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Cook Wanted by Alquien

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Story notes:
Originally posted at my lJ under the name "samtyr".

Unbeta'd. (But if anyone would like to offer...)

Written for: B2MeM Day Fifteen: The Shire. Today's Challenge: The cuisine of the Shire is unsurpassed. Write a story or poem, or create a work of art, featuring food.
“I still do not see why we need a cook,” FŽanor argued. “You are an excellent cook. Why do you not take over the kitchen?”

“I am an artisan as well as you,” Nerdanel replied. “And with a household of nine, that is too much to ask, especially when I have work and commissions of my own to deal with.”

“But a cook is expensive – too expensive, in my view.” FŽanor was ready to continue the argument when he suddenly had an idea. “I know – we will have our sons share the cooking duties. You are always saying how they need to be more helpful around the house.”

“Helpful, yes. But to have them take charge of meals! You ask too much, husband.”

“Nonsense. We have cookbooks – it should be no problem at all for them to follow a simple recipe. It is the perfect solution.” FŽanor beamed happily.

“Cookbooks…” Nerdanel replied faintly. FŽanor was a genius in many ways but he was also incredibly stupid at times, and this promised to be a disaster. “Really husband, I do not think this is a good idea.”

But FŽanor was at the door, ringing the bell for assembly. Within moments, all seven boys had lined up in the living room and looked at their parents expectantly.

“As you know, we are in need of a cook. It is wrong to expect your mother to cook for all of us and have no time for her own artistry.”

Nerdanel struggled to keep her face still – for FŽanor to use her arguments as his was most unfair. But they needed to keep a united front and the boys were nodding in quiet agreement.

“Now then, I am going to break you into teams and each team will handle kitchen duties for one week. Maedhros and Maglor, you will be first, then Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin and lastly, Amrod and Amras. I have a charge account at the store and there are several cookbooks for you to study. Are there any questions?” He waited for a moment and then spoke again. “Maedhros, you and Maglor will start planning tomorrow and begin in three days. You are excused from your usual duties starting now. If you need anything, just remember that you can charge it at the grocer’s.”

“Yes, adar,” they chorused and headed for the kitchen. Nerdanel watched them go with an uneasy feeling. Things were never as simple as FŽanor made them out to be and she wondered how long this new experiment would last.

*****

The first day’s meals served by Maedhros and Maglor were relatively simple ones, and Nerdanel breathed a tiny sigh of relief. But the next morning, as she looked at a more ambitious breakfast, she felt the sense of unease returning. FŽanor and the others failed to notice anything amiss and ate with good appetite. By the end of the week, the meals looked as if they were designed for a highly elaborate state dinner, with wines to complement. FŽanor remained oblivious to the changes since he had started a complicated project and plowed through the food as usual, pausing only to heap praise on Maedhros and Maglor for their culinary skills. The boys beamed with pride at the father’s rare praise.

But Nerdanel had steadily eaten less and less, for she had a good idea of what the grocer’s bill would be, and what her husband’s reaction would be to said bill. And she was right.

“Maedhros! Maglor!” FŽanor bellowed, the bill clenched tightly in his fist. “Come here at once!!”

“Yes, adar?” The two boys entered the room, instantly frightened when they noticed their father’s barely controlled rage.

“Do you see this?” He shook the bill in their faces as they backed slowly toward the door. “Answer me! Do you have any idea how much this bill is??”

“No we don’t, adar. We did as you said – we studied the cookbooks and charged the bill to the grocer.” Maedhros replied, trying to placate his sire. “We didn’t buy too much, honest. We just bought what the recipes listed.”

“Seventeen gold pieces for one week of groceries! Seventeen!! That is nearly enough for the entire year!”

“But you liked the meals we fixed, ada. You said how much you liked them, and how good they were.” Maglor spoke up, only to be silenced by a sharp glare.

“That is beside the point,” FŽanor snapped. “It is no matter – your younger brothers are scheduled to take over now. I will put them on a budget though. No more of this ridiculous spending!”

“Yes, adar.”

Nerdanel watched as her two eldest sons slunk unhappily out of the room and resolved to speak to them at the first opportunity.

*****

“Now then,” FŽanor said as he issued instructions to his three middle sons.” Study the cookbooks, and plan the meals. It’s not very hard at all. I am giving you a strict budget, and the grocer will not allow you any charges – except for bread.”

“Yes adar,” came the dutiful chorus.

Celegorm, Caranthir and Curufin were considerably less skilled than their older brothers and each had their own ideas on what to cook and how to cook it. While Maedhros and Maglor worked well as a team, the middle brothers did not. Celegorm deemed it his duty to bring in fresh game and had gone hunting every day. This left his brothers to divide the other duties, and after a week of meals that had been either overcooked or undercooked, raw or burnt – sometimes all at the same meal – even FŽanor’s keen appetite dwindled. The only things remotely edible were the bread, the tea and the coffee, for the wine had definitely been of an inferior quality.

Nerdanel said nothing and struggled to nibble at what she hoped was a piece of burnt toast disguised as charcoal.

*****

Amrod and Amras stood in front of their father, eagerly awaiting instructions.

“Well then.” FŽanor smiled uneasily as he looked at their bright shining faces, and handed them a few coins.

“You’ve heard the instructions before: study the cookbooks, plan the meals, and charge the bread at the grocers. Now, let’s see what you can do.”

“Yes, adar,” they said in unison. “We have made plans already.”

“That’s fine, just fine.” FŽanor said, a little too heartily. “You can start tomorrow.”

“Yes, adar!” They smiled happily and hurried off to the kitchen.

The next morning’s breakfast was edible, even if a bit overcooked. FŽanor beamed proudly at the twins, and whistled as he walked to his forge. The noon meal was a repeat of breakfast, while Amrod and Amras promised that there was going to be ‘something very special’ for the evening meal.

Nerdanel was instantly suspicious because she was unaware that either twin had gone shopping for food, and having a good idea of what remained in the family’s larder… She repressed a shudder and tried to ignore her uncharitable thoughts regarding the twins’ idea of what might constitute ‘something very special’.

At the first whiff of the smells emanating from the kitchen, FŽanor turned white and looked pleadingly at Nerdanel. But she refused to meet his eyes and left him to face the twins as they brought in the fish soup already poured in individual bowls, smiling as they set the first bowl in front of their father. Their brothers studied the bowls in front of them with varying expressions of disgust, annoyance and deep suspicion.

As he stirred the oily, iridescent green soup, FŽanor whispered brokenly to Nerdanel.

“I can’t eat this, wife. I simply can’t. I swear there are eyes in here – and… and… is that a tentacle I see?”

“Aren’t you going to eat your soup ada? We made it special for you; it’s your favorite.”

The twins looked heartbroken over their father’s lack of enthusiasm and FŽanor managed a tight smile just before he brought a spoonful of soup to his lips and swallowed.

Nerdanel ignored her husband’s distress, smiled graciously at the twins and calmly began to butter a roll.

That night Nerdanel sat up with FŽanor as he vomited repeatedly into a bucket, all the while reassuring him that it was highly unlikely that he was poisoned, nor would he be an invalid for life and that his normal appetite would return. Eventually.

The next morning, Nerdanel set off in the family’s carriage to hire an experienced cook immediately, and hang the cost.

~~One Month Later~~

“We absolutely do not need a laundress,” FŽanor began.

xxxEndxxx
Chapter end notes:
Originally posted at my lJ under the name "samtyr". Also posted at AO3 under the name "laSamtyr".

Archive: Please do not archive without author's permission.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. Any original characters and the plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.