#BoxingDay story: The Crumble
Alasdair loves baked goods, much to his dismay. Holiday time ruins him.
As the meal began, everyone soon realized that the plates had been calculated to everyone’s differing tastes: a platter of cold meats, fresh lettuce, and boiled eggs was laid before Alasdair; a large bowl of steamed grains was set before for Unghaahi; a veritable meat salad and mountain of Calleen’s famous garlic potatoes was planed near Rautu, much to Unghaahi’s dismay; pasties and meat pies and hardier fare were there for the farmers’ delights; grilled potato cakes and cumin stew for Kai Linaa and her more Lucentian delectation; sprouts and roast, sweet bread and lamb shanks, all of the scents melding with one another, and everyone’s eyes keen and fixed on their specific desires. Everyone took one plate, and once they had given enough to themselves had begun passing it round the table. Unghaahi and Alasdair declined most of the dishes while Hathanta declined all and the twins, Sheamas, and Rautu declined none. Large men must have large appetites, and on holidays such voraciousness was always appeased by immense cuts of the large chicken decorating the centre of the table. Children ate from the plates of their parents, mirthful discussion was had between forkfuls, and everyone was at their perfect leisure, disposed to laugh with full mouths, give their heartfelt compliments and congratulations, and forgo the need for titles and succumb to the joys of familial openness.
Alasdair was the most gratified of the party; tired of the Your Majesties and meaningless pleasantries of court, he was pleased to have some semblance of normalcy whilst amongst those whom he loved best in the world. He laughed at everything, had adoration and smiling forbearance for everybody, and even allowed himself the smallest sliver of one of the pies, for grilled duck though laden with fat could never be overlooked. He had some terror to feel whereupon passing one of the further plates down the table he accidently discovered the dessert for the evening. His eyes flared, his breathing stopped, and his heart was besieged when he noted the large candied crumble sitting at the very edge of the table. Its buttery crust, its thick oat centre offended his conscious mind and healthy constitution. It would not have been the most terrific of all desserts to be had on such an occasion, but all Alasdair’s horror lay in the chocolate shavings, jeweled green and red cherries, and roasted pecans resting neatly on its top. It was close to him, far too close for comfort. It offended his sensibilities with its delicious looks and apparent unhealthiness.
“Carrigh,” Alasdair whispered dreadfully, staring at the object.
She was otherwise engaged with talking to Kai Linaa at present, and he was obliged to touch her arm with his finger to gain her attention. When she turned round to address him, she searched for the source of his apparent terror before noticing that his eyes remained on the crumble now in view. She giggled to herself and said, “I think It’s looking at you, sire.”
Alasdair gave her a flat look.
“You won’t be made to eat any, Alasdair.”
“Yes, I will,” he rejoined in a fevered hush. “Do you know whose house this is? Between her and Mrs Cuineill, I’ll be forced to have three of those before the evening is over.”
“I think that you secretly wouldn’t mind that.”
Alasdair sighed into a raised hand. “Please put that at the other end of the table,” he said in an agonized voice, looking but trying not to look at his baked nemesis beside him.
Carrigh obliged her husband and laughed as she watched his eyes follow the buttery delight across the table. “You may be safe from it now,” said she, “but the only way to be sure of not eating any is to either tell Unghaahi how unhealthy it is or to give it to Rautu.”
“Unghaahi only has so much influence when elders are around.” Alasdair made a sideways glance across the table at the Den Asaan, who was doing his utmost to refill his plate each time he ate something from it. “Put it beside Rautu,” he whispered.
Carrigh obeyed with a smile, and the instant she set it down on the table, the Den Asaan marked it and took up to inspect it. The rich scent of the salted butter assailed him, and though there were cherries adorning the top of sugared oats, he deemed this an acceptable dessert. He scraped the near entirety of it onto his plate, placing it between his pile of various meats and his plethora of potatoes, and picked out the red cherries for his mate to eat. Green candied cherries might do where red could not: though they were infused with syrup and did not taste very much like the fruit they once were, they looked too much like fruit, and there was all his consternation. The chocolate, though not as dark and as bitter as he should prefer, was a tolerable replacement, and though pecans were nuts and therefore questionable, he would eat them to the amazement of each. He knew there would be some remonstrances to his eating dessert before finishing his meal, but as he would be certain to finish everything regardless of which dish was supposed to come before which, there could be no objection to his precipitant habit. The violent growls of his stomach, however, hindered him for a moment. He had lifted the crumble to his lips only to pause and be thoughtful. His eyes lowered until the rumblings had passed and then he began to devour his buttery treat with all the thrums of joy that was requisite.