54: The Pantry of Soup

Mrs. Kippling continued to chop up random tubers and roots while Edmund watched, only slightly disappointed. It was good to know that even if lunch wasn’t going to be special, at least dinner would be. He tried not to think about how Matron’s cousins were obviously worth the extra effort, while he had not been.

Mrs. Kippling tossed another lump of something red into the pot, and gave a sharp nod, wiping her hands on a ratty old cloth. Humming tunelessly, she waddled over to the large row of pots and pans that squatted resolutely on the tall shelves. Pulling a slim pan down, she sidled her way to the pantry, shoving open the thin doors with the pan resting on her hip.

The pantry was full of kegs. Large, small, and in-between; made from oak, ash, yew, and pine. Most of them looked ancient with spots of mold and dark crusty lichen. They all had large labels, etched in brass with a large and languid hand, which hung over thick brass spigots.

Muttering softly under her breath, Mrs. Kippling ran a finger in the air over the messy labels. Making her selection, she held the pan firmly as she twisted one of the brass handles. A thin dribbly stream of thick red spilled out into the pan until it was almost full, and Mrs. Kippling twisted the spigot closed. With a grunt, she hoisted the slim pan into the air, and set it down on one of the large metal disks that radiated out from the oven.

“There,” she said, mostly to herself. “A few minutes to warm up, and Matron will have her luncheon.”

After several more minutes of chopping and dancing, Mrs. Kippling stopped and faced Edmund again, her hands on her hips.

“Well I can’t very well take you just standing there, staring at me while I work. Either come in or get about yourself.”

Edmund would have liked to leave, rather than enter that maelstrom of cookery, but instead he found himself stepping through the doorway into the glowing room. Mrs. Kippling paled again as he looked around, and straightened her apron.

“You watch yourself around these,” she said, gesturing to the faintly red iron plates surrounding the oven. “I ain’t going to shed any tears for you if you burn your face on the stove plates when they’re hot.” Another blush. “Begging-your-pardon, of course.”

Edmund glanced around for someplace relatively safe to stand but there didn’t seem to be one. Thinking quickly, he pushed himself up onto the edge of the counter and sat on the edge, letting his legs swing in the air.

Mrs. Kippling looked horrified for a moment and then quickly returned to her cooking. Edmund watched her for a few more moments before he realized he had a captive audience. This could be his chance to get some serious questions answered.

“I like to read,” Edmund said. “Are there… Tell me if there are any books around that I can read.”

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