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Dreamflower's Mathoms II  by Dreamflower

 Author: Dreamflower
Rating: G
Summary: In Minas Tirith Sam and Pippin have a little quest of their own...


SPRING CHICKEN

Sam looked up as Pippin came into the kitchen of the guesthouse.

“ ‘Morning, Mr. Pippin. Are you all slept out?” Sam looked at him with concern--Pippin had been on the night watch for the first time the night before.

Looking rather tousled still, Pippin grinned. “I’m fine, Sam! I’m ready for some breakfast.”

“Well, I was just getting ready to make myself some elevenses, if you want to join me, Mr. Pippin. I’ve some cinnamon scones left over from second breakfast, and I was going to boil an egg--should I put one in for you?”

“That sounds nice,” Pippin replied. “Here! Let me get that for you!” Sam was trying to get the kettle off the hob while standing on the special stool that was kept in the kitchen for the hobbits. Pippin could reach the top of the stove easily without it. “Where is everyone else?”

“Well, this is Mr. Merry’s day up at the old king’s bier, poor thing. Mr. Frodo and Gandalf had something to do for Strider up at the Citadel, and I’m not quite sure where the others are.”

Pippin nodded. “I think Legolas and Gimli said something about going down to the City. An old friend of Gimli’s has a shop there, and he wanted him to meet Legolas.”

After a few minutes, the hobbits sat down to the smaller of the two tables in the kitchen, and enjoyed their meal. “So, Sam, what are your plans for the day?”

Sam arched a brow at the young Took. He’d not expected him to be awake yet, and he’d thought to be gone before he *did* wake. “I thought I’d go to the market on the Third Circle. One of the Cooks up to the Citadel told me as how there was some new foodstuffs coming in today.”

Pippin nodded. “Yes, I heard that myself last night. A lot of the Spring produce is coming in from the outlying provinces. I can come along with you!” He smiled brightly.

Sam arched an eyebrow. There had been a time once when the idea of taking Master Peregrin Took to the market would have filled him with apprehension, and he chuckled wryly. Pippin apparently could tell what he was thinking, as he chuckled as well. “I’m not seven anymore, Sam. I promise to be good.”

“Well, you are right welcome to come along, Mr. Pippin! It means we can carry twice as much back.”

Pippin’s grin widened. “That,” he said avidly, “sounds like an excellent plan.” He quickly finished his second cup of tea.

Since he was off duty, Pippin dressed in the set of hobbit-style clothes that had been made for them after their return to the City. However, he still buckled on his sword-belt. Sam gave him a look, but did not say anything. He and Frodo had carried no weapons since they’d returned. As for Pippin, if he were to be escorting one of the Ringbearers, he had no intention of going out unarmed--though he knew, as perhaps Frodo and Sam did not, that they would be unobtrusively followed by a couple of guardsmen in plain clothing.

They made their way down to the Third Circle in a leisurely fashion, each of them carrying an empty market basket. There was, after all, no rush. Both of them were happy enough to stop at the street-corners and listen to the minstrels or story-tellers, or to watch the jugglers or acrobats.

“This is nice, Sam,” said Pippin. “Merry never likes to stop for long.”

“We’ll not have a chance to see the likes of this again once we get home, Mr. Pippin. I can’t see passing it up now. It’s all something to tell back in the Shire, if you take my meaning.”

“I do, Sam. They aren’t going to believe the half of what we have to tell them.”

Sam nodded. “And that’s only if we just tell them the good parts. There’s things folk aren’t going to want to hear about at all--battles and burning mountains and such,” he said solemnly. “And I’m afraid Mr. Frodo’s not going to want to tell none of his part.”

Pippin’s expression hardened. “Then it will be up to us to see it done, Sam. He deserves to get the credit, and this is *his* story, after all.”

The three young women who had been singing finished, and the watchers all tossed coins into the small wooden bowl which they had on the pavement. Pippin tossed in one of the silver coins that the King had given him on his knighting, and he and Sam went on their way.

They soon made their way to the bustle and noise of the market. In a wide area cleared of rubble, vendors of all sorts had set up their barrows, carts or pavilions.

So far little attention had been paid them. Pippin was not wearing his livery, and most people probably took them for children. But when the two of them approached a large barrow filled with fresh vegetables, the vendor looked up sharply: “Here now, boys! No touching if you are not going to buy--oh! I beg your pardon! I see you are no children at all!”

Suddenly there was a murmuring. “It’s two of the pheriannath!” “It’s the Ringbearers!”

Sam blushed and Pippin rolled his eyes. “Here we go again!” he whispered to Sam.

“What may I help you with?” the vendor asked avidly, his dark eyes glittering with anticipation. Soon everyone would know these heroes had come to *his* barrow!

Sam looked at Pippin, who shrugged, and then at the Man. “Those are nice lettuces, I see,” he said, “and is *that* asparagus?” His face lit up at the thought of serving Mr. Frodo some fresh asparagus, which his master dearly loved.

“A dozen stalks for a copper,” said the vendor, “is my usual price. But I would not dream of taking coin from *you*!” He looked around at the spectators to make sure they were all impressed with this generosity. He was gratified to see several people nodding in agreement.

Pippin muttered to Sam, “You might as well go along with it, Sam. None of them want our money, and you know Frodo loves asparagus…”

Soon they had filled Sam’s basket with a couple of nice lettuces, some radishes and spring onions, some fresh rosemary, and a couple of dozen stalks of the coveted asparagus. As the two of them moved away, several of the spectators remained to buy from the vegetable seller, while a number of them trailed along behind the two hobbits, who had begun to feel a bit exposed.

The sounds of squawking across the way drew their attention--there was a poulterer, with several cages of birds: chickens and ducks and a couple of geese, and some sort of smaller fowl.

“How’s roast chicken sound, Mr. Pippin?”

Pippin grinned, and his whole face lit up. “That sounds absolutely lovely, Sam! I haven’t had your roast chicken since before we left, at Frodo’s birthday dinner.”

“Well, Mistress Firiel, in the kitchens up to the Citadel was telling me of a way they do them down here--they use them lemons, you see…”

“Really?” Pippin looked at him curiously. “I thought they only used those to make that drink--lemonade?”

“I guess not, Mr. Pippin, from what she told me, they use them for a lot of things.”

After the two of them listened to the effusive thanks of the poulterer, who wanted to make sure they knew that they had saved the lives of her sons who had been in the Battle at the Black Gate, she offered them two of the plumpest of her hens. “If you’ve other things to get, small masters, I can kill, pluck and dress them for you, and you can get them on your way back!”

Sam looked taken aback at this. “Now there’s no call to go to all that trouble, Missus!”

“Oh, no! It would be my honor, Master Pherian!”

So they went further down the street, still trailed by a crowd of watchers, and found the fruit seller. Pippin soon found his basket loaded with lemons, oranges, early strawberries, and even peaches.

Now they wandered about a bit, and every now and then someone would approach them with a word of thanks. A sausage seller offered them a sample of his wares, and a young girl with a tray of sweet biscuits and tarts did the same. They did not lack for drink, either. As they passed a tavern, the innkeeper came out, with goblets of sweet red wine.

They took it with thanks, though they would have preferred ale, and then turned to go back and get their chickens. She had just finished dressing the birds, and tied them with twine, to make them easier to carry. Nevertheless, they were rather laden as they made their way back up to the Sixth Circle.

“You know,” said Pippin “Borondir and Artamir are following us. I could ask them to help us carry this stuff.”

Sam gave him a sharp look. “Now you know that wouldn’t be right, Mr. Pippin! Why what do you suppose your cousin would say to that?” Sam gave a sniff; he’d noticed the guards, but had preferred to act as though they were not there.

Pippin pretended to misunderstand. “Oh, I suppose Merry would think it a very good idea!” he said cheerfully.

“That’s not who I meant, and you know it,” Sam said sternly. “Now, we’ll say no more about it.”

Pippin chuckled, and said “Well, it was worth a try.” But he ducked to hide a smile. It was not like he’d thought Sam would agree anyway.

Soon enough they were back in the kitchen with the food. Pippin went to the small pump by the sink and washed his hands. “Oh, Sam!” he exclaimed. “I forgot! How will we roast the chickens?”

For the spits in the huge fireplace were too unwieldy for the hobbits to handle, and so they’d not roasted anything in this kitchen as of yet.

“Don’t need a spit, Mr. Pippin. We’ll roast ’em in a pan on the hearth.”

“Now aren’t you the clever one!” He went to the basket and got the asparagus out to clean it. “Just tell me what to do next!” he said cheerfully.

The two of them worked busily for a while, their conversation mostly consisting of such pleasantries as “See how much butter is in the larder, Mr. Pippin,” “Is this enough rosemary, Sam?” and “Where’s the salt when you need it?” Soon the kitchen was redolent with the lovely smells of roasting chicken and other good things. The two of them took a break at teatime and had a couple of peaches with some of the sweet biscuits the girl had given them, along with a cup of tea. Then they got busy again, Pippin preparing a salad while Sam saw to cooking the asparagus.

“What smells so wonderful?” exclaimed Frodo, as he entered the kitchen a short while later. “Oh, you two *have* been busy!”

Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli soon made their appearance, and with help both tables were laid, and the food was being dished up. Merry was the last to arrive, looking a bit wan and thoughtful. But at the smell and sight of such a pleasant meal his face soon brightened.

Frodo was carving the chicken at the hobbits’ table, and Merry gazed about at his friends, taking in a deep breath. “I say, Pippin, I do think that you and Sam spent the day very profitably indeed! I’ll have a leg, Frodo, please!”
______________________________________________________

RECIPES:

Sam’s Spring Chicken

1 (3 to 3 ½ pound broiler)
½ stick of butter or margarine, melted
3 cups chicken broth
2 lemons
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary (or a teaspoon of dried)
Salt
Pepper

Rinse and pat dry chicken. Salt and pepper the inside cavity. Quarter the lemon and the onion. Put the garlic, two onion quarters and two lemon quarters inside the cavity, along with the rosemary. Brush the outside of the bird with the melted butter, and add salt and pepper. Truss the bird, and put in a shallow roasting pan. Combine chicken broth and the juice from the other two quarter lemons and half the other lemon; scrape in a bit of the zest if desired. Pour the broth/lemon mixture into the pan, and bake in a 400 degree oven for about an hour and a half or so, until golden brown or registering 160 degrees on a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh, basting the bird with the broth about every fifteen to twenty minutes. Garnish with slices from the last half-lemon, and serve with the broth on the side.

Fresh Asparagus

1 ½ pound fresh asparagus
½ stick butter or margarine
Salt
Pepper
¼ cup water
½ lemon

Wash and clean asparagus, snapping off the tough ends, and scraping the scaly stems with a peeler.

Melt the butter or margarine in a large sauté pan; add asparagus and stir-fry for just a few minutes. Add the water and the juice of the lemon half, and let simmer until the asparagus is crisp-tender, and the liquid is reduced by at least half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is how my aunt used to prepare asparagus fresh out of her garden. I could never get enough of it.]





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