53: Mrs. Kippling’s Cooking

“Matron’s guests have all elected to have their meals in their respective rooms,” Ung continued as Mrs. Kippling caught her breath. “As has Matron herself.”

Mrs. Kippling’s face turned bright red as her hands began to wring themselves back and forth.

“And I suppose they all think I can just fix it up no trouble? My gracious, I couldn’t hope to take a tray to each of them — I have to start dinner soon!”

“You will manage,” Ung gave a small nod of his head. “A good soldier makes do.”

“I could help,” Edmund said reflexively. Mrs. Kippling stared at him, startled.

“Oh, no, it’s not fitting for a young master like yourself to muss about in the kitchen begging-your-pardon,” she said, shaking her head quickly.

“Matron has requested that he bring her lunch to her room,” Ung said, slowly.

“Carry meals about like a butler?” Mrs. Kippling looked back and forth from Ung’s passive face to Edmund’s, obviously torn between duty and propriety. Finally she waved a hand in surrender. “Well, alright then,” she sighed as she wiped her hands on her apron. “It’s-not-my-place. I suppose you’d better follow me, young master Edmund.” Muttering to herself all the way, Mrs. Kippling and Edmund half-walked half-ran to the kitchen.

When Edmund had first seen the room it had been cold and dead — empty of food or charm. Now the giant oven in the middle of the room was ablaze, burning bright and hot like a forge while Mrs. Kippling spun about it like a whirlwind, food and utensils flying.
At first Mrs. Kippling had been unwilling to allow Edmund to enter.

“I ain’t going to have anyone underfoot or getting in the way of my knives, pots, and pans,” she said, gesturing wildly around herself like a windmill. “Begging-your-pardon, of course.”

Edmund wondered how many people could work in the room at once. There was a massive table that framed the room, and it looked like there were places for seven or eight servants to do their work — but if there were even six people in the room, he couldn’t see how anyone could cook without cutting, bashing, or burning themselves on something.

Of course, with Mrs. Kippling in the kitchen there would have been no avoiding it. She dashed around the room like a frightened rabbit, flinging metal and meat all about while puffing and grunting with the exertion. Edmund thought the theatrics were all a bit more than was necessary; all Mrs. Kippling seemed to be doing was chopping things up and throwing them in a pot.

“Is this all for lunch?” Edmund asked after several large vegetables had landed in the giant copper pot. It would be a nice change from soup, he thought, as Mrs. Kippling added a large haunch of meat.

“No,” she said, jumping around the burning oven, “I’m getting dinner ready. It takes a long time to cook just right, you know.”

Edmund did a quick calculation in his head and realized that dinner would be cooking for over five hours.

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