Story of the Day: The Importance of Breakfast
The Importance of Breakfast
Though in Frewyn breakfast was widely believed to be the most important meal of the day, there were those who were determined to feel otherwise. While the various farmers in Tyferrim, the yeoman in Castle Diras and peasantry all about the Frewyn countryside enjoyed their hearty morning meals of oat porridge, cold sausage pies, smoked bacon and coddles eggs, there were few who declared themselves sated by only having a bite of toast and a sip of tea. These, however, were usually those of foreign ancestry, for even the Frewyn nobles were disposed to have a small basin of gruel when their delicate stomachs warranted some nourishment. Those from Livanon enjoyed their sweets in the morning, expatiating the horrid state of their teeth; those from the islands reveled in their Sindhaas and Phoraas, much to the chagrin of those who disliked them; those from Marridon delighted in their baked beans and poached egg; and those from Lucentia would follow in their Prince's example and have as little to eat in the mornings as was allowable. Lucentia valued its afternoon meal as the most consequential, and therefore even when pancakes and spiced eggs from their cafes would be offered before noon, Lucentians could be little inclined to have much of them.
The subject of what was to be eaten for breakfast between and how much was ever a debate between the allied nations of the Two Continents: Frewyn declared grains, Rautu would profess meat for the islands if he could, for Livanon anything fried and drowned in syrup, and for Lucentia tea and honey and lemon was all that most of its people would take.
Kai Linaa, though a resident of the islands and Frewyn for much of the year, followed in her Lucentian customs and would have as little for breakfast as possible. This was of no consequence while on the islands, as a few bites of Sindhaas or Phoraas would do for her in the mornings, but while she was in Frewyn, this was the horror of everyone's morning. To come to the kitchen table and gather for their morning meals and to see nothing in Kai Linaa's hand but a teacup with no plate before her was ever a distress to Martje and those who shared her Tyferrim upbringing. She must have more than her appetite could abide, and Martje would tell her so while she could.
"Kin, you can't eat just that," Martje protested nearly every morning. "You gotta have somethin' else."
Kai Linaa’s answer was a small, "I'll have some toast, if it's not any trouble," and she did her utmost to hide her blushing features behind her teacup, pleased to be thought of and so well-looked after but ashamed that she could not make the keep’s cook content on this point.
Toast, however, was certainly no trouble at all, and this was all Martje's concern. While Shayne, Tomas, Sheamas, and any other man of excellent constitution was sitting at the table enjoying their immense morning meals of roasted potatoes and smoked links, Martje could not be easy with Kai Linaa's one slice of empty bread furnishing her plate. She whickered at such an evil and felt beset that perhaps Kai Linaa did not enjoy her cooking, but she was given many assurances to the opposite to quell her vexation. She could not believe this, however; a small appetite was one thing, but none at all was a Frewyn impossibility. Even when Alasdair sat at the table and had his mere two eggs with buttered bread, Martje forever worried, for to her it seemed as though both the king and Kai Linaa would eat nothing at all. She was forever fussing about his majesty needed to care for his health and bolstering his condition for the strenuous day of court, and though Alasdair listened and obliged her with all his natural good-humour, he could not deny that he was happy when Kai Linaa’s empty plate overtook the conversation.
"Thank the Gods you're here," said Alasdair in a half whisper as he perused the Herald's morning reports. "I do love Martje as I would a sister, but I think she might be trying to kill me."
Kai Linaa stifled a laugh and spied Martje with a chary look as she bustled about the kitchen. "I think she just wants to take care of you," she murmured.
"Taking care of me is one thing. Stuffing me to death is another."
Kai Linaa giggled and looked at her half-eaten slice of toast: the nibble marks around the crust and their intrusion into the center of the piece should be enough to convince Martje that she had eaten, for Alasdair seemed to be struggling with his own meal as small as it was.
"I already eat five times a day. Why must every one of those meals be enormous?" Alasdair said defensively. "If we all had the luxury to train every day as Rautu and Unghaahi do, I might not be so against eating my weight in food every morning." He quieted when Martje walked by to greet the commander, who was just entering the kitchen, and though he had moved to take the milk and the sugar for his coffee, the instant Martje’s attention was elsewhere, he swiftly took his coffee into his hand and enjoyed it plain as it was.
The commander came to the table and sat between those who would eat and those who seemed determined against it. She took a buttered roll from the table, eyed Alasdair and Kai Linaa’s abashed countenances, and smirking to herself said, "How many times has Martje scolded you this morning?"
"More than twice," Alasdair said in a disdainful hush. "Where is Rautu? Bring him in here so she can yell at him and leave us in peace."
The commander laughed and reached for the kettle. "He is in the yard at present," she said pouring herself some tea. "He went hunting with Unghaahi last night and has eaten nearly three deer worth of meat by now. I believe that quite outdoes your meager eggs and toast, Alasdair."
Alasdair scowled, sipped his coffee and said nothing, keeping his glance firmly toward the field where beyond the window he saw troops beginning to gather for their morning regime. "How do you get away with eating so little?" he presently grumbled, remarking the commander eat her buttered roll.
"While you are naturally slender, Alasdair, all the rest of the world has to strive for your figure," the commander smiled. "I, however, am fortunate to have a Tyferrim constitution, one that will forever remain the same regardless of how much or how little I eat."
"Well, that’s hardly fair."
"Would you rather be shapely or would you rather be scolded?"
To enjoy the comforts of slender hips and fitting jerkins was all Alasdair's equanimity, and he therefore must concede to being scolded if only to wear his tailored articles with such pointed excellence.
Alasdair ate the remainder of his small plate in silence, considering how little of anything he saw Dobhin, eat and though he could not speak for the High Lord's habits was certain that something equally as unfair was abroad on Dobhin’s account. He was spared the remainder of Martje's remonstrances and was allowed to leave the table with the rest of the men when he finished his meal, but Kai Linaa could not boast of so good an escape.
Everyone was determined not to acquit her heritage as the chief reason for her slender meal and each time someone got up from the table it was with a, "That's all you're gonna eat, kin?"
She made the usual excuses of not being hungry in the mornings or the hour being too early to eat anything substantial, but all this was to no purpose; every Frewyn at the table had another rejoinder for her excuses and every “but I’m really not hungry” was met with a logical contradiction. The one she especially found amusing was Shayne’s, "Aye, but you gotta eat to make yourself hungry." The whetting of her appetite had never occurred to her, and she smiled and thanked him for his advice while doing nothing to fulfill it.
The men were soon gone and Kai Linaa believed herself free to enjoy the remainder of her tea, but she was under a mistake to think that Tomas, though quiet and timid, did not have another means of making Kai Linaa eat. He did not employ Tyferrim guilt or professions of her weight; he had another way so definite as to be certain of her eating a breakfast every day for the rest of her life. ‘
While his mother usually ate in the earlier hours and did so in the comfort and ease of their own apartment in the servants quarter, he decided to bring her to the kitchen for a little morning company. Kai Linaa was delighted to see the old woman, but her looks of vicious disappointment when looking at her plate could not welcoming.
"Mrs Cuineill," Kai Linaa began with a smile. “How are-"
"Don't ye ‘how are’ anyone, girly." Mrs Cuineill interposed, waggling her boney finger at Kai Linaa's face. "Where's that breakfast?"
Kai Linaa stared at the end of the old woman's shaking finger. "What breakfast?" she said in a shrinking accent.
"The one ye don't got on that plate. Did ye eat it?" Mrs Cuineill said with a sharp glare.
Kai Linaa's smile diminished and she stared at Tomas in horror.
"Now, yer in a little bit of trouble," said Tomas with half an arch smile.
Kai Linaa sighed. She could make the usual excuses, but they would be of no use here. Mrs Cuineill was impregnable in her manner and would have her way even if it should mean Kai Linaa would be eating her way through the rest of the day. She looked to Martje for help but none came; the cook grinned at her as she passed by on her way to the ovens, and did so with such silent complacence and satisfaction as to make Kai Linaa chide herself for not eating more when the cook had offered.
"I'm not hungry today," was all the excuse Kai Linaa could find.
"Not hungry!" shouted Mrs Cuineill in misgiving. "Girly, I'm tellin' ye, if you don't eat somethin', won't I make ye?"
"But, I'll be hungry later," Kai Linaa pleaded. "I promise. I'm already starting to be hungry for dinner."
Mrs Cuineill scoffed. "Ye won't be eatin' a supper till after sundown. Ye sit at that table and I'll make ye eat somthin'. Martje, girly, what ye been feedin' this wee-un? She's so thin, couldn't I snap her in half?"
Martje made a look of feigned sorrow. "Aye, it's a shame. She won't eat nothin' I give her. I think you might do better, Mrs Cuineill."
The old woman humphed and demanded that her son help her to the kitchen so that she might feed the poor creature sitting at the table, suffering over her small cup of tea with no one to coddle her needs.
Kai Linaa began to fidget with herself, for how she was to save herself from the eggs and Westren griddle cakes was a mystery to her. She thought of explaining the Phoraas she had been used to eat every day on the islands, but any explanation would not do for the two officious women. Suddenly, the notion of how she was to excuse herself from such a meal came to her whereupon looking out the window she saw Unghaahi. He was standing in the training yard with Rautu, and having just finished his morning Kaatas was well disposed for a meal and company. She waved frantically at him, calling him over with silent mouthings of "help me." He came to her directly, but upon entering the kitchen was instantly assaulted with Mrs Cuineill's questions.
"Did ye eat a breakfast?" the old woman demanded.
Unghaahi inclined his head. "Of course-"
"Don't ye of course me, lad. I seen those little things you eat. A Frewyn lad could eat five o' those in one sittin'. Yer not gettin' away from this breakfast neither."
Unghaahi, ever civil and never wishing to have his elders feel disrespected, complied with Mrs Cuineill's gentle hints if only to sate her musings. She came soon after his sitting down with a plate of fried eggs, lard encrusted griddle cakes, thick slices of bacon and buttered biscuits for he and his mate to share. He stared at the plate in unalterable terror. How anyone could eat this, any of this, at all was a wonder to him. He was certain to be ill from eating so much grease, but the look of conviction from Mrs Cuineill and the look of dread from his mate told him that he must eat it to save Kai Linaa and appease the old woman. He took the fork into his hand, gaped at the petrifying meal and with closed eyes plunged into it with all the spirit his beleaguered feelings would allow. He ate under Mrs Cuineill’s close watch and was not permitted to leave the table until he had done.
Kai Linaa must own that the food looked appetizing, but she could not admit to eating half so much over the course of an entire day. She offered to share some with her mate to remove some of his agony, but he would not allow her to ruin her health and must be the one to sacrifice himself for her. She grimaced and felt for him as his anguish increased with every ascending forkful, but she would be saved and he would train to remove the stain of unwholesomeness, and here she must find satisfaction.
With disgusted features and heaving breath, Unghaahi finished the plate, and upon so doing felt a pang in his stomach, one of foreboding tenor that obliged him to stand from the table. A rumbling was heard, a conscious look was given, and Unghaahi hastened out of the kitchen and toward the royal hunting grounds where he would have his laments over being so proprietous even where his perfect health was concerned.
Kai Linaa smiled at her good fortune and made thanking her mate her first object whenever he should be brave enough to return to the keep, presumably once both Mrs Cuineill and Martje had left the kitchen for the day. Never again would the giant enter the keep in the morning hours and never again should he advise his mate to sit at the table without bringing something with her to ward off the evils of such a breakfast as only Martje and Mrs Cuineill could provide.
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