Story for the day: Acquired Taste
|Rautu does not like your twigs|
It was morning and the coming of the sun roused the Diras castle keep. The kitchen fires were lit, the yeoman and servant’s quarters stirred, and while the nobles in the royal quarter claimed it was far too early for morning tea or for any animation beyond a rolling over in bed, everyone else in the keep was disposed to glory in the fineness of the coming day.
The commander walked down from the commons to the kitchen where she found Alasdair at his usual spot by the table. She said her hellos to Martje as she passed and took a place beside her king, but instead of finding him deeply invested in the herald’s morning report, poring over his parchments with his cup of tea balancing between his thumb and forefinger, he was sitting and contemplating a strange object.
A box had been laid on the kitchen table by the yeoman for the king’s perusal. The delivery had come a very long way and it was imperative that Alasdair inspect and consider its contents directly, but upon opening the parcel Alasdair was surprised to find its contents were not what he had expected. The lined box contained a consumable item, one that Alasdair had never before seen grace the shores of the south. It was a small, thin crisp article dusted in a brown powder. It much resembled a fallen branch and Alasdair was hesitant to taste it due to the mellifluous aroma emanating from it when the item itself seemed to be anything but dulcet. He regarded the note that came with the package and once the identity of the sender was known to him, he was inclined to try one though he feared doing so may kill him. The defeating crunch of the object was not as deplorable as its taste and Alasdair was inclined to spit it out until the commander’s presence impeded him from doing so with all possible decency.
“May I ask what those are?” the commander charily said, pointing to the twig-like item in Alasdair’s hand.
“A present from Ladrei,” the king moaned, passing her the note that came with the parcel. “Supposedly, these are a Lucentian delicacy.”
“And yet you appear disgusted and vastly unamused.”
Alasdair’s dour expressive and squinting eyes betrayed his abomination of the item and he winced in agony as he ate the remainder of the one he had started. “I was told they’re an acquired taste,” he groaned, chewing with increasing displeasure. “He tells me in his letter that these are a favourite in the Lucentian royal house.”
“And you’re inclined to believe a guild lord and assassin?” the commander fleered.
“He never said they were good. He only mentioned they were a luxury.”
The commander laughed as Alasdair sighed and took another one from the box. “Did you try these, Martje?” she asked the cook.
The fat woman turned around and spied the box with mistrustful eye. “Ha!” she said once recognizing the twig-like treat. “You’ll never get me near those, kin.”
The commander was only further intrigued by Martje’s refusal, as she believed a woman so large would be disposed to try anything once, and retrieved one of the powdered twigs for her own assessment. The rough contour and deceitful smell excited her interests. She licked the surface of it and though the taste was unique, it was not beyond edibility as Alasdair had made it seem. “Have you allowed our beloved queen to sample these?”
“By the Gods, no. I wouldn’t do that to Carrigh,” Alasdair grunted, still munching on his second piece.
“Are you thinking of importing them to share your horror with our people?”
Alasdair could make no answer. His mouth was too fixed in frown to say anything beyond a few muffles.
“Shall I ask why you’re still eating them?” the commander laughed.
“Ladrei sent them all this way. The least I can do is try to like them.”
“You could toss them in the bay and allow the gulls dispose of them.”
“I doubt even those vultures would eat these,” Alasdair said, wincing and resting his cheek in his hand. He finished his second piece and for no reason he could fathom placed his hand inside the box to have another.
“Are you certain these don’t contain a certain additive substance?” the commander asked, marveling at Alasdair’s resilience. “You know Ladrei would place anything in your food if only to see you visit the latrine tower instead of the courts for the chief of the day.”
“That would be a more endurable punishment than this. Let’s see how well you do.” Alasdair bid the commander to eat the one in her hand and he waited for a contortion of aversion to follow the first few bites, but his expectations were unfounded.
The commander chewed and contemplated, and unfortunately for the king found their taste rather interesting. “I daresay they are different. The taste bears the semblance of burnt toast dipped in tree sap.”
“I cannot believe you like them,” Alasdair said in shock.
“I don’t know if I like them so much as I find them fascinating. Even their shape is remarkable.” The commander stopped and heard the telling sounds of her mate approaching from the main hall. “Perhaps we should allow my mate to try them. He shall give you a verdict.”
The Den Asaan entered the kitchen and before he could make his usual glares at Martje, his mate trotted toward him with the twig-like fare in her hand for his delectation. He asked what it was, he was told they were indescribable, and though the item did not look edible, he was inclined to do better than the king had done. He placed it into his discerning mouth, sucked the powder from the surface and allowed the hardness of it to dissipate. The taste was incommunicable and he had difficulty deciding whether he liked it or detested it.
“It shall take you at least ten of them to decide, I am certain,” the commander laughed. “And then after you have eaten more than half of them, you shall claim they are barely tolerable.”
Rautu could not refuse his mate’s testimony and instead of endeavoring to make an excuse, he went to the table to have another.
While the commander was enjoying her mate’s enthrallment with the odd Lucentian delight and Alasdair’s disenchantment with the same, Soledhan made his morning appearance by way of the yard. The child and his shadowing Themari came into the kitchen for their morning commune and upon entering the kitchen, Soledhan was given one of the Lucentian twigs. He spied it with some confusion, having little idea if it were a toy or something suitable for eating, and one was as well given to his Themari who declined it, as he declined most of Frewyn’s fare.
“You are the smarter for it,” the commander whispered to the Themari, nodding for him to watch Soledhan impending reaction.
Once the child had placed the item into his mouth all his smiles and cheerfulness vanished. “Mhuri!” he shouted, and his expression was stuck in a scowl. He flinched at every bite, waving his hands about as he tried to swallow what was given him. “Iimaa,” he groaned, shaking his head to rid his mouth of the taste. “Utaa, Iimaa tried to poison me.”
The Den Asaan exerted a small humph and mussed his child’s hair while the rest of the party erupted in laughter.
“I did not teach him that, Amhadhri,” the Themari promised.
“Never,” the commander said smilingly. “I know who would, however.” She passed a sagacious look to her mate, who was busy with telling their child which poisons were used in Amghari training, and she shook her head for her assumption, enjoying the crisp sounds of the Lucentian oddity resound through the kitchen as she took a few more from the box.