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A Meal Fit For...
The historic first visit of a delegation from Nurn to the court of the King of Gondor and Arnor was meticulously orchestrated. The positions of the celestial bodies had been carefully examined to determine the most auspicious date; the list of dignitaries selected to meet His Excellency, Prince Chinmoy, had been exhaustively scrutinized by both sides; the only house in Minas Tirith to meet the delegation's stringent requirements had been generously offered by its residents, who had been well-recompensed for their contribution to the State. Over the course of the past fifteen months, every detail that could be considered, had been.
Except, perhaps, for one.
"He's bringing his what?" the king asked.
"His spiritual advisor, Karoli Baba. It's a very great honor, actually; I understand he has not left his monastery for eighteen years," Faramir replied, his eyes glowing with suppressed excitment.
"Eighteen years! What has he been doing?"
"Praying, and teaching, and corresponding with Prince Chinmoy, apparently. I've tried to procure some copies of Baba Karoli's writings, searched the Archives, sent students to look in all the bookshops, but we've found nothing; very little pertaining to Nurn at all."
The king motioned towards the tray of fruit and cheese on his desk; the Shire custom of Elevensies had been embraced in the Citadel with great enthusiasm. Faramir sat down, stretched out his long legs, and helped himself to an apple.
"All right, we are duly honored, " said the king. "What effect will this have on the preparations already in place? It won't take another year to rearrange them, will it?"
Faramir rifled through his notes. "No, I don't think so. Let me see. Hmm....'south-east facing chamber'....'sleeping pallet refilled daily with beech leaves'....'does not eat the flesh of any creature, not any food that is derived from a living creature.' Oh-oh. 'Out of respect to Baba Karoli's beliefs, neither do we eat any proscribed foods while in his company, and request others also to refrain from doing so. Please plan accordingly.'"
Aragorn Elessar paused, surveying the chunk of good Ithilien cheddar in his hand. "Does that mean what I think it means?"
" 'No flesh of any creature, nor any food derived from a living creature.' That's pretty clear, I'd say; no meat, eggs, milk, cheese, honey..." Mag passed the papers back to Faramir.
"Honey? Really? Oh, of course, I should have thought of that."
"No matter; you can always use almond milk, or rosewater, if you need to sweeten something," Mag replied absently. "Who's the cook in the Citadel now? It's not still Risthir, is it?"
"I don't think so. To be honest, Mag, I have no idea, but whoever it is, we can't take a chance on anything going wrong."
"Ha! I remember now, it's Malfin. What a ninny. I met him in the market once; he didn't know a pattypan from a kabocha. He'll make a hash of things, that's for certain. Get him out of there, send him home to Lamedon for a few weeks, or have someone break his wrist; he can't cook without waving his spoon about like a battle flag. I'll be up there as soon as he's gone to take a look around."
"Then you'll take care of the banquet? The menu, the ordering, the cooking and serving...everything?"
Mag's eyes gleamed with laughter. "Of course I will, darling boy, I mean, my Lord Steward. You don't have to worry. I'll take care of it all."
A Feast of Threes
I set myself the challenge of planning a multi-course feast free from meat, eggs, or dairy products. It wasn't all that difficult, thank to the Internet, and particularly the search feature on Vegetarian Times - I just plugged in "vegan" and was all set. To be reasonably authentic, I eliminated tofu in any of its forms, pastas, and contemporary ethnic recipes. For an additional challenge, I visualized a late winter/early spring feast, relying mainly on foods that would have been staples of the late winter pantry: dried beans, squash, onions and other root vegetables, as well as those that might have been coaxed from an early garden: peas, spinach, asparagus. The oranges might be considered "luxury" items, but hey - it is the King's table, after all. And while the foods themselves might be vaguely authentic, the recipes definitely are not - though I'm sure Mag could have done marvelous things with a ready supply of frozen phyllo dough.
A birthday ficlet for Meggins - December 25, 2008
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