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Eucatastrophe: The Welcoming Feast

Author: Dreamflower
Title: Eucatastrophe: The Welcoming Feast
Rating: G
Theme: A great feast recipe!fic
Elements: musicians
Author's Notes: This story takes place in my Eucatastrophe-verse. In this AU, the Three Rings were freed by the destruction of the Ring rather than fading; travel between Elvenhome and Middle-earth ceased to be one way; while Bilbo stayed in the West, Frodo and Gandalf returned; and the Edict banning Men from the Shire was never enacted. Other Author's Notes at the end.
Summary: At a feast welcoming the King and Queen to the Shire, Merry, Pippin, Frodo and Sam challenge them to a little contest.
Word Count: 3,334

Eucatastrophe: The Welcoming Feast



"And this" said Thain Peregrin, throwing open the wide doors at the end of the corridor, "is the new guest wing." He turned to look up and beam with pride at the guests who had been following him on his grand tour of the Great Smials, all of them Big Folk, foremost among them the High King of Gondor and Arnor, Elessar Telcontar and his queen Arwen Undomiel.

Pippin descended the four wide steps which led down into a large room. His guests, consisting of the King, the Queen, the Queen's brothers Elladan and Elrohir, the Court Bard Menelcar, Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, one of the Queen's handmaidens Lady Halleth, and a couple of Guardsmen (one of whom was once the young lad Pippin had met during the War, Bergil), all following. (The rest of the King's Entourage were encamped in the Assembly Field across the road from the Great Smials.) They stopped and stretched a little when they reached the floor. While the ceilings in the Great Smials were higher than those in most hobbit dwellings and all of them had been able to walk upright they had still felt cramped and they had needed to duck considerably when going through doorways. The doors here were still round, but they were sized with the tallest of the Big Folk in mind. They were followed by a select few hobbits: Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee and his wife Rose, and Merry Brandybuck and his wife Estella.

A large fireplace and hearth was on the wall across the room from the entrance. It was flanked by two (scandalously) rectangular double doors fitted with panes of glass. To both the right and the left were arched openings leading to a corridor where the special guest rooms and bathing rooms were located. The room into which they entered was furnished with an assortment of comfortable seating meant to accommodated folks both tall and short. It was bright and airy and an altogether cheerful room; in spite of its size, the room was quite hobbity.

Pippin grinned proudly and waved an arm at the corridor on the left. "Down that passageway are four guest rooms a bathing room and a water closet, and at the end is the Royal Quarters. It has a private bathing room and water closet. The other one," he waved at the other door, "is the same, except at the end is the Wizard's Room. All of the regular guest rooms will accommodate two people at need. Your servants brought your baggage earlier, and have placed it in your rooms."

While the rest of the guests began to explore the place, Aragorn and Arwen waited behind with the hobbits. Pippin looked up once again at the King, this time rather anxiously. "Do you like it, Strider?"

Aragorn raised an eyebrow and looked down at his small host. "I think the rooms are remarkable; also that they will have been a rather exorbitant undertaking for a place that will be rarely used. While I appreciate your thoughtfulness, I wonder at the extravagance, my friend. You know that we would have been quite happy camping with the rest."

Pippin looked relieved. "Oh. Well, it didn't cost the hobbits of the Shire. Most of it came from my own pockets, and Merry, Frodo and Sam all insisted on adding in on the expenses." The Tooks, Brandybucks and Bagginses had all been well-heeled before the Quest, and Merry and Pippin came back even wealthier; Sam had made a number of wise investments since his return with the nest egg Bilbo had given him. While Frodo had refused any material reward, his return to Bag End had brought with it the return of what he had originally given up. "And it did take a lot of time, so it gave a lot of work to hobbits in the building of it."

Just then, Gandalf returned from examining his room. "That room is remarkably similar to my room at Bag End," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

The other hobbits all turned and looked at Frodo, who blushed, but smiled at the same time. "Bilbo always says, if something works, don't change it." Pippin had given the room over to Frodo to plan, and though it was a bit larger than Gandalf's room at Bag End and had an attached water closet, it was otherwise the same.

"Well," said Pippin, "we'll leave you to get acquainted with your new rooms. Don't forget that we will be having a Great Feast of Welcoming this evening."

"Are we still doing the mushrooms?" asked Merry. "After babying those beauties all the way from the Marish, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on them." Farmer Maggot had donated several baskets of his finest mushrooms as a tribute to the Royal Guests, and the four friends had decided to make a friendly competition of their preparation.

Sam rubbed his hands together and winked at his wife. "So am I." Frodo just nodded, with a thoughtful smile, as though he was contemplating the mushrooms in question.

"Indeed we are still doing it!" declared Pippin firmly. He looked at the Royal Couple. "You will be the judges of which dish is best."

"That may be difficult," said Aragorn. "I know what excellent cooks all of you are."

"And I know the way of hobbits and mushrooms!" said Gandalf. "My mouth is already watering at the thought."

"Shall we make the challenge even more difficult?" asked Merry.

"How?" Pippin asked. "What would make it more difficult?

"Let us say, not just to decide which is best, but also to decide who made which dish!"

Aragorn looked as though he was about to object, but Arwen lay her hand upon her husband's arm. "I think that sounds a delightful game," she said, a glint of mischief in her eyes.

Challenge accepted, the four hobbits hurried off to make their preparations.

Aragorn turned and looked at Arwen. "Do you really want to do this? Hobbits are very subtle in their cooking, and differences that they think should be obvious are not always so to those of other Races."

"Trust me, dear, it will be fun." Then she chuckled. "Besides it's only a game. What does it matter if we win or not."

Aragorn looked appalled. "What does it matter?" he spluttered.

Now both Gandalf and Arwen laughed. "You remind me of Master Meriadoc," said Gandalf. "But hobbits have quite a history with mushrooms. Did I ever tell you that my first meeting with Gerontius involved a mushroom and chicken pie?"

-oo000oo-

The feast was being held outdoors, as the main dining hall within the Great Smials was not large enough for everyone. A huge pavilion (one the visitors had brought with them) had been set up on the lawn below the South Terrace off the ballroom. The ballroom would be used later for the dancing, and as Aragorn and the rest of his party made their way to the terrace, they could hear the musicians warming up their instruments. Merry, Sam and Frodo were there, and looked up eagerly at their arrival.

"Where is Thain Peregrin?" the King asked.

Frodo smiled. "He's in there with the musicians. He'll likely be playing his fiddle for at least part of the dancing later on. He asked that Menelcar join them when he could."

The Bard, who had been standing near the back of the group, gave a bow. "By your leave, Sire?" Aragorn nodded, and Menelcar strode to the ballroom, his harp slung across his back.

A few moments later Pippin came out, accompanied by his cousin Reggie, who helped him with his duties of overseeing the Shire. He bowed, and greeted the King. Reggie had met him during a previous visit, when the King's party had only stopped at the Stonebow Bridge. Now that Pippin was there it was time to call the mingled crowd to attention, and to proceed to the pavilion.

The long trestle table had been set up with seats of varying sizes; the table itself was slightly lower than a regular table for Big Folk and slightly higher than one for hobbits.
The seats for the Big Folk were along one side and those for the hobbits along the other side. The King was placed at the center of the Big Folk's side, with the Queen on his right and Gandalf on his left. Legolas, Gimli and other members of their entourage were on either side.

Across from the King, the Thain had been placed, with Diamond on his right and Frodo on his left. Merry and Estella were on the other side of Frodo, while Sam and Rose were to the other side of Diamond. Pippin's sisters and their husbands and a few other close relatives filled out the hobbit side of the table. A number of other tables were in the pavilion: one for the tweens, one for the younger children, and several for various other hobbit guests.

As was hobbit custom, the servers began to bring out large bowls and platters of food to place on the table, rather than having the servers serve each individual diner. However certain exceptions were made for the King and Queen. First there was a large tureen of soup. It smelled richly of herbs and mushrooms.

It was dished into their bowls before being placed on the table for everyone else to pass around and serve themselves.

The soup was smooth and creamy, with small morsels of mushrooms floating among the specks of finely minced green herbs. Both monarchs smiled at the velvety texture and the rich and slightly tangy flavor. "This is superb, whichever of you made it," said Aragorn, casting his eyes upon the hobbits who said across from him.

"I certainly hope that I can convince the cook to part with his recipe before we leave the Shire." She looked intently at each one of the four in turn, but all of them simply looked back innocently.

After the soups had been placed on the tables along with breads, came the salads and then other dishes began to make their appearance. Once more a single plate was brought before the King and Queen. On this one was a glistening array of mushrooms, smelling of rosemary and garlic and a strong cheese. They were golden and steaming.

After they each took a couple of them onto their plates, Arwen was the first to pick one up and take a delicate bite. Her face lit up with pleasure, and her husband was quick to follow. They ate every morsel of the mushrooms that they had taken, but not more. Both were familiar with hobbit appetites and feasts, and knew they had much more food before them. This time they did not even think of trying to make any guesses. Instead they simply waited, making small talk with their hosts until another dish was brought before them. This was a pie, the crust flaky and golden-brown. As it was cut into they could see a layer of molten white cheese, and below it a filling of mushrooms and onions, and more cheese.

Once again they tasted another mushroom dish, and the pastry just melted in their mouths. The cheese ran in strings from their mouths to the fork, and the mushroom layer was earthy and delightful. It was all they could do to restrain themselves from taking another piece, but they knew they had one more dish to try.

More dishes made their appearance on the table, mostly platters of roasted meat or fowl, or fried fish, and bowls of vegetables. Aragorn and Arwen took only the merest taste of these dishes, since they were not the special one they awaited.

Then a bowl was brought to them and they instantly knew it was the one they awaited. The wonderful aroma of mushrooms competed with the compelling scent of bacon; herbs, garlic and onions, and a rather sharp sweet-scented aroma completed the delightful smell. Once more it was an effort not to eat too much. They knew a magnificent cake had been planned as the end of the meal.

As it was, they were barely able to manage a sliver of the marvelous confection: three tiers of fruity-nutty cake covered in marzipan, with a delicate sugar-paste model of the Citadel atop it.

Finally the feast drew to a close. Pippin leaned forward towards his guests. "Well, what is your verdict?" he asked.

The two exchanged a look, and then shook their heads. "Give us until the end of the evening to consult with one another," Aragorn said, "and we shall give you our answers before the evening ends."

"Very well. But don't think you'll slide out of it. We mean to have our answers!" He then stood, and announced that all would proceed to the ballroom for the dancing.

The wide doors to the ballroom were flung open, and the music of a stately pavane floated out into the night. The dancers made their way into the room in graceful procession, each couple taking two steps forward, one back, and then a slight step away from one another, before repeating the process. The King and Queen led the dance, followed by the Thain and his Lady, and then other couples in order of their rank. Frodo was partnered by Pippin's widowed sister Pearl. Once all were inside the ballroom the dance ended. Pippin kissed Diamond's hand, and said "I'll be back in after a few more dances." He trotted over to the other musicians, and vaulting onto the dais picked up his fiddle and bow, which waited for him there. The musicians, including Menelcar, quickly launched into a lively circle dance tune, "Southfarthing Brawl", a dance which grew quickly faster and faster until the end, leaving the dancers panting and breathless. This was followed by a slower couples dance.

Aragorn and Arwen looked at one another after that dance. "Shall we circulate?" Arwen asked. "I am sure we will get some clues if we do."

"I already have one clue," replied her husband. "I know the stuffed mushrooms are Frodo's contribution. It's rather unfair, I suppose. But one evening on our journey South, the hobbits were speaking of food as they often did, and the subject of Bilbo's stuffed mushrooms came up. Meriadoc sang their praises, but said Frodo's were even better. I am sure that they do not recall that evening or Frodo would have made something else."

Arwen smiled softly, with laughter in her eyes. "One down, then, three more to go." Aragorn kissed her hand, and the two parted to work the room, making their ways to different groups of hobbits. If the food served at the feast was not the topic of conversation, it was not hard to turn it to that subject. They avoided any group in which Merry, Frodo or Sam was a part. Pippin was safe upon the stage with the musicians.

Gandalf came quietly up behind Aragorn as he was listening to Pippin's sister Pimpernel talk of how well Pippin had learned to make pastry from Sam. "Cheating, Aragorn?" he murmured.

Aragorn gave a roguish grin. "There were no rules set down," he said, "so I do not suppose cheating even comes into it."

Gandalf chuckled. "On your own head be it," he said.

"It usually is," Aragorn replied. Just then he was rejoined by his wife, who nodded at the stage. It was between dances, and Pippin had put his fiddle down and was coming to join Diamond for more dancing.

"Ah! Well, vanimelda, shall we dance again?"

Slower dances were alternated with livelier ones, until the end of the evening, when the dance "Candles" was played. A slow dance done in sets of two couples, the main lights were doused and each person was given a small candle to hold during the dance. It was quite beautiful.

This was the signal for the party to break up, and the King and Queen found themselves cornered.

"Well," said Frodo, "will you give us your answers now?"

"Yes," added Merry. "First, who made which dish?"

Aragorn and Arwen looked at one another, and he nodded for her to speak first.

"The stuffed mushrooms were made by Frodo," she said.

"The mushroom pie was made by Pippin," said Aragorn, "and the mushrooms and bacon by Merry."

"Which," said Arwen, "means that Sam made the soup."

Four pairs of hobbit eyes widened in shock, and then suspicious looks dawned on their faces.

"Strider," said Sam disapprovingly, "you might've guessed one or two, but no way could you've guessed 'em all just by tasting."

Aragorn and Arwen both laughed. "You are absolutely right, my friends," said the Queen.

Aragorn was still chuckling, but then he said "All of you had already told me who made the stuffed mushrooms. Do you not recall a chilly evening in Hollin, as we made our cold meal, your conversation about stuffed mushrooms? Meriadoc sang Frodo's praises loud and long."

All the hobbits groaned, and Frodo smacked himself in the forehead. "I should have remembered," he moaned.

"And-" the King added, "I overheard several conversations about pie. I learned that Sam gave Pippin lessons in making a light pastry, and that Pippin was especially fond of mushrooms with cheese, which made him the most likely candidate for the baker of the pie."

"And I," said Arwen, "learned that all the mushrooms came from the Marish, and that a certain Farmer Maggot's wife had taught her mushroom and bacon dish to the Mistress of Brandy Hall. I was quite certain that Merry would have learned it of her."

"Therefore, by the process of elimination, Sam made that wonderful soup." Aragorn concluded.

The hobbits all looked at one another chagrined. "Well," said Merry, "I suppose that means you got us."

"We shall take our leave now," said Aragorn. "It was a splendid Welcoming Feast, and we are weary and ready for our beds." The Royal Couple took one another's hands and made for the door that led to the corridors.

"Wait a minute!" exclaimed Frodo. But the two were already nearly out of the ballroom and did not (or feigned not to) hear. "They never said which they liked best," he said.

"They got out of telling us which dish was best!" Pippin drew his face down in a pout.

"I think they got away with it," said Sam.

Merry shook his head. "We'll make them answer tomorrow. If not, we will just tell them there's another contest. We'll keep it up until they answer."

-oo000oo-

Sam's Mushroom Soup


Ingredients

1/2 stick butter
1 medium or 1/2 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 and 1/2 pounds mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 cups broth (mushroom or vegetable or chicken)
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs (I use parsley, thyme and tarragon)
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pan, melt half the butter on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the rest of the butter to the pan. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the chopped mushrooms for garnish, and put the rest of them in the pan with the butter and onion. Saute until the onions begin to turn golden brown.

2. Stir in the broth and the herbs; bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Return the soup to the pan.

3. Add the sour cream and stir until melted. Reheat gently on medium low until hot. Stir in the rest of the mushrooms to garnish. Serve hot. Makes enough for 4 to 6.

(A/N on the recipe: Sam, of course, would not have a food processor or a blender. So he would either have used a sieve or a food mill or a masher to break up the mushrooms and onion.

To mince fresh herbs, I snip them into a small condiment dish with kitchen scissors. I then use the tips of the scissors to mince them more finely.)


Author's Notes: All of the mushroom dishes save Sam's Mushroom Soup have appeared in previous recipe!fics.

Frodo's Cooking Lesson The stuffed mushrooms
A Special Homecoming The mushroom pie
Missus Maggot's Mushrooms The mushrooms and bacon dish

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Oct. 2nd, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)
A Big Folks guest wing at the Great Smials, what a marvelous idea. And a separate Wizard’s Room! I hope they're occupied often. And it's always a joy to see Menelcar again.

I enjoyed this story SO much. I'm not fond of mushrooms, but would definitely taste all four of those dishes and hope to be delighted and amazed.
dreamflower02
Oct. 2nd, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you, dear! That's the big joy of the Eucatastrophe-verse, where just about everything always goes right!

In one of my earlier Eu stories, Pippin said he hoped to build a Guest Wing for the Big Folks so Strider could visit one day! I finally got around to writing about it.

You will notice that the King and Queen think they got away without telling which one they liked best. Somehow I don't believe the hobbits will let them get away with that!
shirebound
Oct. 2nd, 2015 06:44 pm (UTC)
Yay, sounds like a sequel. This 'verse makes me happy.
hours_gone_by
Oct. 2nd, 2015 07:11 pm (UTC)
A cooking contest, what a wonderful idea! Plus, I love mushrooms with a hobbit-like love and it makes me happy to see them being enjoyed so. Thank you for the fic, and the recipes, which look delicious!
dreamflower02
Oct. 2nd, 2015 08:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love them, too! Mushrooms are so earthy and tasty, I know why hobbits love them so!
lindahoyland
Oct. 3rd, 2015 01:28 am (UTC)
A delightful story which made me hungry. Clever Aragorn and Arwen!
dreamflower02
Oct. 3rd, 2015 01:33 pm (UTC)
LOL! I have SO many reviewers tell me my stories make them hungry. *grin* I wonder why!

Yes, they are quite clever--but I'm sure they know the hobbits well enough to realize they won't get away with not answering the other part of the challenge forever, but at least it was delayed.

Perhaps I will do a little drabble like follow-up someday, once I figure out how they solve the problem once they are cornered.
nessrealta
Oct. 3rd, 2015 02:21 pm (UTC)
As always when you write about food, you leave the reader hungry....I could imagine the smell and the taste of all those dishes so well!

And I really like detective Aragorn and Arwen!
dreamflower02
Oct. 3rd, 2015 08:12 pm (UTC)
I do love to do that! Describing food is a real challenge--it's easy to overuse words like "delicious" or "luscious", which tell that someone likes it, but doesn't tell why they like it. I like to describe the look, texture and smell, and hint at the ingredients within.

They really did play detective didn't they? But they wanted to guess right!
blslarner
Oct. 9th, 2015 08:58 pm (UTC)
And Aragorn and Arwen have been most clever indeed, deducing who cooked what but not judging one above the others! Delightful!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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