Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “food

Elevenses: Showing The (green) Love

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are all feeling the love this morning? The time is of course eleven o clock and we are ravenously eleven o clockish and remorselessly revved up with romance so let us see at once what our gorgeous werewolf butler has cooked up for us this morning…

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Absinthe ‘Show The Love’ hearts… but these devilish delights are more than just a romantic gesture from a woman with the brains and demeanour of a rabid dog; we are offering them here today to show our support for the Show The Love Campaign  …

“Hand made hearts can move worlds. Make, wear and share your green heart. It’s a beautiful way to begin a conversation about the things we love that climate change threatens, and the clean energy choices we must make to protect our world. Hand-crafting a heart is a moment to share with a loved one, with family, with friends, with your community – and beyond via #showthelove. See the amazing hearts others are already creating.  “

 

Sustainable energy is just as important to us here in The New World as it is to you in your dimension – from cream-powered landships to GORGON energy generators, we are doing our bit to help the environment.

If you’d like to get involved in this festive environmental endeavour there are several ways you can find out more…

Check out some of the fantastic blog posts from ‘Queen Of Green Hearts’ Nimue Brown who has her finger on the pulse where all things green and hearty are concerned:

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/climate-change-show-the-love/

Visit the official website and get some hearty inspiration for making your own beautiful green heart talking pieces:

http://fortheloveof.org.uk/

And if you’d like to make Klapka’s lovely absinthe green heart fondants,   here’s the recipe:

500g icing sugar, 1 beaten egg white, 1 tsp green food colour, 1 tsp absinthe (or any flavouring you like)
Mix it all together then knead it into a soft dough and roll it out, cut out your hearts and sprinkle or drizzle them with your choice of toppings. Leave for a short while in a cool place to firm up then serve.

 

 

We wish you a very splendid afternoon and do feel free to leave a link to your own #sharethelove green heart projects in the comments section…


Morning Cuppa: Spoon Duelling for beginners

Good morning Ladie and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously spoontastic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True some have called it an unfulfilling place of half baked fancies, bad eggs and drastic measures, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

This morning you find us about to engage in the noble art of the festive spoon duel. We understand that in your dimension you settle your disputes by duelling with tea but, frankly, we find it hard to understand the mechanics of such a thing – do you hurl the tea at eachother? Or are the cups somehow used as foils?

Here  in the New World we settle our disputes with a series of Parlour Affairs, one of which is spoon duelling (or Spuelling if you are feeling lazy). Spoon duel challenges are usually reserved for the Wizmas period.

In case you are not familiar with the art and history of the spoon duel let us enlighten you:

Spoon duelling began during the Ancient Egyptian era and was reserved for religious ceremonies in honour of The Goddess. Ornate spoons made of wood, flint and ivory were carved with hieroglyphs pertaining to tea, cake and magic.

Archaeological evidence suggests that it was in Ancient Greece that spoon duelling moved from being a religious ritual to an event used by the upper classes to settle disputes in a sophisticated fashion. Silver and bronze spoons were used during this period and spoons in the British Museum can still be seen which bear the scars of spoon duelling.

By 1259 CE (Cakeless Era), spoons had become a symbol of power. Royal monarchs were anointed with a special spoon to mark their coronations. The wealthy displayed the many battle-mangled weapons of their defeated opponents while the peasants were left spoonless to slurp soup with their bare hands and stir their tea with their burnt and blistered fingers.

Discontent began to stir the soul of the general populous and The Great Spoon Uprising of the Renaissance period lead to greater equality in cutlery which in turn lead to a greater diversity in spoon design. In joyous celebration of the noble spoon, artisans sprang up in every town, flooding the market with an array of spoons for every occasion.

Soon  there were Caviar spoons (made of mother of pearl), Dessert spoons, Tea spoons, Fruit spoons, Runcibles (Max’s favoured weapon), Iced tea spoons, Jolly Long Spoons, Demitasse spoons, Chinese spoons, Bouillon spoons, Parfait spoons, Rattail spoons, Salt spoons, Seal-top spoons, Bar spoons, Caddy spoons, Slotted spoon, Mote spoons, Mustard spoons, Cheese scoop spoons… not to mention the cochlear ritual and anointing spoons, ear spoons, nose spoons and new born spoons (for ladling out babies)…

By the time Queen Vic came to the throne The Good Folk were screaming for regulation and one of the first papers to pass through parliament was the Standardisation Of Kitchen Utensils Act which introduced the standard issue spoons, tea cups and other tableware permitted for use today.

Obviously underground artisans linked to the Arts and Crafts Movement have sprung up across the scattered isles to produce illegal cutlery of the most impractical and extravagant artistic merit …

Hm? Sorry? Oh yes, Max says I should stop the history lesson and get on with the thing… you know for a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does interrupt an awful lot…

So, the noble art of spoon duelling :

Each competitor sits opposite the other at a tea table. (Historically, spoon duelling was a standing affair and opponents would attempt to crack eachother over the top of the head with a battle cry of ‘bad egg!’. After hats became fashionable the aim then became to knock the opponents’ headwear to the ground. This type of spoon duelling was outlawed by King George in 1721 CE. Of course there are those who claim to have revived it in some sort of secret- society- boys- club- thing… but we’re not sure we believe them…)

A point (or hit) is scored when one competitor taps the centre knuckle of their opponents’ spoon-hand with the back of their spoon. Three hits are needed to win the duel.

A hit is established thus; each spoon is moistened (traditionally with cold water but some vulgar persons lick their spoon and spiteful ones have been known to stir their scalding tea) and then dipped into coloured chalk. The chalk mark left on the back of the hand makes it easier for adjudicators to judge whether or not a hit is legitimate.

The spoon hand or wrist must remain in contact with the table at all times and the other hand may be placed behind the back, on the hip or above the head as preferred but never upon the table, knee or chair.

 The winner takes the spoon of the defeated competitor as a trophy and many people choose to display their hard won spoons upon their hats, waistcoats, parasols, bed posts and parlour walls. 

So we will soon be packing our runcibles into their leather holsters and heading into town to witness, and hopefully take part in, some festive sport. But before we do that we must tighten the belts on our dressing gowns, pour ourselves a morning cuppa and see what our little dust sucking friends have been up to in the night…

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Hm, Gnii fishing eh? I’m not terribly fond of fishing now, having done so very much of it in the sunken city of Hull. Fish – delicious, but the getting of them? I would much rather visit the local monger rather than run the dispiriting odds of catching other ocean debris., the things you humans throw into the ocean sets my tentacles shuddering. Anyway… let us forget all that and dip our tentacles into  our seasonally spicy tea which should give us plenty of zest for the morning is this superb ginger rooibos from craftteacompany… 

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Splendid, and now we must button up tight and head out into the cold dark alley ways of Lancaster and find ourselves a shady little tavern where we can lay a few bets on a spoon wrestling match (it’s similar to the duelling but for Ladies only and so there are less rules, more name calling, eye gouging, spork scratching, hair tangling etc and it all gets a little rougher and therefore more interesting, especially when the wigs come off…)

We wish you an utterly ineffable morning chockablock with spoonfulls of fun and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then

please be always

Utterly yourself

 

 

 


Elevenses: Two Spurtle Gloves

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! You find us this morning in a state of oaty bliss as we gleefully anticipate The Annual Wizmas Golden Spurtleglove Oatcake Championships (we understand you have something similar in your own dimension?) 

Of course cake is illegal here in Ire but oatcakes (those foul impostors ) are permitted ‘in moderation’ provided salt is used to flavour them and not sugar.

 If you are not sure what spurtle gloves are let us enlighten you – the spurtle glove is an oversized oven mitt used for oatcake flipping and a golden one is made in Lancaster every year and given to the contestant who can faultlessly flip the most oatcakes in six minutes.

 The judging is conducted by three highly trained oat flip observers and presided over by Lord Ashton himself but there are also smaller prizes for the most original oatcake creations and these are voted on by the general public.

 Last year some of the winners in the Innovative Oatcake Recipe section included Chorizoat Cakes, Plum Compoat and Chocoloat pudding.

 The best part by far, though, was the riot which began when the voted winner of the Oatcake Sculpture section (a truly gargantuan oatcake with a smiley face put on with raisins) was declared by Lord Ashton to be “An offensive and infantile attempt at insubordination and mob-rule.” He then proceeded to disqualify the oat face (an irony which will probably only be appreciated by our British friends) and award the prize to a detailed oatcake sculpture of Lord Battenberg, the noted explorer, instead.

 Lord Battenberg’s donations to Ashton’s extensive collection of arthropods is no secret and the furious crowds stormed the stage, seized the judges and began hurling lumps of the hated Battenberg into the River Lune. In the end Ashton had to call his man eating Liver Birds and we all fled for our lives… but it was worth it. All jolly good fun!

 It is frankly difficult to imagine a scenario that would upstage that little fiasco but we are keen to see if Penny is up to the task. In the meantime we wish you a delightfully oat-free elevenses, crammed with illicit sponge and belligerent fancies and we leave you with this little message from our festive parlour companions, the dust cats…

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Elevenses: Mad March Hats

Good morning ladies and gentlemen I hope we are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock and we are ferociously armed to the back teeth with tiffin but, before we launch our assault upon our stomachs, let us take a moment to perform our sacred tea ceremony for the month of march…

March was invented by The Powers That Tea, so that all honest tea fiends might have one sacred month in the year when we can inflict massive amounts of joy and jubilation upon the rest of humanity and try to convert them to our divine cause.

The Sacred Tea for March is ALL TEA.

Ceremonial Garb:  The Mad Top Hat

The Scared Ritual for the first of March is as follows:

The Chant:

 

There is only one leaf, and its name is ‘all leaves’

            There is only one kettle, and its name is ‘all steams’

            There is only one pot, and its name is ‘all pots’

            There is only one cup, and its name is ‘all cups’

            There is only one brew, and its name is ‘all brews’

The Oath:

I solemnly swear to accept the gift of the month of March as a month for spreading mischievous amounts of joy and tea-inspired jollity to those around me. I will honour the Powers That Tea by drinking All Tea with respect and acknowledging that tea is a divine gift to all, not to be hoarded or monopolised by one group of greedy guzzlers. As a mark of this vow I will wear my Mad Top Hat every day during the month of March.

 

There, now that we have the formalities out of the way we can indulge our true motive which is of course to get all punked up in fabulous hats! So we have scoured the aether far and wide for the best Milliners available and here is a selection of the delights we have found…

Maison Decantern

The Hatz Meow

Black Pin

Lucy Steampunk

Liver and Monk

Rose Lace Pearl

 

And right on queue here comes our delightful werewolf butler with this amazing top hat cake tutorial from Bake King… because there’s no batter way to celebrate the month of madness that with a mad hat cake!

 

And finally all we need is some awesomely audacious audios to usher in the afternoon, so lets tune in our spirit radio and see if we can find sort something hattish …oh here we are, here’s a fantastic tune for any Potter fans out there…

 

We wish you a marvellously mad afternoon filled with as many millinery delights as you desire and until we see you again please, be always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 


Elevenses: The Language Of Flowers

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are feeling extremely eleven o clockwise because the time is indeed eleven o clock so please, Hang up your top hat of imposing mental prowess, fold down your pugnacious parasol and pull up a chair (or lemonade crate)

 

This morning our lovely werewolf butler has been out picking flowers for us… hm? Oh no, no, no don’t worry, nothing like that… we need them for the revolution. Sorry? War of the roses? Oh I see, you are trying to be amusing! Oh well done, yes…hm… but seriously now, please, these flowers which Max is diligently dismantling over there are going to play a vital role in overthrowing the queen and taking our first tentative steps towards world domination…. Hm? Oh yes, sorry, you’re right of course I did mean world liberation. Liberation from the tea time tyranny of Wiz.

 

You may be aware that Max and his fellow revolutionaries communicate with each other using coded poetry books and an unnecessarily complicated language of stamps? Well now we are attempting to incorporate Floriography (the language of flowers) as well. If you are plotting a revolution, you may wish to consider using this marvellous coding method yourself and so here, for your convenience, are some commonly used flowers and their traditional Victorian meanings to get you started…

Yellow Marquerile – I come soon

Canterbury Bell  – Your letter was received

Iris – I sent a message

Red Fuchia – I like your taste

Pinks – Yes

Wild Rose – Pleasure and pain

Poppy – I am not free

White rose – I cannot

But goodness, all this flower arranging tires one’s tentacles to the extreme, let us break for a while and see if Klapka has not been too busy flower picking to to make us something delicious for our elevenses… mmm, lemon and lavender tea cookies! They are her own recipe, and here it is…

Lemon and Lavender Tea Cookies

150g plain flower

100g butter or margarine

50g caster sugar

1 lemon zest finely grated

1 tsp hot earl grey tea

1 tsp lavender flowers

Mix all ingredients together to form a soft dough, adding a little more flour or tea as needed. Roll into a sausage shape, wrap in cling film and chill for 1 – 24 hours. Slice into cookie rounds (each about the thickness of a pound coin) and bake on a greased tray on gas 4 for about 10mins until pale gold. Leave to cool down and firm up then serve with a cup of jasmine or lady grey tea.

Delicious! And now there is nothing left to do but find some soothing music to tap our tentacles to as we nom …

 

Marvellous, we hope you have a very lovely afternoon and we invite you back to join us for our morning cuppa on Monday, until then please be always

Utterly Yourself


Soup of the day: With Darq ‘the doll with a blog’

Oh my goodness! Um…Greetings my dears! Do please excuse me…if you could just avert your eyes for a moment, I am just changing back into my usual attire…

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Wizmas is a very dangerous time to be a witch. That’s  why I have had to put on my false moustache and toupee and pretend to be my non-existent husband, Albert, to avoid awkward questions!

Nevertheless, to celebrate the fact that Wizmas is now over we’re cooking up a secret feast for all the little orphans here in the soup kitchen. Helping me this afternoon is a lady of extraordinarily adventurous inclination and impeccable fashion sense…

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My guest has a most unusual name—Darq. No last name, but she’s a titled lady on her homeworld. Those titles are—

– Princess of the Misted Moon
– Warrior-Huntress of the Mayahi Dyn
– First Daughter of Pyhanni of the White Grasses
– Granddaughter of Zukaltay of the Octal-Ute Dyn, and an esteemed Naren (a chieftain)

Darq is also the twenty-fourth daughter of the late (deceased) statesman of the Chimalli Ishi Nation. His name was Gidwi. Definitely Darq is a lady not of our world but of the Wysotti nation, a matriarchal planet in a distant solar system. Darq is also a much-decorated Wysotti starfighter pilot, the heroine of her homeworld, and it is her avatar who is my guest today! Please welcome— Darq, the doll with a blog!

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Hello Darq, it is so marvellous to have you here in Lancaster today, have you brought some cake to share?

Hello, Mrs. Baker, and yes, I’ve brought you my Fruity Cake.

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Fruit Cake? Oh, my dear, no, surely not fruit cake!

(Darq chuckles.) No, no. Fruity Cake. It’s nothing like that atrocious stuff you Earth people make at Christmas and Wizmas, which is only good for use as a fighter plane’s stop-block. Here, look at the recipe and you’ll see.

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Darq’s Fruity Cake
by Author Catherine E. McLean @2012   http://www.CatherineEmclean.com

4 eggs
1 stick of butter (softened)
one 14.5 oz can of Delmonte “no sugar added very cherry fruit mix” – not drained
one 8 oz. can of pineapple tidbits, drained
3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
1 carrot cake mix (cake can be made from scratch)

Into a bowl, pour in the cake mix, then add all the other ingredients and beat until well blended. Pour into a greased bundt pan or bundt mold. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 45-55 minutes (or until knife comes out clean). If using a 9×13 cake pan, bake for approx. 30-40 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream or pudding.
May be cooled and coated with confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) or Cream Cheese Frosting with a fresh fruit topper (mandarin oranges, sliced strawberries, blueberries, etc.)

Oh, yes, I see. Simple, quick . . . sweet . . . fruity . . . Shall we make some for the orphans?

(Darq chuckles again.) Yes. The MIBs said you liked to cook with your guests, so I brought my apron.

Lovely, now while that bakes, let’s sit and have a spot of tea. Do you have a favourite blend my dear?

I do. It’s called Xaaykop.
Xaaykop? I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it…

It’s from my home world. As a friendship gift, I brought you some.

 

Oh, my, such a lovely tea chest! Thankyou!

The artificial flowers on top of the chest are just like the real ones on my planet. Like the leaves, when the seed pods ripen, they are so dark a green they appear black. You grind and brew the tea like any regular Earth tea…

But? I hear a but.

I have to warn you, the longer you brew it, the higher the caffeine content.

Yes we do have to be careful, caffeine is strictly rationed here in The New World! Although, I have never been one to abide by rules and dictates so, how long do you like yours brewed my dear?

Until it’s darkest mahogany, and I take it with six sugars.

Hot, highly caffeinated, and sweet?

(Darq nods.) Some say the caffeine at that darkness has a kick is as powerful as a Ky starfighter at full throttle.

Well, I’ll have to take your word for that since I’ve never ridden in any starship. Now, my dear, as we have a little time while that is brewing, you can tell me about your home planet. Is it similar to ours?


In many ways. It’s what you humans call a Class M Planet. Thankfully, it’s still orbiting its sun-star.

I heard rumours of some type of doomsday curse your people were under.

That’s right. One of my ancient ancestors visited Earth and destroyed the Mayans. For that we Wysotti were cursed so that when the five thousandth year of the Mayan calendar ended, our planet and all its people were to be annihilated.

But you’re here. Alive and all is well.

And the tale of how that came to be can be found in the novel JEWELS OF THE SKY, by author Catherine E. McLean.

jewels-of-sky-frnt-preview10. BOOK

http://www.catherineemclean.com/jewels-of-the-sky.html

And what of these mysterious men in black you mentioned earlier? They’re not Wizards are they?

No. But the weapons the Men In Black have, and the alien beings they monitor, well, sometimes the technology and science seems like magic. If you are able to peer into the future, their story is accurately portrayed in the movies, which are titled Men In Black.

My, my, you lead such an interesting and exciting life. Can you tell us a little about your latest adventure?

(Darq laughs.) I’m now a doll with a blog, who is also considered a fashionista! And before you ask, the premise of my being on Earth is to act as an ambassador at large for my homeworld. My very first outing on your planet had me traveling to a cave in Mexico to be interviewed by Father Dragon (a very old Fire Dragon) who’s elves were quite the video crew.

In other words, I stay with the JEWELS OF THE SKY author, and periodically I go to events, like parties.

Parties! I’ve heard about some of those parties. Particularly this October’s Halloween party at Dracula’s Castle.

(Darq nods.) Yes, that was fun, particularly my steampunk costume. But, Mrs. Baker, parties are actually social events where more diplomacy goes on than one realizes. Yet, there are also dangers. One is that I cannot make headlines. And the paparazzi are a constant threat, so I’m always accompanied by a team of Men In Black who whisk me to exotic and clandestine locations.

Lancaster can be a dangerous place, too, what with the flesh-eating Liver Birds Lord Ashton employs.

Liver Birds!?

Yes, they keep the streets free of what the Tea Time Lords would call ‘vagrants’. If you are travelling home late tonight or planning to visit Peril again in his Lovely Library, I hope you have brought something to protect yourself with?

(Darq grins, and then, from her apron pocket, produces a small pistol)

 

Mrs. Baker, meet the Noisy Cricket.

That tiny thing? Oh, no, my dear, that will never, never do!

Don’t let the size fool you. This weapon has more power, and one helluva mule-kick when fired, than The Jackhammer, a tri-barrel plasma gun, which is a staple in the MIB arsenal. The Jackhammer is a type of raygun. So is this Noisy Cricket.

 Oh, yes, well, a raygun! Of course, Max has something similar which seems to work perfectly well. Yes, that should certainly put pay to any nocturnal attackers, be they Liver Birds, Lemonade Dealers, or Skywaymen! I now have no fears of you reaching the Skyway station in safety. More tea, my dear?

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Now then,  moving on to more pleasant things, I greatly admire those wonderful outfits you’re photographed in at your blog. Do you have any favourites?

If you asked me that before Halloween, I would have unequivocally said my top pick was the witch Evenora emerald green dress. Followed by Catherine’s favorite, the white and silver 1920’s Erte gown.

But now? Some other outfit is now your favourite?

Yes. The Steampunk Halloween Costume I wore in October.

And, my dear, I hear you have a bit of a passion for shoes as well?

(Darq laughs.) You could say I’m a shoeaholic!

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That is certainly an impressive collection my dear! You must drop by and see Max and Collin while you are in town. Max can show you the infamous ‘spot of bother boots’ and Collin will be so envious of your shoe collection as, of course, tentacles do not lend themselves readily to footwear!

So, the MIB have told me!

Ah, I believe it is time for the cake to come out…


 

There now, that’s the cake ready, we’ll just let that cool.

(Darq looks at her hat’s timepiece, then at Mrs. B.) The hour grows late. I can’t stay but a quarter of an hour more or the MIBs will come pounding on your door to get me. The time portal doesn’t stay open forever.

So true. Well, my dear, thank you so much for helping me prepare this wonderful Fruity Cake for the orphans and for the tea and chat. As soon as the cake cools, I’ll slice it up and serve it to the orphans.

And don’t forget the ice cream.

Ice Cream, my dear? What Ice Cream?

(Darq grins.) The barrel of vanilla ice cream that I brought and which the Men In Black, with Collin and Max’s help, were hefting into your cold cellar so the ice cream wouldn’t melt. Not that it would melt with the frigid night air, but we couldn’t let a barrel just set on your doorstep, now could we?

No indeed! If The Good Folk of Her Majesty’s Revenue thought I was serving Ice Cream they’d have my head! I..oh, wait, what is that?

(There comes the sound of the door knocker rapping and a voice calls “Good Folk on patrol Mrs B, thought you’d like to know!”)

Oh, dear me . . . Darq, you had better fly and I must hide all this evidence! But my dear, you surely cannot run in that skirt!

Never fear, Mrs. Baker, I came prepared for all contingencies, including ninja stars disguised as gears on my sleeve cuff and daggers sheathed in the key-holders on my unmentionables.(Darq hugs Mrs. Baker.)

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Thank you so much for inviting me to cook for the orphans. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

It is I who thank you for stopping by, Darq. And I look forward to seeing your Valentine’s Day outfit and reading your blog, we must certainly do this again some time, but now farewell and blessings on your brew my dear!

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Oh my goodness, I must quickly hide all this sugar…and the tea! Do please excuse me my dears, and do please join me here next week when Captain Piper and her trade ship The Mischief will be dropping in to help me with the soup kitchen.

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

A note from Penny…  All of the amazing photographs, dolls clothes and accessories used in this blog post were put together by Catherine E Mclean, I use them here with her kind permission.

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http://www.Catherineemclean.com

Mrs Bakers script was written by myself and Darq’s speach by Catherine. I have never interviewed  a doll before! Thankyou Catherine for a heartily enjoyable and amusing experience! 


Elevenses: Frosty Fayre

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously sparkling and frostabulously frozen parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it a frigid place of cold hearts and frosty welcomes but we consider that uch people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning, warming our tentacles beside an imaginary fire after an enterprising and entertaining morning at the fabulous frost fair which is being held on our beloved river Lune.

Our psychotic scarecrow landlord, Montmorency, woke us before dawn with the business end of his walking cane and demanded that we head out into the frozen darkness and not return until we had enough money to pay for this month’s rent. The fact that we only just paid for the last month seems to have escaped the rogue and so I perched upon Max’s shoulder and we set off towards the river.

There were already traders setting up stalls on the ice but none of them took favourably to our offers  of  assistance (it seems that Queen Vic’s recent  amendments to equality in employment law do not extend to an Octopus and a Tea Fiend) So we settled ourselves on the bank instead and watched the sun rise over the frosted spires of the sail barges which had collapsed crazily into the ice sheets and lay mired liked the skeletons of stranded beasts from some fantastical caffeine-fuelled nightmare.

Things picked up once the punters arrived. After some initial competition from a woman hawking root beer (For a Very Quite Gentleman, Max can be terribly clumsy when glass bottles are around) we managed to sell twenty bottles of lemonade (and drink many more) without being lynched by the barge folk for selling without paying the trading fees.

We decided that that was quite enough hard shirking for one morning and spent the rest of the time mooching around the stalls, watching the jugglers and fire eaters and, most impressively to me, the ice skaters. Having lived under the sea all my life, I never imagined this curious form entertainment and I am determined, soon, to beg, borrow or steal enough pairs of ice skates to attempt the thing myself.

Now here we are back in the parlour, our landlord briefly appeased, our cats greedily devouring the last of the skimmed milk ration, and all desperately in need of a reviving spot of elevenses and some soothing music to tap our tentacles to. Unfortunately our absconding butler has not seen fit to deliver the goods this morning (perhaps she thinks it’s a holiday? ‘Though what a werewolf would find to do at a frost fair we have no idea…) but not to worry because we managed to run into our lovely Mrs Baker on the way back and she has set us up with a packet of genuine Frost Fair Souvenir Gingerbread which, knowing Mrs B, will be crammed full of illegal sugar…mmm…

And, by happy chance, Max’s constant pocket companion ‘The Whole Duty Of A Woman (or an infalliable guide to the fair sex) – 1737’ (A birthday gift from a devoted family member I think) has an excellent recipe for … OWCH! …Well, really! You know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman, Max, you  can be excessively violent devoid of a sense of humour…

I was going to say, before I was so rudely interrupted by a flying teapot, that this is a recipe for ginger bread biscuits, rather than the cake which we are enjoying now but it is nonetheless share-worthy, I think…

“To Make Gingerbread…

Take a pound and a half of London Treacle, two eggs beaten, half a pound of sugar, one ounce of ginger, beaten and sifted, of cloves, mace and nutmeg, all together, half an ounce beaten very fine, coriander seeds and caraway seeds of each half an ounce, Two punds of butter melted; mix all these together, with as much flour a will knead it into a pretty stiff paste, then roll it out and cut it into what Form you please; bake it in a Quick Oven on Tin-plates; A little time will bake it.”

 

And now we’d better tune in our Tesla radio and have some soothing sounds to placate my beastly savage companion… drink your tea Max and calm yourself down, it is not becoming for a Very Quiet Gentleman to sulk like that…

 

Ah, much better, that was Smith and Burrows if you were not aware of the before they are rather marvellous. We wish you a very pleasant afternoon, filled with with warmest and spiciest of delights, and we will see you back on Thursday for something rather special. So, until then, please be always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 

 

 

 


Soup of the day: Where’s the witch?

Good morning! Albert Baker here, did you want some soup? You did? Well that’s fortunate isn’t it as this is a soup kitchen and… hic… sorry? You’re looking for my wife? A witch? Well how very dare you!

Shhh! It is me Mrs Baker!  I have cunningly disguised myself as my husband Albert in an attempt to hide from the good folk until these witch hunts are over.

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I do apologise for his drinking habits I’m afraid he is a little too fond of the brandy. Albert will be keeping the soup kitchen running throughout the Wizmas season but do not fear my dears, if you are brave enough to venture down to the Lovely Library on Friday evenings, Peril has kindly said that the orphans and I can shelter there until he returns from his ‘business trip’ and I will be reading some delightful little bedtime tales for the children so I do hope you will join us! Now, do please excuse me my dears, I must pop my disguise back in place and Albert must return to dishing up this soup from The Reluctant Entertainer, if you’d like the recipe simply click on the picture…

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Blessings on your brew my dears…er….I mean, Thankyou come again…. hic….


Pipe and Slippers:Never bet the devil your cheese

Good evening and welcome to my  rambunctious repository of valuable volumes…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

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I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public convenience! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a cheesy octopus and its tasteless Gentleman Friend, you had best turn yourself around and wander out again! You will find no dreary double entendres, no pathetic punning or ridiculous riddle-rendering down here; here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? Amontilado? A whole cask you say? And vintage cheese selection? Oh….well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps…

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Never Bet The Devil Your Cheese 

I was sick – sick unto death with the stench of that dreadful chamber; the foul odour of my captors’ fetid breath and the rank, stale fume of their wrinkled skins. I swooned and felt at once as if my senses were leaving me, the sound of their voices seeming to be curdled together into one indistinct whisper – as the whisper of cream within the revolutions of a churning vat. And as their dreadful voices churned together to determine my fate, my mind was involuntarily drawn to ponder those unhappy events that had thrown me into the power of this unholy Society…

For the last two decades my life has happily revolved around the preservation of all that it is natural, healthy and wholesome for people to consume within the city of Cagliari and its surrounding provinces. In the course of this work I have had the pleasure to dine at some of the most exquisite restaurants and luxurious hotels that our beautiful island has to offer and, although there is always the occasional exception – the unscrubbed floor, the out of date salmon, the chef whose certificates have obviously been forged – on the whole I have found the consistency of cleanliness and order to be exemplary in all establishments under my jurisdiction.

The Monday that has most recently passed was the third of the month. I remember it distinctly. Upon entering the office as usual, I noticed a file upon my desk and, curious to see what it could contain, I immediately flicked it open.

BERCEI

I instantly recoiled, as though stung by some venomous insect, I struggled to breath in the oppressive heat which suddenly seemed to fill the room and yet a cold sweat burst freely from my pores and stood in fat glass gems upon my forehead.

BERCEI

I had heard the rumours. I had thought them fables – myths spun by our elders to scare the young novice or to pass time on the long journeys between one inspection site and another. But as, with trembling hand, I turned the pages of that file, the vile truth of the matter began to dawn upon me; That hidden deep within the mountainous regions of our fair Sardinia there exists to this day a group of souls  so depraved, so foul, that their deepest desire is to feast upon what is known as, Casu Marzu – The Devil’s Cheese. This, I assure you, is no ordinary curd. The Camembert you may have tried and thought a little daring, the Blue-vein perhaps you may have been persuaded to attempt in your wild and impetuous youth but I assure you that nothing, nothing but the very rotting of a man’s mind and moral fibre could induce a human being into suffering a mouthful of Casu Marzu.

This unnatural cheese is nothing but the rotted corpse of a once noble Pecorino which has been purposefully infested by the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei. The digestive juices of these lavae break down the fats within the curd until the poor cheese actually weeps lagrima as it liquifies beneath the rind. Once the Pecorino has rotted to the point that most sane human beings cannot bare to be within a few feet of the ammonia scented atrocity it is considered by the devotees of this strange cheese-cult to be ready for consumption; maggots and all. The ammonia is so strong that it burns the skin around and within the mouth and throat, the risk of food poisoning, and even death, has been estimated as equal to that of consuming the rotting corpse of a sewer rat.

 

Naturally, the consumption of such rancid fruits was deemed, by both the church and the crown, to be hazardous to a man’s body and to his soul and so the making, handling, buying, selling and ingesting of this demonic cheese were outlawed many centuries ago – the punishment being then, and remaining to this day, death. Yet there have always been rumours that in one particular village, a remote sheep farming settlement known as Bercei, devotion to this unholy curd was so strong that it bordered upon idolatry and a secret order of cheesemongers was convened there that they might continue to ferment and consume their beloved Casu Marzu.

Time and again these rumours had been investigated as every decade or so fresh evidence would appear to raise suspicion that the myth may actually be true, but, time and again, no genuine proof could be found and the investigator would take early retirement or put in for transfer to another region and so the story would lapse back into legend once more.

And now it seemed it was my turn to try my luck at the Bercei Mystery, well I tried, they cannot say I did not try; I bet the very devil himself that I would not rest until I had uncovered this foul mystery and exposed these wicked fiends in their disgraceful maggot munching. I poked my nose into every pantry and cellar, I left no churn unturned, I searched and I questioned and in general made such a spectacle of myself that I did not fail to catch the attention of the devil cheesemongers themselves.

And now I had fallen so completely into their power.

As I lay there, watching the gleaming of the candle flames upon the neat rows of variously shaped cheese knives, the girolles, the graters, the wires all aligned like instruments of torture awaiting my tender rind, a sudden deathly silence came over the occupants of the chamber and in that instant I was seized by many hands, lifted and carried out of the room and then down and down many winding passage ways where all about me there came the hiss of  pent up steam, the grinding of the motorised cheese presses and the constant rumble of the churning vats until a dreadful dizziness oppressed me at the mere idea of the infiniteness of the descent and the vague horrors which might await me at my journey’s end.

At some point during this hellish passage into the bowls of the city – perhaps the very earth itself! – I must have slipped again into unconsciousness because my next sensation was of flatness, stillness and intense cold.

I did not dare open my eyes, at first, but instead I tried to imagine what there could be.

I felt that I lay upon my back, upon something cold and moist, and then into my weary mind their pressed such horrible visions, conjured up from the memory of the hideous rumours I had heard of these demonic cheese mongers and the thick debate of my captours as to what should be my fate.

I dreaded my first glance at objects around me, I dreaded the impending sensations which I imagined I could feel the beginnings of in every nerve and hair.

And then, as moments passed in silence and stillness, I grew suddenly aghast at the thought that there should be nothing to see or feel; that my captors, in their utter madness, had decided to bury me alive!

In a fit of panic, I leapt to my feet and thrust my arms out wildly in all directions. I felt nothing, yet I feared to move any further in case I should encounter the cold, stone walls and ceiling of a tomb!

Yet at last the agony of suspense grew intolerable and I cautiously moved forwards, my arms outstretched and my eyes straining from their sockets.

One, two, three, four, five… and my hands struck a cold, smooth surface – slightly slimy but more solid than the floor on which I stood. This sudden contrast brought me momentarily into a clarity of mind and now an urgency gripped my every fibre; to better understand the nature of my surroundings. It was a futile and utterly hopeless curiosity and yet the mind in torment will clutch desperately at any thread of reason in endeavour to anchor itself back to normality.

Keeping one hand upon the wall, I crouched and cautiously laid a palm upon the floor of my prison. At first I encountered some soft spongy substance which I took for moss.

Then, to my horror, it moved.

I plainly felt beneath my palm a steady palpitation, a writhing pulse, which sent a shudder – as of electricity – through my entire being. I can barely describe to you the horrific fancies which now plagued my shattered mind, nor can I recall the length of time that I crouched there in the icy darkness, feeling the sweat pool in the creases of my skin, feeling my breath steam as it passed in ragged shudders over my trembling lips. Where and what was I? What tortuous end had these devils dreamed up that I, like all my interfering predecessors, might be silenced eternally and that they should be left free to go on with their infernal cheese munching?

It may have been one or many hours that I remained paralysed in a state of utter terror and during all that while my attention was fixed wholly upon the floor. After a while my sanity must have fled the premises for my mind took up a grim fascination with the various pulses, tremors and reverberations that were taking place beneath my finger tips, until at long length there came a point at which my obsession with these movements – their cause, origin and intent – overrode my dread of the unknown and I determined to make an awkward circuit of my cell with one hand still against the wall and the other groping carefully about the floor.

I used one shoe as a marking point and by this method I soon deduced that I was in something like a circular pit, the walls of which were uniformly smooth and slick with moisture. As to the floor, the same gently pulsating moss was only present in patches – becoming denser with decreasing proximity to the wall – the remainder being of a smooth, cold, almost rubbery material.

But it was the pulsing that disturbed me more than anything for I could not imagine its origin or purpose, despite the zealous efforts of my mind to produce fancy after horrific fancy as to what tortuous death my captors had devised. This fact; that what lay in store for me was some fate worse than a mortal mind could fathom, filled me with such a terror that I collapsed and lay for many hours, perhaps even days, fitfully passing betwixt the realms of unconscious void and waking nightmare.

At length however, and since I remained alive and no change in my circumstance had occurred, I became aware of a sensation more primal than fear; hunger. A devastating, gnawing need which brought first dizziness, then nausea, and finally a passionate drive to consume anything I could lay a hand to.

Almost at the same instant that this hunger set in I perceived a gentle greying of the darkness around me. A light like dawn softly breaking in from some high shaft and then – oh mercy! – I was at last able to understand the nature of my grim predicament.

I was in the cheese.

As the light increased, so did my understanding and my horror of that place. The rubbery floor I had circumnavigated was an enormous round of the dreaded Casu Marzu. The suspected fungus that I had felt pulsing beneath my trembling fingertips was, in reality, the thousands of cheese fly eggs, gently squirming and, even as I watched, beginning to hatch. What would happen when those maggots sensed a new sallow flesh upon the menu? I shuddered, remembering the missing members of my unit – was this how those poor souls had met their grizzly end? Slowly digested, cell by throbbing cell, in the fermenting chambers of the demon cheesemongers of Bercei?

I have said already that I was starving to the point of near delirium and yet at no point did the thought of devouring even the tiniest crumb of that repulsive curd ever enter my mind. Instead I sought to press my entire body up against the wall and as far away as I could get from those wretched larvae, which had now began to nose about the silky surface of the cheese and spread their ammonia stench throughout the pit.

Thus I stayed. Marking the passing of time only by the fading and dawning of that distant greyish light, at first, until the larvae began to pupate and then…the flies.

They didn’t so much fly as hop and flit from one surface to another, drifting lace-like and silent on the pungent air, filling my eyes and nostrils like smoke until, at length, I lost both the energy and the will to waft them away.

The flies came, the flies went. They laid their eggs in the cheese and the eggs hatched and the maggots squirmed and formed oozing puddles of stinking putrid puss upon the floor. The maggots became flies and the flies came and the flies went. Up and up, called away by the fresher air and the light at the top of the pit.

I became grotesquely fascinated by this cycle and, when my legs could no longer take my weight and I was forced to lay amongst their writhing, pulpy layers, I took an almost child-like delight in watching every aspect of their development at close range. In fact, as time passed and my senses began to rot along with the cheese, there rose inside my bosom an almost paternal affection for the little creatures whose brief and simple lives were playing out before me hour by hour and some of the very nearest to my face I even thought to give names to; Beatrice – after my beloved sister, Maud  – my dear mother in law…

As I drifted in and out of the realms of nightmare and fantasy my position seemed less and less dire, the instruments of my demise less like ravenous predators than familiar friends comforting my cold aching flesh with the warm blanket of their bodies; a blanket that was rising now about my shoulders, creeping around my ears, falling gently like a shroud over my exposed cheek and

Oh

My mouth

I had forgotten that parched and puckered hole in my delirium. My mind had ceased to dwell on gastric sensations but when one over adventurous wriggler slipped in his exploration of the valley of my cadaverous cheek-pit and in

Oh

Taste I remembered

Meat I remembered as I sucked him in

And suddenly my mind teetered back from the edge of the abyss; these were not my friends, pets, tormentors nor even yet my devourers! No, these squirming worms were my salvation!

With wild abandon I scooped handfuls of the urine-soaked larvae into my mouth and they burst amongst my molars, their warm pus like a fine sherry sliding down my gullet. I rose frantically onto my hands and knees, grasping great handfuls as they tried to flee before me and then, all in an ecstatic second, it happened.

The cheese was in me.

I cannot describe adequately here, with pen and ink, the transcending beauty of that first mouthful. The intense burn of ammonia heat, almost unbearable in itself yet coupled with the cool and silky cream of the part-digested cheese that heat transformed into a mouth watering candied sweetness, perfectly balanced, before it became cloying, by the acidic tang of the savoury maggot meat.

I gorged myself into a divine frenzy. I leapt and danced like a freshly baptised demon waking into this new fromagian Eden.

Then, as if in confirmation that my sins of unbelief in this god-of-all-cheeses had now been washed away, the feeble veil of muted light, which had watched over my long hours of penance in the pit, burst suddenly into a blinding ray of brilliant gold illumination!

Dozens of arms reached down to me, hauling me up and out and into the welcoming embrace of my new brothers, who wrung my hand and slapped my back and dressed me eagerly in the fresh white robes of that secret and most holy society – The  Cheesemongers Of Bercei.

 

Good grief, who is it that keeps slipping these mutilated corpses of classic literature in amongst my treasured tomes? I do apologise for that atrocity and I assure you it is not representative of the rest of my magnificent collection. But, now, enough of this cheesy nonsense! The cask has been drunk dry and so has my patience so come on, out with you all, immediately! No I do not care a hoot about the man eating Liver Birds or your long and treacherous walk home, you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew. GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

 

all images courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com