Gruel School

Do you ever watch cooking shows on TV? We do occasionally. That’s where I go the idea for Deer Balls. Start with two pounds of ground venison; add a cup of oatmeal, half a cup of milk, one egg, chopped jalapenos and cilantro, some Worcestershire sauce, and throw in whatever spices you find in the cupboard. Roll ‘em out in balls and bake at 350 F. for about thirty minutes.

We could just call them meatballs, but where’s the fun in that? They go over big at potlucks and work well with spaghetti or dipped in BBQ sauce.

If you’re new to Friday Flash Fiction, the person whose brain is always cooking up a literary delicacy is Chef Marie Callender Wisoff-Fields. If you’d like to participate in this exercise in madness, head over to her blog for step-by-step instructions. To view the FFF Hollywood Squares Authors Block click here.

copyright - Jennifer Pendergast
copyright – Jennifer Pendergast

McDonald’s opened its first specialty restaurant this week near the Abbey of Self-Denial outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Trappist monks who live there have taken vows of silence and follow centuries-old traditions of manual labor in pursuit of the simple life.

“We’ve streamlined our menu to meet their needs,” says manager Walt Jablonski. “Our number one combo is a bowl of cold gruel served with a side of stale crackers and a cup of warm water. After a hard day in the brewery, these guys are starving for a tasteless meal with no nutritional value.”

The monks have refused to comment.

58 Comments on “Gruel School

  1. It’s time I read a lighter take on the picture! Darkness envelopes all stories I read so far (including mine). Loved the menu. I’m sure the monks nod in taciturn approval…
    Greetings from Greece!
    Maria (MM Jaye)


    • You’ll never find dark stories here, Maria. Surely, there was at least one monk who flipped the guy off. 🙂


  2. Now, who would eat oatmeal after being around all that yeast ???
    Let me put it another way — who would WANT to eat oatmeal after being around all that yeast???

    Nothing like a good venison recipe. Rochelle and Jan had me over one night for venison tacos! Deee-LISH! I would eat more venison, but the antlers get stuck in my throat.


  3. I have a feeling the happy denizens of this aptly named abbey will make trips to Sevierville where they’ll find the real thing (and girls).
    It’s a great little deceit.


  4. Dear Walt,

    We often have Bambi burgers at our house….and roast…and steak. You may have guessed that Jan’s a hunter. All this talk of food is making me hungry. As always you’ve whetted my appetite for more humor. Can I get a hot apple pie with that gruel?




    • Dear Marie,
      Sorry, no pie. We only have unflavored puffed rice cakes on the menu, and they have sat out a few days to become chewy as shoe leather.
      – Walt


      • Dear Walt,

        As I sit eating peanut butter on rice cakes I can’t help but relate to this. Such is the gluten free life.




  5. Dear Russell, Excellent story and it is such a fun read! Wow, that menu sounds yummers! You have the ability to make even the dullest food sound delicious and you could write for a culinary magazine! Now, the water is luke warm? Perfect too! I bet the Monkery ( I named the restaurant that) will be booked months out with such a delightful treat for the pallet! Awesome – my lips are already smacking! Nan 🙂


  6. Surely if they’re starving for a tasteless meal with no nutritional value then a standard MacDonald’s menu would suffice?


  7. Dear Sir,

    We ain’t going there, that’s for sure. Nice intro, again. Quit your day job and write for a living.




    • Crap, Rochelle told me not tell. Now, I’ve spoiled your surprise.
      I’d love to write for a living, but can’t imagine who would buy this crap. But thanks for the kind words of praise.


  8. Maybe you should work on a cookbook nextl — The Galumphing Gourmet? Excellent take on the archway and a slam-dunk on Mickey D’s adapting their menu to accommodate the self-flagellating set.


  9. Not much different from the usual tasty happy meal. Whoops! I guess tasty is the key here.
    I heard the McDonalds adds the special flavouring “artificial french Fry” to get your mouth watering. I don’t care. I love fries…


  10. Loved the intro and the thought of those monks in the Abbey of Self Denial toiling away making beer… how you got there, just brilliant.
    Love your zany humour.


    • I bet they tried to sneak some of those stale crackers out underneath their robes to chew on back at the monastery.


  11. Dear Balls, that’s funny! Great piece and intro. Walt Jablonski is a man after my own heart and with a concept like that McDonald’s should make a fortune. Good thing the monks have taken a vow of silence or they’d be shouting “OMG, this sucks!” Or maybe just “this sucks!” considering their calling in life.


  12. haha that was hilarious. love your crazy ideas. stale crackers as substitute for fries.. that’s just gross. lol


  13. Russell, You’ve done it again. Hilarious. XD My son calls McDonald’s the McFactory. I’ve got to say they’ve tried to right the ship. I don’t think I’ll be eating at that particular McD’s very soon. 🙂 —Susan


  14. Wonderful reportage. I think they should trying going international with that menu 🙂


  15. LOL right now, I’m sitting in McCafe trying to do some editing on my MS. I’m about to order a cappuccino to have with my salad with meatballs (beef). I’m in a quiet corner, so they won’t see I’ve bought my own food. Notice I did say “trying” to edit my MS, but the photo prompts and other flash fiction keeps whispering to me, ‘Read me, read me.’


      • I’m on a little break because I’m working on writing a book– mainly so I can scratch it off my bucket list — but once it’s done I’ll be back at my blog regularly.


      • Horray for you! I can’t wait to get a copy. Please let me know when it goes to press.


  16. I haven’t got a favourite line here, Russell; it’s just all too good! McDonalds marketing department are going to be busy the next few weeks starting up their speciality restaurant wing!


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