-04- A Culinary Gentleman

As my eyes opened this morning, two blue gems reflected into my own. Thalica’s face was close to my own. She really was a beautiful woman, and I wanted to gently stroke the dull copper colored hair which ended in curls at her shoulders.

“Ready to wake, Gardavan?”

“Yes ma’… Mrs. Thalica.”

With a smirk, her face soon left my immediate sight, only the hem of a tan skirt caked in flour remained. I stood up much easier today than yesterday, and after gathering my bedding, I passed it over to her.

“Go ahead and get started, I’ll be right back.”

I nodded and went to the kitchen, lugging a bag of flour to the table, as well as the mixing bowls for each of us to use, and the ingredients for making dough. When she returned we got right to work. At first it was quiet as we both began mixing the morning dough, until I broke the tension with a question after numerous times of us each stealing looks at each other.

“Is it the clothes?” I asked.

“I’m not sure.” Was her answer. I decided then to change the questions to something a bit more in line with the job.

“So is it only regular brown bread that you make here?”

“What else would I make?” she replied, outperforming me again today with her impressive ability to make dough quickly.

“There are many different kinds of breads.” I answered off-handedly. “Things like sandwiches, filled buns, even cheese bread.”

“What are these things you speak of?”

It seems this topic sparked the right amount of curiosity. It also occurred to me that calling something a sandwich may be foreign, since it was named after a noble back on Earth only a few hundreds of years before I was born.

“A sandwich is made by taking a loaf of bread and slicing it into many pieces. Then sliced meats, cheeses, and vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, and lettuce are added between two of the slices. There’s even a condiment known as Mayonnaise made from eggs and either vinegar or lemon, salt, and oil. There are differing types of it, some sweet and creamy or some spicy and thick. They are smeared on the insides of the sliced bread and eaten all at once.”

“Gardavan, I dare remind you that meat is a luxury not everyone can afford.”

“It doesn’t need to always be meat. There are sandwiches which can be made from boiled egg or minced fish as well.”


“Yes, I do believe it should be called an egg salad sandwich. It tastes far more delicious when chilled, but otherwise fine at room temperature.”

“And you can make this with ease?”

“Yes. It may make a few bowls a bit messy, but it’s not difficult to make at all.”

“Then you can make it for Sup later. I should like to try it.”

“Alright. It will require boiling many eggs and letting them cool first. Perhaps you will let me begin the preparation after midday should business slow down?” I suggested.

“After the bread is baked, you are free to boil them at that time.”

It would be easy enough, though I would have to clean out the stewing cauldron out first before filling it with enough water to boil the eggs.

“Might I ask about a few spices, and their availability?”


“Yes, something like ground pepper or mustard?”

“Mustard is easily obtained, but pepper is…”


She tore off a small piece of dough and presented it to me as a measurement. “The amount of peppercorn equivalent to this size is a single gold in price.”

Okay, that was ridiculous to me, but I suppose seeing that it’s probably not grown locally, that would make sense if it was an item brought in from elsewhere. It was like that in Earth’s history as well.

“Are there any other spices which are affordable that add a bit of heat to the taste? Which make the tongue tingle and burn? I could make a substitution from bell pepper seeds if those are available.”

“There are bell peppers. We can shop for one or two later, or I can send Nefe out to buy them if you need them of good quality.”

I shook my head.

“Celery, Pickled Cucumber, Garlic, and Onion are ideal to add in addition. I wouldn’t recommend using adding the bell pepper to it, though if a moist cheese was available, roasted bell peppers go great on a pizza.”

I used to work for a pizzeria part-time when I was still in high school.  As they were a traditional one that made everything from scratch, I felt I could make that one dish better than any other.

As we slowly filled the bowls and I talked about various types of foods centered around bread, her daughter, Nefetina, came downstairs first.

“Good morning mommy. Good morning Gardavan.”

“Good morning to you, Nefe.” I replied kindly.  As she wasn’t crying, it seems like she didn’t have an accident overnight.

“Good morning, sweetie. Did you dream well?”

“Uh-huh. I can’t remember it anymore, but I think it was a good dream.”

Nefe walked over to her mother, receiving a warm hug and a soft kiss to the forehead. Then she walked over to the large bin which held the day-old bread and fetched a loaf for herself to munch on.

“Mommy, yesterday Bina invited me over to her home to spend the night, can I go?”

“Was it just you who was invited?  If I recall, isn’t Nedry friends with Trevor as well?”

“Ugh… if I bring Teek, then those two are going to bother us!”

“Nefe… go talk to Bina. If he can’t go, neither can you.”

“Aw, mommy!”

“That’s final, young lady. I know Tansy, and she would be more than happy to have Trevor keep Nedry company while you two are having fun.”

Nefetina bit into her bread sullenly. The words it’s not fair! were drowned out as she masticated. She left the kitchen and returned upstairs. Meanwhile, I couldn’t refrain from smiling.

“Something amusing?” Thalica asked me.

“Ah, seeing you do that reminded me of my own mother. My sister was a few years older than I growing up, and my mother often had her drag me along whenever she would rather go places by herself, and she hated it so much.”

“Do you think I’m in the wrong here?”

“Are you kidding? No matter how good a parent you are, every parent should get a night to themselves once in a while! I can’t imagine how difficult it is to raise children, but even I know that every mother need to have chance to relax and recover whenever possible. Children have yet to understand that we don’t have that endless spark of energy more at our age.”

She seemed to take comfort in me saying that, though I couldn’t be entirely sure that was actually the case.

“And what exactly is our age, Gardavan?”

“To my own reckoning, I should be twenty-four. I will of course refrain asking Mrs. Thalica of the same, as I have heard it is ungentlemanly to ask a lady such things.”

“Mm. Is that so? I don’t believe I have ever heard such a thing, in regards to gentlemanly conduct.”

“A product of my homeland, I assure you. Instead we merely trust that all women are no doubt half a decade younger than we might guess, and simply stop aging at all upon reaching twenty-nine, thereupon remaining youthful forever.”

“So, you are saying that I have immortality to look forward to come a few years hence?”

“If that is the case, but surely you speak of a decade, and not just a few meagre years?”

Her cheeks reddened a bit. I won’t deny I was trying to flirt a bit with her, though none of it is done maliciously. I wanted to keep the atmosphere good, rather than return to working in mutual silence.

“That I were still my bountiful self at nineteen. That and the years which have passed have come and gone both fast and slow. All spent waiting… for naught.”

“Do you still await his return?”

She shook her head.

“It’s been five long years, and not a single letter or message has come to me of his whereabouts. The unit he was assigned to was slaughtered, and even the lord’s purser had come to give me a military pension for his service.”

In short, even the powers that be in the military who conscripted her husband also believed he lost his life on the battlefield.

“I’ve since turned that pension given into this bakery, where every day I mix dough and fire the ovens, that my fatherless children might not starve.”

“While my own opinion may not amount to much, I think you must have done magnificently to come this far.  Both of your children appear to be healthy and happy, you have a roof over your head, and a stable income of coin.  It may not be what you dreamed of, but it’s functional, and sometimes that’s the best you can do with the hand you were dealt.”

She stopped mixing dough momentarily, to sigh. “Let… let us stop talking about this, shall we?”

“My apologies for being intrusive, Mrs. Thalica.”

Instead as the mixing resumed, in silence again, I felt bad for the direction the topic flowed toward. We filled the clay bowls and she began to stoke the oven fires. Her two children came downstairs and while her son began his morning errand to collect the orders for the day, Nefetina was to be sent on an errand of her own as well.

“Nefe, I was talking with Gardavan about what to have for sup today. He suggested making something from his homeland, so you will need to fetch a few things quickly.”

“Okay!” she answered compliantly, before asking as any child might when presented with something new to eat, “Is it tasty?”

“Do you like eggs?” I asked her.

“I do.”

“Then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The only thing different about it is how fun it is to eat these eggs.”


“Yep. It’s fun.”

That definitely caught her interest. Thalica was able to tell her what she needed to pick up that wasn’t already in stock here at her home, and after giving her a few copper coins, sent her on her way.

“After today’s business and sup, will you accompany me again?”

“To the bathhouse again?” I asked.

“To the church. To deliver the leftover bread which remains, for the orphans and poor.”

“I’d be honored to accompany you again.”

The morning went much the same as yesterday, Trevorkane came back with the orders, and we sorted them all out while also taking care of the regular customers who came to buy their bread directly. Nefe returned with the items she was sent to purchase, then left with her brother to fulfill the deliveries.

When it came to be midday, she said I could begin my preparations. I had put in a dozen eggs to be hard-boiled, and then began creating a sweet mayonnaise from scratch. I’m not a huge fan of mayonnaise, but on things like egg salad or tuna fish sandwiches, it’s enjoyable. I was also lent a sharp knife to turn a few loaves into sliced bread with.

While I was preparing things, regular customers would inquire of Thalica what I was preparing, since I was in full view.

“He is treating us to sup.  I myself am looking forward to what it will be when he is finished.”

“Ah, to have a young man doing the cooking at my place.  Neither of my boys would have the first clue of what to do.”

Both of them giggled away and gossiped for a while. The eggs were taken from the cauldron and left to cool for a while. When the children returned and the business for the day was all but done, I began to work my culinary magic.

Bachelor magic, that is.

After peeling the shells, I chopped the lukewarm hard boiled eggs up finely to a bowl, added the mayonnaise, chopped pickles and celery and added a pinch of salt to accentuate the flavor. Mayonnaise was spread on the bread slices first, followed by the egg salad and… voila! I then took the liberty of cutting them into pseudo-triangles, for ease of eating and presentation.

Though I had received a red bell pepper, I didn’t have enough time to dry and chop the seeds up for this batch. However I do believe the pepper seeds would be useful once fully dried for the future.

Aside from one bowl containing the egg salad mixture, another bowl with the mayonnaise, and two stacks of sliced bread, I cleared off the table and filled up a plate with many egg salad sandwiches as I could, so everyone would have their fill to eat.

Thalica, her two children, and I all sat down and readied ourselves to eat.

“So, this is the fun egg?” Nefetina asked me, skeptical.

“Yep.” I reached for a slice, and brought it to my mouth, taking a bite and showing how it was supposed to be eaten.

“If you don’t like the bread soft, it can be toasted as well. This is just my preference, but I hope you all enjoy it.”

Each of them copied me, and had a bite.

And each of them opened their eyes wide when they began to chew it.

“This is really yummy!” Nefe said after swallowing her first bite.

“Yeah! It’s really yumyum!” Trev added afterwards.

I, however, was waiting to see what the woman of the house thought of it. I was treated to the sight of a smidge of mayonnaise on the side of her lip, as she stared at the sandwich which was already half-eaten in her hand.

“Gar… this is… rather savory.”

“It would taste twice as good if I could figure out how to cool the eggs down further.” I explained.

“How about using magic?” Came a strange statement from Nefetina.

“Magic?” I prompted.

“Uh-huh. There’s magic that makes things cold!”

My forehead wrinkled a bit trying to figure out what she meant by that. Did they have something like an ice box here? I know Larder rooms are a thing as well to keep foods cool, though there wasn’t one in this residence as far as I knew.”

We all partook of a few more slices, the children to the point they just couldn’t finish the last slices they took, patting their tummies cutely and probably wondering why.

Egg salad on bread sits heavy. That’s why it’s an ideal lunch food.

I had made a bit too much though, as there were still quite a few left untouched. I got up and fetched one of the doilies, placing it over the remaining pieces. Nefe was still patting her stomach, but looking between me and her mother and fidgeting as well.

“Um… mommy? Can I bring a few of these with me… if I take Teek along?”

I looked at Thalica and gave a nod.

“I suppose so. We’ll need a basket if you’re going to take them to share.”

“Yay! Thank you, mommy!”

“Yeah, thanks mommy! Now Neddy can try one too!”

There was still some egg salad remaining.

“Shall I make a few extra to fill the basket, Thalica? It should be nice to get the opinions of the adults as well.”

“Mm, that’s a good idea. Will you let me assist you?”

“By all means, let me show you how.”

The little ones went to fetch a basket, and I showed Thalica how to slather on a good dollop of mayonnaise, and a heaping scoop of the egg salad.

“You can even add a slice of crisp lettuce on one side between the egg and the bread, to change up the experience.”

We filled the basket the children brought up, and after getting permission to go, they both left the home to stay the night at their friends’ house. Soon after we left the residence, with me carrying an empty flour sack full of old bread as well, walking with Thalica towards the church.

When we arrived, there was a woman who was waiting for her arrival. Her name was Gemma, and she was something like an elderly nun who oversaw one of the nearby orphanages. She was also the person to which we were delivering the sack full of bread to.

“Thank you for always being considerate to the children.”

“You know I will always offer a hand if I am able.”

“Yes, you were always such a good and obedient child.  But, tell me, who is this young man accompanying you today?”

Thalica looked over to me, and then back to the elderly nun. She seemed unsure of what to say. I put on my customer service smile, and introduced myself.

“Good afternoon. I’m Gardavan, I was helped recently by Mrs. Thalica, and am currently working to repay her favor.”

The nun paused.

“Gardavan… you say?”

I nodded.


She just shook her head. Should I not have introduced myself?

The elderly nun only smiled.

We accompanied her a little ways away to a run down building which turned out to be an orphanage. There were about twelve children of various ages twelve and under playing outside. They stared at me as I passed them by, but only for a moment.

Entering the building, I was asked to take the bread to the kitchen in the direction the sister pointed. She took Thalica somewhere under the premise of having a cup of tea and talking for a short while.

When I arrived in the kitchen, there was another woman there with long brown hair, dressed similar to the elderly nun.

“May I help you?” She asked me as soon as I was noticed.

“Ah, yes. I’m here to drop off the bread being donated by Mrs. Thalica.”

She pointed to a space on the floor nearby. “You can leave it right there.”

I deposited the sack on the floor, and then pat my hands which had traces of flour on them from carrying it. She looked to be in the middle of preparing food for everyone.

“Would you like me to lend you a hand?” I offered. As these were people she showed charity to, I figured it was right to do the same.

“Know how to peel potatoes?”

I nodded.

There was a space at the table, and a basket for the peelings. The younger nun brought me a spare knife, and without so much as another word spoken, we peeled a rather large amount of potatoes together. Then I assisted her by helping to fill a large iron pot with them, practically to the top.

“Potato soup?” I asked.

“Yes. We rely entirely on donations, and a generous amount of potatoes was donated recently. I’m afraid the children may become sick of them soon.”

“Do you only boil them?”

“Yes? Is there something else you would do with potatoes?”

I nodded.

“Do you have another pot and some oil perhaps? I know of a way to cook them that children can’t help but enjoy and never tire of.”


After assuring her, she brought out a second pot, and small casket of oil. Dipping a finger in it and tasting it, I was sure that it was some kind of vegetable oil.

“Do you have a ladle I might use as well?”

She did. As there were still many potatoes remaining which we had peeled that didn’t fit into the pot she had already prepared, I used the knife again to cut them into thin strips ready to be turned into fries. The nun looked on in curiosity as I worked my magic, asking her for any salt she had on hand, and a bowl or basket I might put the finished product into.

With the oil now at a reasonably hot temperature, I began dropping them into the pot, and letting them fry.

“Boiling them in oil?” She inquired.

“In my homeland, this is something of a treat. I wouldn’t recommend it for every meal, but it’s an indulgence that everyone should find enjoyable.”

Minutes passed as I made many batches, before finally finishing with a full handbasket of fries, which were salted after each round.

"They smell good."

"Try one.” I insisted, and had her choose from the side which had time to cool. “They’re called Fries.”

“Oh, my heaven!” Her reaction was as I expected. She enjoyed the taste immediately.

Thalica had come to fetch me as she caught the nun and I each snacking on a few fries, sharing some guilt knowing they were a few less fries the children would be able to eat.

“Thalica!” The nun moved quickly to my benefactor’s side and held her hands. “How have you been?”

“I’m good. The children are as well.”

“Thank you for always delivering us bread. May the goddess continue to smile on you and your little ones.”

“I’m sure she does.” Thalica said as she glanced at me. “Is he being useful to you?”

“Oh my, yes. He helped peel potatoes, and even made something for the children which tastes wonderful! Come, try one.”

Thalica was the next victim of the delight known as fries.

“These are… potatoes?”

I nodded.


She helped herself to another two.

“I can make them anytime provided there is oil.” I told her.

“The children would love these.” She said assuredly.

“All the children back in my homeland love these. They go well with both the mayonnaise from earlier and another thing called tomato ketchup, which is a sauce made from tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar. Mustard is also acceptable if you like something a bit spicier.”

There were ingredients here to make mayonnaise, so with permission I whipped up a small batch to go with the fries. Afterwards, we brought them out to the main hall where there was a long dining table. The children were called in a bit early to be seated and try some.

It went over well, and not one fry was left after about ten minutes. Then just as soon as they came in, they ran back out to play, not a word of thanks in their mouths.

The young nun could only shake her head in disappointment.

I laughed.

“Kids will be kids. The smiles on their faces as they ate was their gratitude.”

“You’re a kind man.”

“I try to be.” I said, passing a look from the nun to Thalica. “At the least I try to return one kindness with another.”

I offered to help clean up, but the young nun wasn’t having any of it. Thalica and I were instead shooed out and we returned to her home, together.

“Were you perhaps a famous chef in your homeland, Gardavan?”

“Not at all. I worked in a few kitchens and learned some things here and there, but I’m not accomplished.”

Thalica had pulled out four copper coins, putting them in my hand. “Your wages from yesterday and today.”

I thanked her, but felt I should have returned at least two of them.

“I wish I could offer you more.”

“It’s plenty for now. Even if I have this much, I wouldn’t know what to spend it on anyway.”

“Do you plan on departing anywhere else soon?”

I shook my head.

“Where would I go? I don’t even know where I am. I only know that I will probably never find my way back to my hometown, so I can only try my best to survive here and hopefully find a place I can move to soon, so as to not burden you.”

She put her hands over mine.

“Would you be interested in working for me for a while longer?”

“I have no reason to refuse.  In fact, I’d be rather grateful if you let me… but are you sure you’re okay with a stranger like me you took in from the streets being here? The last thing I want to do is overstay my welcome, and this place belongs to you and your family. I’ve received so much from you already, I don’t want to be thought of as someone who takes advantage of a blessing.”

“You really are a kind gentleman, aren’t you?”

She suddenly embraced me! Her sweat had a sweet scent, and her bosom was soft as it pressed against my chest. Though she called me a gentleman not even a moment ago, I confess my thoughts right now weren’t as pure as they should have been.

I soon found myself on the floor with her in my arms.  I held her with one hand, and gently stroked her hair with my other.



No further words. Just a pair of soft lips pressing against my own.