Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Terry Pratchett - Hogfather extract (Pt. II)

"In the glittering, clattering, chattering atmosphere a head waiter was having a difficult time. There were a lot of people in, and the staff should have been fully stretched, putting bicarbonate of soda into the white wine to make very expensive bubbles and cutting the vegetables very small in order to make them cost more.

Instead they were standing in a dejected group in the kitchen.

‘Where did it all go?’ screamed the manager. ‘Someone’s been through the cellar, too!’

‘William said he felt a cold wind,’ said the waiter. He’d been backed up against a hot plate, and now knew why it was called a hot plate in a way he hadn’t fully comprehended before.

‘I’ll give him a cold wind! Haven’t we got anything?’

‘There’s odds and ends…’

‘You don’t mean odds and ends, you mean des curieux et des bouts,’ corrected the manager.

‘Yeah, right, yeah. And, er, and, er…’

‘There’s nothing else?’

‘Er… old boots.’


‘Boots. Lots of ’em,’ said the waiter. He felt he was beginning to singe.

‘How come we’ve got… vintage footwear?’

‘Dunno. They just turned up. The oven’s full of old boots. So’s the pantry.’

‘There’s a hundred people booked in! All the shops’ll be shut! Where’s Chef?’

‘William’s trying to get him to come out of the privy, sir. He’s locked himself in and is having one of his Moments.’

Something’s cooking. What’s it that I can smell?’

‘Me, sir.’

‘Old boots…’ muttered the manager. ‘Old boots… old boots … leather, are they? Not clogs or rubber or anything?’

‘Looks like… just boots. And lots of mud, sir.’

The manager took off his jacket. ‘All right. Got some cream, have we? Onions? Garlic? Butter? Some old beef bones? A bit of pastry?’

‘Er, yes…’

The manager rubbed his hands together. ‘Right,’ he said, taking an apron off a hook. ‘You there, get some water boiling! Lots of water! And find a really large hammer! And you, chop some onions! The rest of you, start sorting out the boots. I want the tongues out and the soles off. We’ll do them… let’s see… Mousse de la Boue dans une Panier de la Pâte de Chaussures…’

‘Where’re we going to get that from, sir?’

‘Mud mousse in a basket of shoe pastry. Get the idea? It’s not our fault if even Quirmians don’t understand restaurant Quirmian. It’s not like lying, after all.’

‘Well, it’s a bit like-” the waiter began. He’d been cursed with honesty at an early stage.

‘Then there’s Brodequin rôti Façon Ombres…’ The manager sighed at the head waiter’s panicky expression. ‘Soldier’s boot done in the Shades fashion,’ he translated.

‘Er… Shades fashion?’

‘In mud. But if we can cook the tongues separately we can put on Languette braisée, too.’

‘There’s some ladies’ shoes, sir,’ said an under-chef.

‘Right. Add to the menu… Let’s see now… Sole d’une Bonne Femme… and… yes… Servis dans un Coulis de Terre en l’Eau. That’s mud, to you.’

‘What about the laces, sir?’ said another under-chef.

‘Good thinking. Dig out that recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara.’

‘Sir?’ said the head waiter.

‘I started off as a chef,’ said the manager, picking up a knife. ‘How do you think I was able to afford this place? I know how it’s done. Get the look and the sauce right and you’re three-quarters there.’

‘But it’s all going to be old boots!’ said the waiter.

‘Prime aged beef,’ the manager corrected him. ‘It’ll tenderize in no time.’

‘Anyway… anyway… we haven’t any soup-’

‘Mud. And lots of onions.’

‘There’s the puddings-’

‘Mud. Let’s see if we can get it to caramelize, you never know.’

‘I can’t even find the coffee… Still, they probably won’t last until the coffee…’

‘Mud. Café de Terre,’ said the manager firmly. ‘Genuine ground coffee.’

‘Oh, they’ll spot that, sir!’

‘They haven’t up till now,’ said the manager darkly.

‘We’ll never get away with it, sir. Never.’

'I’m not going to,’ said the head waiter firmly.

‘Look, I’ll buy you a better pair after Hogswatch-’

‘There’s two more Shoe Pastry, one for Purée de Terre and three more Tarte à la Boue,’ said a waiter, hurrying in.

‘Mud pies!’ moaned the waiter. ‘I can’t believe we’re selling mud pies. And now you want my boots!’

‘With cream and sugar, mind you. A real taste of Ankh-Morpork. And we can get at least four helpings off those boots. Fair’s fair. We’re all in our socks-’

‘Table seven says the steaks were lovely but a bit tough,’ said a waiter, rushing past.

‘Right. Use a larger hammer next time and boil them for a bit longer.’ The manager turned back to the suffering head waiter. ‘Look, Bill,’ he said, taking him by the shoulder. ‘This isn’t food. No one expects it to be food. If people wanted food they’d stay at home, isn’t that so? They come here for the ambience. For the experience. This isn’t cookery, Bill. This is cuisine. See? And they’re coming back for more.’

‘Yeah, but old boots…’

‘Dwarfs eat rats,’ said the manager. ‘And trolls eat rocks. There’s folks in Howandaland that eat insects and folks on the Counterweight Continent eat soup made out of bird spit. At least the boots have been on a cow.’

‘And mud?’ said the head waiter, gloomily.

‘Isn’t there an old proverb that says a man must eat a bushel of dirt before he dies?’

‘Yes, but not all at once.’

‘Bill?’ said the manager, kindly, picking up a spatula.

‘Yes, boss?’

‘Get those damn boots off right now, will you?’ "

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