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Just Like Old Times by Alfirineth

Author:Alfirineth
Title:Just Like Old Times
Rating:G
Theme:Feast
Elements:ladle
Beta:All mistakes belong to me. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!
Author's Notes:I have no idea if Tolkien's vampires are affected by garlic, but I figured that it might have been the subject of myth in the fourth age and considered an 'old folk remedy'. If anyone knows different, let me know.
Summary:Father and son spend a moment in the kitchen together. Just like old times.
Word Count:1,895


The kitchen was strangely empty except for the lone figure of his son surrounded by produce. Thranduil walked through the door and nearly gagged. Apparently his head cook wasn't exaggerating. He walked over to Legolas and surreptitiously sniffed. The smell was definitely stronger over here. He decided to get right to the point.

“I have received complaints from the kitchen staff of a certain smell,” he said. “Do you know where the smell is coming from?”

“As a matter of fact, I do,” responded Legolas not looking up from his task. There was a brief silence while the Mirkwood King leaned on the counter and studied his son.

“Well?” asked Thranduil.

“Well, what?” Legolas was the very picture of innocence.

“You know very well, what.”

“Ah,” said Legolas, playfully pretending to just now figure out what his father wanted. “You would like to know where the smell is coming from.” Thranduil didn't deign to reply.

Legolas proceeded to bring out a large crock from under the counter. As he moved the cover off, the spicy smell accosted Thranduil without mercy.

“I am making a cabbage dish that I first tasted in Gondor,” said Legolas as he covered up the dish and placed it back under the counter with the rest of its compatriots. “I have since discovered that the people of Laketown make it as well, albeit a little differently, for they don't have the same spices.”

“You don't mean that atrocious one that stinks up the place?” asked Thranduil incredulously. “Wait, I retract the question. The proof is irrefutable.”

“It is somewhat of an acquired taste,” Legolas laughed, “But once you have that taste for it, it becomes nearly indispensable.”

Thranduil looked at Legolas, unbelief evident in his eyes.

“Come now, father. Surely it is not that difficult to imagine. You have a taste for Dorwinion wine, that I have never quite understood, and now you have discovered that I have a taste for a different kind of fermentation.”

Thranduil snorted. “It rots. If by fermentation you mean that it rots, then yes, I will believe you. In Laketown, they bury it in the ground for it to come out like the walking dead in the middle of winter.”

Legolas merely smiled and launched into a version of the same lecture that had been given to him when he had first tried the dish. “Pickled cabbage is a product of fermentation that has been around for many hundreds of years. It originally began as a way for vegetables to be preserved throughout the winter.”

“We dry the vegetables, Legolas, and reconstitute them. Or we store them in the root cellar in sand, like any respectable person would do.”

“And yet you drink fermented grapes.”

Thranduil looked balefully at his son. “Brewing wine and pickling are two very different processes,” he said with mock severity.

“But they accomplish some of the same things.”

“Food preservation?”

“Among other things, yes.” Legolas snorted down laughter and reverted back into teacher mode. “The first step in making this dish is to salt the cabbage for several hours, which I have already done.”

“Legolas, I don't think that any amount of salt is going to help this dish's flavor,” his father declared motioning to the crocks lining the wall under the counter.

“Worry not, dear father, all will reveal itself in time.”

“Indeed.” Thranduil was patently disbelieving.

“Indeed,”Legolas stated. “You might even find that you actually start to really like this dish.”

“Hmm.”

“Here's a knife.”

“Oh, so I have been drafted as the kitchen help, now!”

Legolas shrugged, “You stayed too long.”

Thranduil laughed openly. “I suppose that it is only fair for you to turn that line back on me. Very well. What shall I chop?”

Legolas motioned to the pile of vegetables on the counter. “Take your pick.”

“I think that I will start with the ones that I recognize: carrots, green onions, radish or garlic. Do you want all of that garlic put in here?”

“Yes,” Legolas smirked. “It is to keep the vampires at bay.”

“And everyone else.” Thranduil added. He pointed to a dark leafy vegetable that he found had a very pungent odor. “What is that? And where did you get it?”

“Mustard greens. And I got them from the kitchen gardens.”

“When did we ever start growing anything like that in the kitchen gardens?”

“Since I brought the seeds back from Gonder,” Legolas said.

“How very productive of you, son,” Thranduil said with gentle sarcasm.

“They need to be chopped into bite-size pieces, same as the cabbage.”

“The seeds?” Now it was Thranduil's turn to look innocent as his son leveled a 'look' at him. “Ah, yes, the mustard greens. Of course.”

Deciding not to persue the matter, Legolas picked up a small root, “This is ginger root, commonly used for seasickness and nausea among the humans in southern Gondor.” He shrugged after catching his father's eye and tried to smooth over the sudden change of mood in the room. “Not that I expect anyone to have a problem with seasickness in Mirkwood.”

“When do you plan on being seasick?” asked Thranduil after a slight hesitation.

“I have agreed to stay in Middle-earth for a time,” answered Legolas.

“Then we must enjoy what time we have.”

A companionable silence descended between father and son as they wielded their weapons of choice. The vegetation that crowded the counter never had a chance. Thranduil chopped the carrots, green onions and radish and threw them into a large bowl while Legolas minced the garlic and brought back the cabbage leaves to show his father.

“Do you see how the leaves are a little limp and there is some water in the bowl from the cabbage? That is the salt doing it's work.” Legolas proceeded to rinse the cabbage thoroughly before wringing it out slightly and adding it to the bowl. “Next we add a little more salt...”

“Why did you rinse the salt off if you are going to use some more?” Thranduil interrupted. “Isn't that a bit wasteful?”

“I expect it has something to do with controlling the salt levels of the final product, though to be honest, I am not really sure,” Legolas said.

“Hm,” grunted Thranduil as Legolas moved on to a red powder that Thranduil strongly suspected was extraordinarily spicy. “What is that?” he asked.

“Red pepper powder,” answered his son. “But it is a little different than the peppers that you have tasted before. You can use the cayenne spice, but the finished product will be quite a bit different in taste.”

“Spicy is spicy.”

Legolas only shrugged as he put several handfuls of the spice in the bowl. Honestly, he wasn't all that surprised to have such a strong reaction from his father. Thranduil tended to either love or hate food passionately.

“Sugar is next. Just a little bit though,” he said as he put it into the same bowl. “And this is something that I picked up in my travels. It is called fish sauce.”

Thranduil took a sniff and grimaced.

“I don't use much. That is one thing that I never quite adjusted to while I was there in Gonder. They loved their fish. Fish dried, fish sauce, fish paste, and fish for breakfast, lunch or dinner,” Legolas said. “Now, while I enjoy fish every so often, there is such a thing as too much of good thing.”

Thranduil nodded sagely. “I couldn't agree with you more,” he said. He gestured to the bowl. “Now that we have all of our vegetables and some spices, salt and sugar...what is there left to add?”

“Just a bit of this fish sauce and then toss it all together and put it into the crock to age,” said Legolas as he proceeded to take his wooden spoon and stir. “You can see that I already have some crocks that are fermenting. Don't they smell delicious?”

Thranduil decided not to answer.

“Can you pass me that?” Legolas asked, motioning to the ladle that was closest to his father. Thranduil passed it over. Legolas grabbed a ceramic crock and started to place large spoonfuls into it with said ladle.

“Are you planning on burying it?” asked Thranduil.

Legolas shook his head. “This room has a stable enough temperature that it shouldn't be necessary.

“How about far from the kitchens,” suggested his father.

“Why do they need to be far from the kitchens?” asked Legolas.

“I expect that I will have an uprising on my hands if you do not take it out of the kitchen area. I would be loathe to lose the service of some of the best cooks of Mirkwood because of your...new tastes.”

“I will keep them in one of my rooms to ferment, then,” responded Legolas, shrugging. “Then I can enjoy the scent of the spices.”

“Just don't spill it on the carpet.”

“I wouldn't dream of it, Father,” assured Legolas, rather flippantly.

“So, are you going to taste some of final product?”

“Maybe.” Thranduil's tone reflected that the 'maybe' was probably more of a no.

“Do you remember what you used to tell me when I refused to taste something new?”

“One bite, then, Legolas. But don't push your luck.”

\\//\\//\\

Kimchi

I first developed a taste for kimchi in college. Originally, I thought it was really...strong, but over time and exposure to it, have found that it is nearly indispensable. Yes, Legolas channeled me for a moment. After moving away from a good source of kimchi, I had to learn to make my own. I looked up several recipes and tried different variations, cursing myself for not learning from a master when I had an opportunity. Eventually, I found something that suited both my tastes and abilities.

Originally from Korea, there are more that 200 different kinds of kimchi. Here is only one recipe (which changes according to the season and what I have on hand):

1-2 heads chopped napa cabbage
2-3 grated or chopped carrots
1 bunch chopped green onions
1/2-1 cup chopped daikon radish
couple of leaves of mustard greens, also chopped
1-1/2 tsp of minced garlic
1-1/2 tsp of minced or grated ginger
6-7 or more TBS salt, divided
2-3 TBS sugar
splash of fish sauce (may be omitted)
1/3(ish) C red pepper powder (found in Asian markets—be sure to get the kind with Korean writing if you want the proper taste to your kimchi.)

Cut your napa cabbage into bite size pieces, then cover it with a couple of TBS of salt in container with a tight-fitting lid (this is to enable you to shake it and make sure the salt is distributed well). Leave for several hours to overnight.

Prepare all the vegetables by cutting them into bite size pieces. Mince your garlic and ginger. Rinse the cabbage and drain. Put everything into a bowl. Add salt, sugar, fish sauce and red pepper powder to taste. Stir to combine. Place everything into a ceramic crock or a glass jar. Loosely cover and let ferment for a couple of days before putting into the refrigerator.

A last note: Don't give up hope if your first batch doesn't turn out. Fermentation is tricky business—at least for me. But the rewards are great once you get the process down. My last batch (the one for the 'research' of this story) was amazingly good.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Nov. 16th, 2011 06:25 pm (UTC)
That's delightful. I never thought about what new ideas or foods Legolas might introduce to his homeland after the Wear.
alfirineth
Nov. 16th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that you liked it. I will confess that writing Legolas and Thranduil came as a sort of surprise; but a welcome one.
(Deleted comment)
alfirineth
Nov. 16th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for taking the time to review! I will admit that I have always envisioned Legolas and Thranduil as having a very loving kind of relationship.
engarian
Nov. 16th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love Kimchi, and I really liked the kitchen interaction between Thranduil and Legolas while chopping ingredients. But yes, it is stinky stuff.

- Erulisse (one L)
alfirineth
Nov. 16th, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
Yay! Another Kimchi lover. Do you make your own? I am curious as to other people's recipes.

Thanks for taking the time to review. I am glad that the interactions between father and son came through:)
engarian
Nov. 16th, 2011 10:37 pm (UTC)
No, as I've said in response to some of the other marvelous recipes listed in these stories, I am no cook. But I love kimchi, sushi, hot curry, etc. I like taste in my food - bland is not my friend :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
someplacetobe
Nov. 16th, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
I liked this glimpse at father and son.
alfirineth
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:22 am (UTC)
Thanks! I must confess that now that I have written it, it makes me wonder more about other facets of their relationship.
blslarner
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:19 am (UTC)
My sister-in-law is Korean, and so I was introduced to kimchi, which does not do well with my acid reflux. My brother has come to love it, as do my niece and nephew, of course. My husband loved its flavor, but could be undone by the spiciness of it.
alfirineth
Nov. 17th, 2011 05:31 am (UTC)
My condolences about your reflux. That is not fun to live with.

My own family is split about it. Some like it, some do not. I have found that it is either a hate it or love it kind of thing. Although my husband protests that he doesn't 'hate' it, he just doesn't "particularly care for the taste of it". ;)
shadowbrides
Nov. 17th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
I've never had kimchi but am now determined to try it!

Lovely writing. The conversation felt very natural and I like those little details - like the people of Gondor and their weakness for fish. It fleshes out part of the culture Tolkien probably didn't give too much thought about. I imagine ports like Dol Amroth would be very prosperous then, haha.
alfirineth
Nov. 17th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I am so glad that the conversation sounded natural. It sounded right in my head and when I said it outloud, but then everyone has different intonations when they read to themselves.

And you are right, the ports of Dol Amroth and all of those little fishing villages probably have a lot of business:)
dreamflower02
Nov. 18th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
I love the easy-going atmosphere of the dialogue with Legolas and his father! It just shows what a good relationship they had.

Unfortunately, kimchi does not sound at all appealing to me! But it's a fun recipe, and nice to know it does not *really* have to be buried!!
alfirineth
Nov. 18th, 2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
I confess that I have always been a fan of a loving relationship between them, myself--so I am glad that the atmosphere came through!

And no worries about the kimchi. It really isn't for everyone. :) My oldest still won't touch the stuff and my father will move to the other side of the room if anyone is eating it;)


pandemonium_213
Nov. 18th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
Elves and kimchi. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I love the concept. Fantastic story, Alfirineth! The dialog is nicely paced, authentic and funny. Very, very nice work with conveying the ease between father and son. Lots of neat bits with the cultural observations, too.

Just had some delicious kimchi at one of the local restaurants in Cambridge last week when I went out with colleagues after work. It's tasty!
alfirineth
Nov. 19th, 2011 12:20 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! That is high praise, indeed. (There are several authors in this particular venue that I really admire their style. Whenever one responds so favorably, I do a happy dance!!! (Especially since I am just getting back into writing after many years of absence.))

Ahem. Normality restored.

I am glad that you liked the idea of elves and kimchi. Who says that nothing can take an elf by surprise! And I am glad that the dialogue worked. It worked in my head, so I am glad that it translated across to paper (so to speak). :)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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