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Three French hens

Started by Demercia, December 28, 2015, 05:11:55 PM

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Following on from revanne's challenge, and from the sublime of her post yesterday to the ridiculous.  I have cheated by equating French with Bremagni.   Those of you who know the works of PG Wodehouse may detect the debt of inspiration I owe to Aunt Dahlia's temperamental chef Anatole.

The story is told in a series of letters; it is set at Jehana's first Christmas in Gwynedd.

The queen's grace to his majesty's chamberlain:
My Lord Chamberlain, greetings.  In this my first year as my dear lord's queen, and desiring that all should be most excellent, it is my wish that you instruct the head steward to spare no effort in ensuring that the fare served at his table on the feast of the nativity be the best according to tradition.

The Lord Chamberlain to the head steward:
Greetings. I am confident that all the preparations for twelfth night court are well in hand according to her majesty's wishes; in addition her majesty desires me to communicate her wish that special care is also taken to present the best of traditional fare at his majesty's table on the feast of the nativity.

The head steward to the steward of the royal grange:
Greetings.  Our new queen, who has brought much joy to jaded Rhemuth, but also much labour, is particularly anxious to impress her lord at table for the festive season; both for twelfth night court and for his domestic table at the feast of the nativity itself.  Pray therefore, take pains that the best of the herd be selected and prepare at Martinmas, that the suckling pig we present, for such is the traditional fare, may be unsurpassed.

The Queen to her sisters:
Greetings.  I surely am most blessed in my husband, he takes such delight in my position here within his court, and his mother has been most gracious in giving over to me the responsibilities which were once hers and now are my privilege to fulfil. My time is much occupied with preparing for the twelfth night court, but I have not neglected the feast of the nativity itself, nor forgotten that the centrepiece for that feast must be pheasant prepared in the traditional manner.

The Lady Alazais to the Lady Zoe.
My darling Zoe. 
I pray that all is well it's Jovett and with your children.  Our daughter grows fast, you will tell me that such is the way of babies, and bids fair to be the most doted upon child in the kingdom.  Her father will, I fear, spoil her most dreadfully, but then so Papa did us, and do you recall his remark that it didn't seem to have done us much harm!

You will, I know, be aware of the difficulties we have faced these past months, so I will not write more of that here.  And in despite of them there has been much to enjoy, our new queen has brought a vibrancy and a delight to court.  Though sometimes not quite as she intended.  The following, my dear Zoe, is for your enjoyment only, for the secret must be kept.

Our festivities this year have indeed been splendid, and that is due in no small measure to the queen's diligence and effort; all are most admiring of how so young a girl has shown such management, though I fear that the Lord Chamberlain must on occasion have come to dread her missives.  The tactful and gracious hand of the Queen Mother has been much in evidence, in that she has not made her contribution evident.  But the credit for averting a disaster must go,  as so often, to my dear Llion.

In brief, and let me again swear you to secrecy, the story is thus.  On the eve of the nativity Llion was returning from some errand, I know not what, which chanced to lead him across the kitchen yard, when he became aware of a tremendous commotion from the kitchens.  Fearing some terrible calamity he hastened there to confronted by the sight of her majesty's Bremagni chef, screeching as though, quoth Llion, the foremost of the demons of hell had him by the craw.  Or perhaps rather that he had turned into one of the foremost demons, for he was waving a meat cleaver in the most alarming fashion, screaming out Bremagni curses, none of which Llion was willing to repeat to me, the while the steward of his majesty's grange cowered in the corner, his face the colour of ash.  The scullery maid had thrown her apron over her head and was occupying herself drumming her heels on the floor in a fit of strong hysterics, as indeed who could blame her.  At the sight of Llion the chef threw himself on his knees, calling upon his creator, imploring Llion to witness the insult to which he, a man of such skill, had been subjected, and lamenting the day which had seen him arrive in this benighted land. 
The cause of all these histrionics, so it  transpired, when at length the man was calm enough to speak, and had been persuaded to lose his hold on the cleaver!, was the suckling pig, brought with such pride from the grange and sitting in all his festive glory on the pantry table.  The centrepiece of every Christmas table, as you and I have known from childhood.  But not so, it appears, in Bremagne; when Jehana bid them prepare the traditional fare she had in mind the plump pheasant served at her father's board.  I suppose I can scarcely blame the chef, preparing to pluck and marinate three tender birds, confronted by the glassy eye of a boar, with an apple in his mouth.

What happened to the pig I cannot tell, though I suspect there were some full and happy hounds that night.  The steward, assured that he was in no wise to blame, was persuaded to a flagon, or two, of ale and thus returned content to the grange, with a full purse too, in recompense for the good story he promised to forbear to tell.  The scullery maid went home for the night to her mother, she too sworn to silence, and with a good pie or two carried in her apron. 

And what of the high table on Christmas Day?  My Llion once again showed himself a man of parts.  No well hung pheasant was, of course, to be had at such notice, but every kitchen yard boasts its flock of hens, of which that of Rhemuth Castle now lacks three.  I think Llion enjoyed becoming a boy again, dispatching and plucking them, and then stewing them in wine according to an old receipt of his mother's, who by necessity had learned how to present country food in a way fit for the table of a lord.  A word in Brion's ear and all was well; Jehana understood herself to be eating pheasant cooked in the Gwynedd fashion, a dish known henceforth to but a few of us as "three Bremagni hens"

Then chef is reputed to be on his way to take service with the Hort of Orsal, whom he avows understands the art of gracious living and treats culinary genius with due respect. 
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.


Magnificent!  And so glad to see that Llion had a part to play. 

We will have to re-write the twelve days of Christmas indeed to three Bremangi hens!
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


LOL! A fun story! I wonder how many Christmases passed before Jehana finally discovered the truth? ;D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


LOL, that's great, Demercia!  What a fun story!
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)



Great to see Llion save the feast. 

We had Cornish game hens for Christmas eve, they are not as easy to cook right as one would think.
May your horses have wings and fly!


This reminds me of a story from my childhood of the Pheasant Who Came for Dinner.

We were living in Connecticut then, in a house my parents had built in the woods.   The house had a floor-to-ceiling glass panel on each side of the front door.  One afternoon we heard the huge crash, and all came running to find on the front deck a male pheasant, dead with a broken neck.  He had probably seen his own reflection and thought it was another male with whom he wanted to fight. 

My father, having grown up on a farm, knew exactly how to pluck and dress a foul, and he did so.  The cat got the liver (meeerr--OW!).  Mother baked it.  It was tasty, but tough.  She said that if she had to do it again, she'd stew it.  But it never happened again.  We always talked about it, though.


That's a great story Elkhound.
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.


Quote from: Demercia on December 29, 2015, 08:34:25 AM
That's a great story Elkhound.

If anyone would like to Gwynnedize it, go ahead.


Was it that long ago we wrote these?  Demercia, you might grace us again with your storytelling skills!
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Tis indeed four years ago.
Demercia, I got such joy reading this story again. So happy to see that Llion was such a good chief for the Christmas dinner.
May your horses have wings and fly!


Hopefully.  I'm moving to a new job at the end of January which I am hoping will be less all demanding than my current one.  That means moving house too so it's a bit fraught at the moment but will be worth it.   I'm going to be vicar in a little market town just the English side of the Welsh border so lots of lovely walking country. 
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.


That sounds lovely, Demercia.  Good luck with the move!
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany


Congratulations Demerica on your new position. I hope it will indeed meet all your expectations and perhaps allow you to write again. That would be lovely. Good luck with the move. Hope it goes smoothly.
Am wondering if the new year will see the resolution of "Ghosts of the Past" and provide a happy ending for our characters. We seem to be in a hiatus right now, I would guess due to the holidays. Hope everyone has had a lovely holiday and looking froward to a healthy and prosperous new year for all.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance


Quote from: Demercia on December 29, 2019, 04:55:52 AM
...  I'm going to be vicar in a little market town just the English side of the Welsh border so lots of lovely walking country.

Oh that sounds lovely! I have a friend who is English/Welsh and who is planning on moving back home this coming spring. I so want to visit her after she is settled in. Oh how I want to see your lovely country sides. I think I need to start walking to get in shape for it.
So there is one new years resolution. Writing shall be another.
May your horses have wings and fly!