Linking up once again for one of Kendra’s Character Encounters! But first, the Quotes of the Month:
PETER: (Seeing the sideways Clean/Dirty label on the dishwasher) Soooo…are these dishes clean, dirty, or in a state of quantum flux?
MOM: (after pouring oil in the popcorn pot) Does this look like enough?
PETER: *squeaky-hyper voice* NO! YOU’RE GONNA KILL US ALL!!! *normal voice* Yeah, that’s fine.
LOL! Guess being eaten alive by the College Monster (which is another story entirely) hasn’t affected his sense of humor. :-P (Love U, Bro. ;-))
Now to the Encounter….
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To my mind, there’s nothing better than a hearty bowl of Meatball Minestrone when the thermometer reads barely fifty degrees…and that’s right by the house.
There I stood, filling up the kitchen sink with warm water to wash the potatoes in, with our big stockpot waiting on the sink counter to receive them after their bath…once they were chopped up, of course. And the carrots. And the celery. And the green beans….
As I waited for the sink to fill, I tried to focus my mind on something pleasant—not merely to help pass the time on what might be a potentially arduous job, but because I was still recovering from that weird dream I’d had a while back. I found myself imagining what Pádma might have gotten away with if Ciaran hadn’t come to my rescue. I gave myself a little shake and reminded myself to pay attention to the job at hand.
When the water level met my satisfaction, I turned around to fetch the potatoes, but paused half-way when I spotted someone standing by the breakfast table to the right of the sink. This person couldn’t have been more than four feet in height—if she was even that tall—so for the first half-second I took her for one of Mom’s grade-school piano students. But none of Mom’s pupils wear floppy white mobcaps over their earth-brown curls (in fact, none of Mom’s students even have hair that curly), nor do they dress in pink-and-white frocks that look like something from a Renaissance Faire. On her feet she wore a pair of simple brown Mary-Jane-type shoes…although they sometimes looked like furry Hobbit-feet, too. Perhaps this was because she’d begun her imaginary existence as a Hobbit-lass but had later been converted into a short peasant-girl. She smiled at me—a sweet, innocent smile that took up most of her round little face and made her large brown eyes twinkle.
The next half-second, I recognized her and smiled back. “Hi,” I greeted her.
“Good ev’nin’ to you, my lady,” she replied with what I call a slightly “rustic” lilt to her voice—somewhere between Welsh and Irish with a dash of Cockney, but softer and almost American—rather like Samwise Gamgee, actually. She curtsied. “Bramblerose Cottonwool, at your service, my lady.”
“I know who you are, Rose,” I returned, still smiling. “And I’m glad to see you. What made you want to visit me?”
“Jamie said I’d find you in the kitchen, my lady, so I thought I’d come and ’elp, if you wish.”
I blinked. “Jamie…oh—oh, yes, of course, Jamie.” It took me a moment to remember that everyone in The Pirate-hunter calls Ciaran “Jamie.” “Have you been standing there long?”
She looked sideways and bit her lip. “Oh, well, you know, my lady,” she simpered, “I didn’t wish to bother you, an’….” Her voice trailed off.
“…and you thought you couldn’t speak without being spoken to, and since I didn’t speak to you, you just stood there until I did, yes?” I finished for her.
Bramblerose nodded sheepishly. “I keep forgettin’ that it ain’t that way with you, my lady.”
I walked over to the rolling island and opened the cabinet part of it, where the potatoes were waiting. “Excuse me if I work while we talk—we’re having minestrone tonight, and it won’t make itself, you know.”
“Oh, allow me, my lady!” Bramblerose cried eagerly, running to my side. “Tell me ’ow to make—what d’ye call it?—Minnie-stony—an’ I’ll make it, while you sit at your ease.”
I chuckled as I hauled out the sack of potatoes. “I’m no lady, Bramblerose. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair for me to sit on my lazy bum while you do all the work.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, Lady Tom, you was born to an ’igh fam’ly, so that makes you a lady.”
Apparently she took me for my alter ego. I decided to play along. “One might argue that being born in a stable makes one a horse,” I replied, returning to the sink. “But let’s not split hairs. I’d be glad of some help cutting up all the vegetables, if you’d be so kind.”
“Consider it done, my lady.”
Bramblerose—standing on a little footstool I fetched from the living room—carefully poured a few “spuds” into the warm water and vigorously scrubbed the dirt off each lumpy brown root. Then she handed it to me to be cleaned and chopped. She washed the celery stalks and green beans I’d laid on the counter earlier, and we had a regular assembly line going, with her washing and me chopping and dumping the vegetable pieces into the stockpot. When we’d reached the last vegetable, Bramblerose asked if I wanted any seasonings.
“Yes,” I answered, “we’ll want some salt and garlic, parsley, rosemary and probably oregano and cayenne pepper.”
“If you’ll wait a moment, my lady,” she replied, hopping down from her stool, “I’ll just nip out to the garden and fetch the yarbs ’ere.”
“Oh, we don’t have a garden, Rose,” I said quickly, as she took a step towards the back door, “unless you count that sadly neglected raspberry patch in the back corner. The garlic is in a jar in the fridge, already minced.”
Bramblerose looked confused. “In the—what, my lady?”
Oops. No refrigeration in the eighteenth century. “Never mind, Rose, I’ll fetch the garlic. You’ll find the salt and other seasonings on the wall yonder.” I pointed to our little shelving unit on the wall across from the oven, where our dried herbs and spices stood in neat (ish) rows.
Bramblerose pushed her stool over—the shelves being higher off the floor than her head—and picked out the glass jars labeled Oregano, Rosemary and Cayenne Pepper while I got the garlic out of the refrigerator. She wasn’t able to reach the salt or parsley, them being on a higher shelf, so I got them myself, and we brought everything to the sink counter.
“Oh, bother,” I groaned, “I forgot the meatballs. The hamburger’s all ready to be shaped,” I explained to Bramblerose, “but I’m really not looking forward to handling all that raw meat.”
“If you please, my lady,” Bramblerose suggested respectfully, “let me do that bit, so’s you don’t get your pretty ’ands all soilt.”
Having worked in the kitchen of Blondel Hall for most of her life, she could stand such things a little better than my germ-phobic self.
“Blessings on your head!” I beamed, fairly skipping to the refrigerator.
So Bramblerose—brave soul—rolled all that nasty, squashy, germ-laden raw hamburger into bite-sized balls and dropped them into the broth I’d poured over the chopped veggies. Once we had the broth spiced up (and I introduced Bramblerose to antibacterial soap and hot running water), I put the lid on the pot and set it on the stove to boil, where it would remain for the next several hours.
“Thanks for your help, Rose,” I said. “That went a lot quicker than if I’d had to do it all myself.”
“’Twas my pleasure, my lady.”
“Do you have time to sit and chat for a while? Perhaps have some tea?”
Her eyes widened, as though I’d suggested a trip to the moon. “Oh, thank you kindly, my lady,” she replied with a little gasp, “but I’m afeared ’twouldn’t be proper.”
“Hang propriety,” I snorted. “That’s Lady Ida talking. We’re both Believers, right? That makes us God’s children, and all God’s children are equal in Christ.”
She nodded slowly. “Aye—to be sure, my lady,” she assented, “an’ I don’t deny that—never! But beggin’ your pardon, I wouldn’t want to get famil’ar with my betters, an’ forget my place before folk as thought diff’rent than you.”
I was just about to get on my soapbox about separation of classes and all that rot, but Bramblerose’s humble demeanor and innocent face diffused my ire, and my intended tirade dissolved into a defeated half-smile. “Okay, Rose,” I sighed, “you win. No tea, then. Probably for the better,” I added, more to myself than to her, “since we’ll be having supper in a few hours anyway.”
“By your leave, my lady, I’d best be gettin’ back,” said Bramblerose. “I’ll ’ave an ’eap o’ chores to do afore bedtime, so I’d best get started right away.”
“Very well, then. Best wishes with your work, and thanks again for helping me with mine!”
She curtsied. “Glad to be o’ service, my lady.” Then she turned and started down the hallway.
“Say hello to Ci—Jamie for me!” I called after her.
Bramblerose smiled back at me. “Sure, I will, my lady!” she called back. Then she disappeared around the corner.
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Until next time, Gentle Readers,