Prosatio Silban and the Advertent Appetizer

AND THEN THERE WAS THE time Prosatio Silban sold a meal for a song – literally.

The beefy cook had set up his galleywagon in the small, quiet, and mostly indifferent marketplace at the village of Taverner’s Luck, but had so far that day served only a sparse handful of customers. The weather matched his mood: cold, windy, with low-hung clouds portending rain.

A passing woman paused to study the cook’s painted menu board. Her short black hair, wide eyes, and long, multicolored tunic proclaimed her a minstrel from far-off Aydnzmir, City of Musical Harmony.

Prosatio Silban bowed. “With what may I please you?” he asked.

“I see you have an extensive menu,” said the minstrel. “May one presume to inquire for the availability of something that’s not featured?”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Have you ever heard of tantushi? It is a specialty of my native land, and largely unknown outside it.”

“Have you ever heard of tantushi? It is a specialty of my native land, and largely unknown outside it.”

“A simple dish, but subtle. I learned to prepare it years ago while researching extracultural cuisines. I always serve it whenever I visit your city, but that has been years ago. How forgiving is your palate?”

“Very. I am more than a little homesick, and even a mediocre serving would be a calmative to my spirit.”

“I hope that my preparation will be better than mediocre,” Prosatio Silban said. “Please – take a seat. I shall serve you presently.”

* * *

“By the Silent Octave!” exclaimed the minstrel, putting down her chopsticks and sighing contentedly. “I have not supped so well in all my travels, or even at home. What do I owe you for this excellence?”

“Only five in copper,” Prosatio Silban said.

“A bargain indeed,” the minstrel said, reaching for her coin-pouch. A look of shock passed over her face.

“My purse!” she said. “It’s been cut!” Turning horrified eyes to the cook, she produced what remained of the pouch’s belt-string. “Please! You must believe me!”

Prosatio Silban regarded her with professional equanimity. “I do,” he said. “Your misfortune is, I am afraid, all too commonplace in such times as these. Consider the meal my gift to you.”

“You are most kind. But I insist on some sort of compensation.”

“What do you offer?”

“A song. We of Aydnzmir are not unskilled in matters musical, and I am sure I can create something appropriate to the location and occasion.”

“I would be honored. It might even have the secondary effect of attracting more custom.”

The minstrel unslung an ivory-and-gold lyre, cleared her throat, and began to sing in a thrilling contralto:

By turns sweet and savory.
Tender grains
Kissed by sauces supernal,
Tastes of the sea
And the earth.
From patient hands comes
Food for kings,
And all good and simple folk.
Tantushi –
Inspirer of song
And appetite,
Of old lands
And new acquaintances.”

She played a final note, then raised a shy grin to Prosatio Silban.

She played a final note, then raised a shy grin to Prosatio Silban. “How was that?” she asked.

Before the cook could answer, a well-dressed older man spoke up. “I do not know what that woman was singing about, but I must sample it at once,” he said. “Could you please bring me a bowl? I can practically taste it!”

“That goes for me as well,” said a smiling woman in a dark green skirt, sitting down at one of Prosatio Silban’s tables-and-chairs. “I have never heard of the like, and I must try it.”

“And me!” “I also!” “Us too!” came a chorus of voices from the small crowd that had suddenly descended on the cook’s galleywagon.

“Patience, good folk,” Prosatio Silban said, his face beaming a warm welcome. “I shall be happy to serve you all.”

The minstrel bowed. “Is my debt to you discharged?”

The cook returned the bow. “Indeed,” he said. “With great interest.”

(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction.)

2 comments for “Prosatio Silban and the Advertent Appetizer

  1. Kathryn Hildebrandt
    2021.05.13 at 1522

    Sweet! 🙂

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