cicci. He calls out to her, but Suzette has turned to attend to the next guest. Enraged, Don Cicci, throws down his napkin, abruptly rises from his chair, bumping into Suzette, spilling a plate of food on another guest as he loudly yells:

DON CICCI: Enough, enough, I’ve had enough… 
What a joke; this occasion, this Master, this meal; it is not fit for a dog.

Turning to leave Don Cicci glares menacingly at Suzette frightening her to tears.
Scowling as he rushes out, all in the hall all are stunned. 

Hearing the commotion, Alfio runs into the great hall. Seeing Suzette in tears, he rushes to her. 
Not understanding what she’d done, Suzette points to the plate set before Don Cicci.
Alfio picks up the plate, puts his arm around her and takes her to the kitchen.

***

SCENE 17/ Trash Bin

Once in the kitchen the priest takes Suzette from Alfio and exits.
Alfio with the rejected plate of food in hand asks Enrico. 

ALFIO: Maestro what should I do with this meal.

Enrico looks at the plate and says;

ENRICO: You heard, Don Cicci; “The tongue has no bones, but breaks many” …
(dispirited in a low voice) Feed it to the dogs.


Alfio, doing as Enrico instructs, puts the food in a bag and takes it to the trash.
While Alfio returns to the kitchen a dog searching for food grabs the bag with his teeth and scampers off.

***

SCENE 18 / Walk Home

The Priest, Suzette and Enrico dejectedly walk home, stopping at the Statue of the Blessed Mother. The Priest comments how the guests enjoyed the meal.

Priest: The meal was excellent. The guests enjoyed themselves. I overheard several say, the spices were superb.

Enrico: Oh yes, the spices were superb. Padre, do you know what the best spice is?

Priest: Well, I guess it would be to individual taste.

Enrico: No padre; there is one spice that makes any and all food taste good.

Priest: Hum, okay; Tell me Enrico.

Enrico: Hunger.
My mother would say “the best meal is the meal that feeds the soul”.
But one need hunger for more than just the taste of food.
They must give as Deus gave to us; “Respect the blessings of the table, for love, nourishes all”.

The priest understanding what Enrico has said, looks to the statue.

PRIEST: Blessed Maria, comforter of the sick, refuge for the weary. Pray for us sinners in our great time of need and at the hour of our days’ end. Amen

They each make the sign of the cross, and go their ways. 

***

SCENE 19 / Blessed Mother

The night’s moon glows radiantly upon the Blessed Mother.

Behind the statue at her base, an old man sick and weary, lay at rest.
Out of the shadows, through rustling brush, a sack is gently placed beside the old man. 
Seeing his faithful friend has brought him a gift, the old man smiles and rubs the pups head.

He opens the sack, to find he has been blessed with a magnificent meal.
Overcome, he looks up to the Blessed Mother; a tear in his eye, the old man reverently bows his head;

OLD MAN: Our Father whom art in Heaven, blessed be thy name…

***

SCENE 20 / The Lesson

How we live is the measure of our lives. 

All People Die; Some at War, Some in Peace…

FIN / THE END