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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 71: Brown 218
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Derek eyed his breakfast somewhat suspiciously. He tried to remember what he had instructed the robot to make, and it seemed that this might somehow be that, but it was not what he had anticipated.
There were two eggs on his plate. They were still in the shell--but they were not raw. They were warm to the touch. He might have thought boiled, but there was an uneven browning of the shell. He had heard of baked eggs, never had them, but did not think this was what was usually meant by that. They were a bit small for chicken eggs, but since this was an alien universe he didn’t expect that they had chickens anyway.
He hoped the meat was some kind of poultry, sliced thinly like bacon and fried, probably in oil with some spices.
As for the bread product, he tried to envision how it was made. It most reminded him of stuffing, as if some kind of grain had been baked into a loaf, then the loaf cubed and tossed on a griddle with butter and maybe sugar, fried up, and scooped onto the plate.
The juice had the look of something bright, opaque, and pulpy, which suggested citrus. Of course, citrus could be very unpredictable--grapefruit could be bitter, lemon was so sour almost no one drank it straight, and orange and lime--well, it depended on the oranges and the limes, the latter closer to lemon, the former very varied.
He was beginning to regret his instructions when Vashti asked, “What is it?”
“Apart from that it’s what I said--cooked eggs, meat, a bread product, and fruit juice--I don’t really know. But I suppose we should taste it.”
Despite its alien appearance, it was not really bad. The eggs were a bit unevenly cooked, which gave a well-cooked white below and a soft yolk under a runny white above. A spoon seemed to be the tool to eat it, much like a soft boiled egg, from the shell.
The meat did not taste quite like chicken, nor like turkey, and Derek was not that familiar with other birds, but it tasted enough like them to be familiar. The spices were less so, but he recognized some from his earlier cooking experiments and the food that had been served to them during their earlier captivity. The bread dressing was, as he anticipated, sweet and buttery. He was at first surprised, but then realized that the alien metabolism could not be too different from their own for them to be able to eat the same foods, and sugars and fats would be important nutrients as well as something they would crave. The juice was more sour than he would have liked, but satisfactory as a beverage. It struck him that he should have ordered water, but it was easy enough to get a glass here in the galley, so he did, and brought one for Vashti.
“So,” he said, “What do you think?”
Vashti had started eating. She surveyed the plate. “Well, it’s not the Caliph’s banquet,” she said, “but we’re not going to starve, either.”
He nodded. “Well, let’s order lunch today, for three hours from now? Better make it three and a half--I keep forgetting that their seconds are shorter than ours. Something--well, I’ll think about it,” he said, taking another bite of the meat. “Meanwhile, we’ll have to find a gym. There must be one for the officers somewhere, and the captain’s not likely to use it so it should be free for us to practice.”
Vashti nodded in consent, and they finished their meal. He removed the dishes, and found the robot waiting. Addressing it by number, he said, “Thank you for breakfast. Please clean the kitchen, and we would like lunch in three and a half hours from now.” He looked at the ship’s clock, noting the time and doing the math. “For lunch we would like soup and sandwiches. Soup is a palatable blend of foods, usually meats and vegetables, diced, sometimes with other ingredients, cooked in water, broth, or sometimes milk; there should be recipes in the computer. Sandwiches are layers of thinly sliced meat, sometimes with cheese and sometimes with a condiment spread or other additions, between slices of bread. Again there are many varieties.”
He considered whether to order dinner so it could start work on that, but decided to stick to one meal at a time for the present. He decided not to try to order a beverage, because he had no idea what might be available and they could drink water.
“Well,” he said to Vashti, “let’s go see what we can find for an exercise area.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #443: Versers Acclimate. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: