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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wednesday Briefs: Agni Goes To Market

As of this week, Nagareboshi Reviews joins the ever-growing circle of bloggers who participate in Wednesday Briefs. It's pretty simple: write flash (short) fiction based on prompts that are made available each week, post and share. Boom! Done.
This week, I've been inspired for my first brief to write a little Black Butler flash fiction, featuring everyone's favorite Indian butler, Agni. No major spoilers for the manga besides knowing who Agni and Soma are. Enjoy!
Spice and Butler: Kuroshitsuji, Agni-centric, G, prompt - "spices in an Indian market"

Over the past couple of years, London had grown a fondness bordering on mass hysteria for the spices and sweets that made up the backbone of Indian cooking. Having subjugated the country of India to royal rule, they deemed fit to also take over its kitchens and markets, a culinary invasion where English businessmen came home with the taste of curry and yogurt still lingering across their palates. Unfortunately, they did not seem to bring with them any of the nuanced skill that the natural born and raised chefs of India possessed.
They rarely found that certain taste again in the higher echelons of London society, except for when they supped at the Phantomhive house whenever Prince Soma and his entourage were in town. After that, it became known that there was a chef among society men who could cook as well as the Indian greats, and that was Agni.
It was a shame, then, that the cuisine of England could not match Agni's own high standards.
At the open-air market that Agni shopped at, the so-called 'Indian fever' had only recently hit, but it showed in the sudden variety of items being foisted upon him at every turn. At one stall, the shopkeeper kept wafting some sort of a disgusting, noxious ground powder in front of the royal butler, proclaiming it to be a wondrous gift from mystic Asia.
Prince Soma, he thought, would sooner throw his favorite butler out on his ear before he would eat anything flavored with that.
"Curry powder," he called it, and Agni politely declined before turning away, his nose wrinkled in disgust. Curry powder—as if that cheap imitation of garam masala could ever fully embody the mixture of warmth and heat, cinnamon and cardamom and peppercorns, that had been the spice of a childhood spent eating curry on rice, as essential to his palate as the salt and pepper shakers the English were so fond of putting out on every table.

Bard, the Phantomhive cook, didn't understand. The Phantomhive household had recently visited the London townhouse which Soma was now keeping care of. Bard was intrigued and confused by the great number of spices stored within Agni's pantries.
"Can't you just use one of 'em?" Bard growled. He gave a jar of black salt an apprehensive look.
Agni looked up from the lamb he was in the middle of marinating for the night's supper. "Indian cooking involves a layering of flavors and sensations, balancing warm and sweet flavors for added nuance. Unlike English cooking," Agni added, "which is about as subtle as one of Soma's elephants crashing through your home."
Bard, who often used flamethrowers and dynamite to cook his own dishes, could not argue against that one.
When he cooked, he created a savory perfume that transformed the kitchen as well as the surrounding rooms from Ciel Phantomhive's London townhouse to the colorful illustrated palace of Prince Soma's country. Every spice, every ingredient, was another step back into the familiar smells and tastes of India: hot ginger; raw coriander leaves; cardamom of various colors; cloves and cinnamon; thin spindles of red saffron used with a careful hand.

When he cooked, Agni was home again.
Here are the Wednesday Briefers who are participating this week: