Newcastle upon Tyne, England – Standish Manor
The lord of Standish Manor was a renaissance man. His interests were vast, from cooking to painting portraits of friends and family.
Always a curious child, Hayden Standish grew up in a wealthy family that entertained his every whim.
He was always on the lookout for new experiences. When he was old enough to travel on his own, he went on a world tour that lasted for three years. He visited great cities in Europe and Asia, soaking up their cultures and cuisines.
His most enjoyable experiences were when he left the beaten road for most tourists, and discovered small villages and towns with unusual customs and laws.
He traveled to Bulgaria, and through the Balkan mountains, to the burning desert sands of the Kalahari desert in Southern Africa. He braved the frigid temperatures of the Antarctica, and the humid jungles of South America.
During his travels he kept a notebook full of the recipes of the food he ate. He would immerse himself in the culture to fully appreciate the experience of each dish. He also carried an artist’s pad and pencils to sketch his culinary experiences.
Among the delicacies he sampled were fried cow brains, puffin hearts, drunken shrimp, escamole (ant larva harvested from the roots of the agave plant), Hakarl (fermented basking shark), live octopus seasoned in sesame oil and chopped up before your eyes (it’s still wiggling when you eat it), tuna eyeballs, bullock’s balls, and A-Ping (fried tarantula).
Just before returning home to England, Lord Standish visited a small town – Ardara – just outside of County Donegal in Northern Ireland. While in France, he met a gourmet chef there who strongly recommended Ardara’s famous stew.
Ardara’s hilly streets were lined with gift stores and stores selling the famed Donegal wool. A pub, The Rebel’s Revenge, was Lord Standish’s destination. He introduced himself to the chef, and ordered a bowl of his famous stew.
He was immediately impressed with the first mouthful, chewing it slowly and savoring the tender meat base.
“Lamb right?” he asked.
“It’s a secret recipe that’s been in my family for over two hundred years. I regret that I can’t answer your question, but please understand it’s our biggest culinary draw,” the chef replied.
“My compliments sir. It’s the best stew I’ve ever eaten.”
That night, Lord Standish laid awake for hours in his hotel bed, thinking about the savory stew. He got up several times and looked out his window. He had a perfect view of the pub across the street.
The next day he went back for more. And the next day. And the next.
When a week went by he realized he had to have the recipe. No amount of money had moved the chef to share the secret ingredients. He could tell what everything was in the stew, but the meat.
It preyed upon his waking thoughts and dreams like a prowling tiger. Then one night, he got a break.
It was well past midnight. He was standing up and staring out his window when he saw a light flicker momentarily in the pub. Curiosity already aroused, he got dressed and walked out into the tiny lobby area.
A clerk was sleeping in a padded chair behind the check-in counter, as he opened the door. He expected a bell or something, but nothing happened when he went out.
The pub was dark again. He walked around to the side alley looking for a rear entrance. Rusted trash bins and stacks of wooden crates greeted him. Then he saw the back door. It was slightly ajar and light was seeping out from the crack.
Cautiously, he approached it and tried to peer inside without touching the door. It was only an inch-wide gap and he didn’t see anything at first. Then he made out what looked like a human leg on the floor!
Shocked, but unable to help himself, he stood there and stared at the naked leg. He heard the chef’s deep voice telling someone to separate the ribs and to set the entrails aside. He listened to the sound of meat being hacked apart for several minutes.
When he saw a shadow come cross the leg on the floor, he turned and ran blindly into the night! He flew head-over-heels after tripping on something in the alley. The terrified Lord Standish barely made it back to his room before he started vomiting.
One year later.
Lord Standish invited his friends and family to a dinner party.
Recovered from his initial reaction, he now whole heartedly took on the special stew. A connection with a local corrupt funeral home owner provided the necessary meat on a fairly regular basis.
The main dish, Lord Standish’s Stew, was a hit with everyone in attendance.
As It Stands, this is another one of my cautionary tales where I point out you should always know all of the ingredients in something you eat.