November 19, 2018


The Aser Stories 21: Gourmet Dining


"Who eats this stuff, anyway?"

Margot the Troll and I headed along the coastal road south of the lands of Ur, peaceably sampling beaches and spas. We'd met at Promontory Hot Springs, and found that we had some mutual interests, namely seafood and lounging around to finish out the summer. A long day's walk got us to Elvenwood Creek, where a small sign advertised a market and craft fair being held at the Elvenwood Creek Club and Spa, a gated resort. Margot and I fished out a silver piece for the entry fee, and as food is right up there on the list of priorities when you've been walking all day, we decided to stop and watch a cooking exhibition. Gaily colored tents were set up with tables of dishes and ingredients, and in front of the tents, grills burned evenly for the chefs to prepare their culinary artwork. We made our way to the front of the small crowd, which was easy, as people tend to get the hell out of a troll's way with no argument.

The afternoon specialties were prepared for the appreciative crowd to buy, and the recipes generously available so that participants could duplicate the gourmet fare in their own kitchens. The center table showcased a "Savory Beef Stew," another "Summer Pancakes" and a third, "Lemon Ice Granita."

I looked at Margot, and she raised her eyebrows at me dubiously. The cooking smells were a bit strange. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," I told her, and purchased a small bowl of the Savory Beef Stew, with its complimentary recipe card.

Now as a hedge shaman, I have been able to subsist on some of the most basic calories that humans can eat -- for instance, bits of seed heads plucked from grasses, maybe the occasional roast frog. But there are dishes that just defy my imagination and outrage my digestion. This beef stew was one of them. There is a picture in my mind that includes taste of a hearty beef stew, maybe served with hot crusty bread and a cold beer. My mind doesn't have such a limited experience in the world, not really, but it was unable to recognize the taste of the bowl of stuff as being beef stew. The beef was there, visible, and some onion, some tomatoes, and then a sweet pepper, and some very hot peppers, some pickled peppers, and a lot of hulled nuts; the recipe card listed these things, plus cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and -- molasses.

Aser and Margot the troll visit a food festivalThey say that the recipe can be found nowhere else on the coast. I can understand why.

Being polite, I offered the bowl to Margot, who said. "No thanks. Nobody should have to pay to have theirself poisoned."

"I don't think it's poisonous. At least not two or three bites worth."

"People use cloves to disguise gone-over meat," she groused.

"No, wait. That I would be able to tell, even with the spices." I put the bowl of alleged food on a side table.

Perhaps if I was hungry enough, I wouldn't mind all the spices disguising the flavor of the meat. Maybe the stew was concocted by someone who didn't care for the taste of beef. "More like some vegetarian jerk figured out a way to put customers off eating anything but rice and fresh vegetables," observed Margot cynically.

We walked through the throng, and among the pieces of detritus scattered on the grass were discarded recipes for the other tables. I picked them up to see if the other foods were more promising.

"Summer Pancakes" -- well, it called for grated carrot, zucchini, and potato with chopped basil, and a topping of rice vinegar and soy sauce. You think I'm kidding, but that really was the recipe. Well, they added a beaten egg to act as a glue while frying them.

The "Lemon Ice" was flavored with lemon peel and pesto. I tossed the recipe cards over my shoulder. Margot pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to me. "How about this one?" she asked, looking sly.

"Fish soup? You keep a recipe for fish soup with you while you're traveling?"

"Not just any fish soup. That is the Promontory Hot Springs Fish Soup Official Recipe." "I love that soup! This is really it? That's all the ingredients? How did you get this?" The very thought of that soup made me think of cool shore breezes and sitting on the terrace with a thick blanket wrapped around me, sipping at a hot bowl and watching the seabirds swoop along the shore.

"Made special friends with the cook," she smirked. "I got some pans in my pack. We can get all the ingredients right here at this market, and cook some back on the road. Unless you want some apple pie with zesty salsa topping, I bet they have that on the menu here."

"No, no, no," I declined. "The road, by all means."

I had a last look around at the folks watching the chefs fling about their cinnamon and basil. Most of the plates that people were holding still had the better part (or the worst part) of the servings on them. I watched an elegant lady take a tiny, tiny bite of her pestoed ice. She nodded enthusiastically at the lordly man with her, and then put her fork on her plate and conversed with a few other nobles. I didn't see her take another bite. I shook my head and turned away with Margot to the market booths.

I know that creative cookery is all about combining tastes and textures in new and exciting ways. Ketchup probably got started that way, and tartar sauce, and Reuben sandwiches. I can honor experimentation -- as long as I'm not being charged to be the guinea pig.

"Margot! We need a fresh loaf of bread to go with the soup!" ####

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-07-16

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In the same series:

The Accursed
The Aser Stories: Sidelong
The Aser Stories 80: Cabin Fever
The Aser Stories 79: Just Don't Say It Before Spring
The Aser Stories 78: Judgment Call
The Aser Stories 77: "Are We There Yet?"
The Aser Stories 76: A Bone to Pick
The Aser Stories 75: Coalition Forces
The Aser Stories 74: Flying Monkeys
The Aser Stories 73: Elspeth, Ad Nauseam
The Aser Stories 072: Starve a Cold
The Aser Stories 071: House Call
The Aser Stories 70: Dinner Dates
The Aser Stories 69: Fire in the Hole
The Aser Stories 68: The Silk Fable
The Aser Stories 67: The Simple Life
The Aser Stories 66: For What You're Worth
The Aser Stories 65: Taking a Shot
The Aser Stories 64: Second Chances
The Aser Stories 63: The Second Step
The Aser Stories 63: Second Thoughts
The Aser Stories 60: Fish Story
The Aser Stories 59: Ace in the Hole
The Aser Stories 58: Knowledge is Power
The Aser Stories 57: Animal Tracks
The Aser Stories 56: Oz Can Keep Them All
The Aser Stories 55: Small Comfort
The Aser Stories 54: Letting Go
The Aser Stories 53: In a Spirit of Healing
The Aser Stories 52: Stinkin' Kids
The Aser Stories 51: No Words For It
The Aser Stories 50: The Friend in Need
The Aser Stories 49: Run for Cover
The Aser Stories 48: On the Fly
The Aser Stories 47: Just Thievery
The Aser Stories 46: Take My Shaman ... Please
The Aser Stories 45: Hot Stuff
The Aser Stories 44: Courtesy Call
The Aser Stories 43: Adding Insult to Injury
The Aser Stories 42: Natural Selection
The Aser Stories 41: Funny Business
The Aser Stories 40: Happy Endings
The Aser Stories 39: Working Dogs
The Aser Stories 38: Taking Sides
The Aser Stories 37: Dumb Animals
The Aser Stories 36: Harsh Words
The Aser Stories 35: Endangered Species
The Aser Stories 34: Common Language
The Aser Stories 33: Legal Torture
The Aser Stories 32: Whose Fault Is It?
The Aser Stories 31: Money Talks
The Aser Stories 30: The Perils of Sympathy
The Aser Stories 29: Raccoons
The Aser Stories 28: The Ghost of Garfer Miller
The Aser Stories 27: Dynamite
The Aser Stories 26: Junk Mail
The Aser Stories 25: Rose-Covered Cottages
The Aser Stories 24: Crime and Punishment
The Aser Stories 23: Image Is Everything
The Aser Stories 22: Is As Does
The Aser Stories 21: Gourmet Dining
The Aser Stories 20: Families and How They Are
The Aser Stories 19: The Difference Between Men and Women
The Aser Stories 18: On a Silver Platter
The Aser Stories 17: Point of View
The Aser Stories 16: Easy Street
The Aser Stories 15: Moguls
The Aser Stories 14: A Mile Toward Change
The Aser Stories 13: The Price of Freedom
The Aser Stories 12: A Question of Nudity
The Aser Stories 11: Rabbit From a Hat
The Aser Stories 10: Awards
The Aser Stories 09: On A Roll
The Aser Stories 08: Raising Children
The Aser Stories 07: Crosspasses Market
The Aser Stories 06: Judge, Jury, Shaman
The Aser Stories 05:Habit and Stubbornness
The Aser Stories 04: The Wrong Question
The Aser Stories 03: The Labor of Love
The Aser Stories 02: Soup du Jour
The Aser Stories 01: Popping the Big Question
The Aser Stories 40a: Customary Behavior
The Aser Stories 36a: Madly In Love
The Aser Stories 03a: Descent to the Underworld

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