Prosatio Silban and the First Principle

IN EVERY PROFESSIONAL’S LIFE, THERE comes a point where they must choose between correctness and accommodation.

Prosatio Silban heaved a deep sigh, one of many such that morning. The primary concern of every cook is to make the customers happy, he thought. But what if they’re, well … wrong?

His situation had begun the previous afternoon, when Carrora Dyzan dropped by the cook-errant’s galleywagon in the Itinerants’ Quarter of Pormaris’ South Market. “I would like to engage your services for a private dinner tomorrow, and I have something specific in mind,” she said, emerald eyes alight. “It’s my twenty-third birthday, after all, and I want the occasion to be special for my guests and me.”

“That is quite the milestone,” the beefy cook said with an obliging smile. “Now, then – with what may I please you?”

She tugged at a long crimson curl, then dimpled. “I have recently fallen in love, and I want the food to reflect that.”

“Wonderful! Who is the lucky man?”

“It is not a man.”

“Ah – a lucky woman, then?”


Prosatio Silban creased his brow. “You have me at a loss,” he said. “With whose charms have you become so enamored?”

Prosatio Silban creased his brow. “You have me at a loss,” he said. “With whose charms have you become so enamored?”

A fierce grin split her heart-shaped face. “Volcano peppers!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I simply adore them! I never had them growing up, but now that I shall be an adult I wish to indulge my tastes to the full. I want you to cook for me your most luxurious dishes, and flavor them heavily with volcano peppers: the hotter and more colorful, the better. I will pay you whatever you ask, but when the meal is done, there should be no dry eye – or, if I may say, nose – in my entire dining-room. Besides – they’re so pretty!

“Of course,” the cook said. “But I must caution you: whatever I prepare won’t be tasteable through the severe heat of your new favorite flavor-agent. Could we perhaps serve the peppers on the side, and allow your guests to mix them in as they –”

Carrora Dyzan stamped her foot in mild petulance. “I already know what I want. I want volcano peppers, and I want you to cook them into your signature dishes. And that’s that.”

* * *

When in doubt, consult.

“It’s not as though she’s asking for blue rice and wheat-threads on the same plate, or fish with cheese,” said Pelvhi, polishing an ale-glass. “That would be wrong.”

“That’s true,” Prosatio Silban replied.

“But it’s also our job to instill respect for the cuisine,” countered Andwilla Thork, another colleague of long standing. “You would mark a bad precedent – and perhaps also damage your reputation.”

“That’s true too,” Prosatio Silban replied.

“Those are conflicting opinions!” said the person sitting on his other side, who until then had been making a show of ignoring the conversation. “They can’t both be true!”

“You know something?” Prosatio Silban replied. “That’s also true.”

The disputants were congregated at the long bar along one end of the dim and smoky great-room inside Pelvhi’s Chopping-House, that spacious but crowded late-night refuge for Pormaris’ hospitality workers. Their discussion had spilled over into the ears of nearby customers, tongues lubricated by a variety of intoxicants, and Prosatio Silban soon found himself with no end of advice.

“It’s like this,” said Delerio Phkal, a process-cook at the Wild Lion. “There is nothing wrong with crossing boundaries in the name of business. Take her coin and be done with it.”

“Aha!” said another cook, Willio Mzarin, of Debtor’s Trespass. “But how will you feel in the morning? What would you, then, rather have done?”

“The issue is integrity,” spoke up Dapid Tavoja, restaurateur of The Bear and Wolf.

“The issue is integrity,” spoke up Dapid Tavoja, restaurateur of The Bear and Wolf.

“No, it’s an issue of flexibility,” countered Mercesto Iaor, Star and Whistle’s famed headwaiter.

“But these are his most famous dishes we’re talking about,” said Andwilla Thork. “It would be different if the order were for, say, Leisurely Eggs, where such flexibility is both expected and condoned.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said Delerio Phkal. “The customer always comes first, whatever they want. That’s why it’s called ‘catering.’”

“Bah! He might as well roll over and expose his ample belly,” said one of Pelvhi’s passing bussers. “Where will it all end?”

“Exactly!” pronounced Dapid Tavoja. “How dare you even consider tampering with your tested recipes, and gainsaying your innate cook’s-sense? We are in the business of preserving culture!”

“We are in the business of creating pleasure,” said Mercesto Iaor. “How dare you consider gainsaying that?

Prosatio Silban drained his glass of white duliac, set it on the bar, lifted a mollifying hand, and rose from his stool.

“I thank you all very much for your thoughts and counsel,” he said. “It seems I have a difficult decision to make. May Ferranadri, Breaker of Culinary Propriety; Uliachil, Champion of Comestible Decorum; and Hopmon, God of Ceaseless Commerce; each and all help me to make the right one.”

* * *

Prosatio Silban finished rolling up his knives-bindle and sighed. There really is no substitute for a happy customer, he thought. Whatever the cost.

He stepped to the kitchen door, where Carrora Dyzan was waiting with a heavy coin pouch. “This is for you,” she said with a grateful smile. “My guests were beyond pleased, and so am I. Thank you for so ably respecting my wishes.”

The pouch jingled as it changed hands. “My pleasure,” replied the cook, and bowed. “Thank you for respecting mine.”

(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. And if you want another 85 stories in one easy-to-read package, here’s the e-book!)

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