Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

    AC Benus
  • Author
  • 1,602 Words
  • 397 Views
  • 25 Comments
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Carême in Brighton — a mystery novel - 16. Chapter 15: “Dinner is Served” & Call for Kitchiner!

.

Chapter 15: “Dinner is Served” & Call for Kitchiner!

 

The Banqueting Room was fully lit.

The natural source provided bright spring sunlight to pour through Nash’s ingenious stained glass clerestory windows. Positioned thirty-five feet above the floor level, they cast sparkle and tessellated squares of colour down on the table.

A cathedral to cuisine is what Carême thought as he admired the room’s artificial sources of illumination as well. Nearly countless gas flames burned behind the frosted panes of this hall’s chandeliers, torchieres and great central crystal Gasolier.

Carême slowly paced along, in the silence before the storm, examining every detail. The guests, including the Prince and Grand Duke, were detained on the other side of the closed doors from the Central Corridor and South Drawing Room. No one would get in until the chef de cuisine was satisfied with the presentation of his meal.

And what a meal!

The forty entrees of the fully-set First Table were arranged per the chef’s vision – in casual precision. There was no over-crowding, and yet everything remained in easy reach for the diners to pick up and serve their neighbours. But precision too in the arrangements, for a ‘tall’ quenelles de volaille en turban – dumplings of chicken meat served mounded in a ring – were matched pleasantly with a similar-height stand on the other side of the table of quenelles de volaille à l’italienne – stacked artichoke hearts, filled and toasted with tomato sauce and parmesan. ‘Low’ dishes, like the deep-fried lamb nuggets served on aubergine slices, or the hash of roast pheasant with poached quail eggs, were likewise equally placed in complementary positions. Everywhere a guest turned, a new delight and pleasing arrangement would be awaiting their attention. This artistry of composition spoke of Carême’s Classical mind, even if he himself had to be the one acknowledging it.

Down the centre of the fifty-foot-long table, the eight centrepiece roasts Thomas had prepared glowed spectacularly in the cast light from the gilded candelabra they rested between. The First Grade silver finials of the decorative skewers shone like jewels.

In contrast, the eight pièces de résistance were on the sideboards, set apart as the edible works of art they were for guests to admire before they sat down. They would be moved to the table itself, to replace the grosses pièces roasts, when the second course was set.

Admiring it all, the chef felt a fleeting pang; it was unfortunate Lady Morgan could not be to see this, as she was an ardent admirer of his work. Personal thoughts led him back to young Master Daniels, and how the undercook had pulled him into the unoccupied Pastry Kitchen two hours ago to tell him how much François hated the boy. With the Regent’s secretary, the Kitchen Comptroller and François, Thomas felt he was being surrounded for assault. Carême soothed him the best he could, first reminding the young man that each of the three he named were really angry with Carême and not Thomas personally; and second, he assured him Thomas’ completed centrepiece roasts today would show all the naysayers in the Pavilion the young cook was a force to be reckoned with. After parting after a brief kiss Carême had been left alone to contemplate that such tensions as the young man was now navigating always arise in large kitchens. François’ actions practically illustrated the frictions felt between the up-and-coming and the up-and-come. Prosaically, the chef regarded the situation between François and Thomas as nothing truly serious. Although, interpersonally thanks to the cupid in Doctor Kitchiner’s nature the chef found himself in a more emotionally complex situation than he could have anticipated.

He stopped; one wine glass was a fraction of an inch too close to the plate of a place setting, so he gently pushed it back along the table, careful only to lightly touch the foot of the tumbler where his fingerprints would not show. He also adjusted the carte de menu on this plate; each place setting had one, along with the dignitary’s name who’d sit there.

With that, he passed around the narrow end of the table and began working his way up the other long side. But everything his eyes encountered seemed perfect.

This was Carême’s own moment to savour his work. To acknowledge the spectacle of it all. While he cast his gaze over the table and its arrangements, he considered how every monarch in History had only dreamed of hosting a banquet as flawless as this one. But, despite the crowned heads of eons numbering well into the thousands, each one of their foodfare dreams had fallen short, for Carême was the only Carême ever born, even if he had to say so himself.

As a last glance to seal his memory of this moment, he crossed over to the centre sideboard. There rested his sugar work model of John Nash’s onion dome and Salon colonnade. He bent down to see his own innovative little lamp light up the sugar-pane windows from the inside. He felt he could have made the Pavilion’s architect jealous; and why not. Carême was an architect of fancy worth every jot of praise Mr. Nash regularly received.

The chef stood upright. He nodded at the waiting footmen to let the guests see for themselves. Once done, he humbly made his way back to the kitchens.

His internal clock was ticking. Carême knew he had about fifteen minutes before the guests had finished admiring the table and sideboards, found their seats and settled down.

In the Great Kitchen, he strode around the massive steaming table, seeing the eight tureens were warming to be filled, lidded and set on silver platters to go out hot. Hot was key, as there was something to suit every possible taste a consommé of capon; a bisque of crayfish; a potage of partridge; and five others, including a Russian-style broth with pearl barley cooked in kvass, the russe version of un-hopped English ale. The fun was in having the guests break the ice at the table and ask their neighbours to pass down their bowl to have it filled with the soup they most fancied to try. In the chef’s food world, hot soup was essential.

Carême glanced at the clock. He nodded, and undercooks began taking their soup pots from the range over to their designated tureen.

One of these vessels was special; while the others were democratically alike, this one was larger and featured an oversized painted set of the Prince of Wales feathers. François appeared to the chef’s side with his pot of soup. This tureen was to be placed by George’s side so he could personally fill the Grand Duke’s bowl.

The filled tureens were covered one by one, for once the Prince gave the signal from the dining room that everyone was ready, the soups would go out immediately.

Suddenly Thomas Daniels was next to the chef. He spoke low into Carême’s war. “There’s something you have to see.”

François noticed the boy pulling Carême away. “Chef . . . ?”

“Keep going, Villon. I’ll be right back.”

Thomas led his master into the Service Corridor, and then through the door of the Household Kitchen. Here, several of the uniformed musicians who would play later tonight at the ball sat having tea while they flirted and chatted with the maids.

Thomas led the way out of this room at the other end, past the pantry and storage rooms, and out to the day-lit Kitchen Courtyard.

More of the musicians were here, standing around in a tight circle, gaping at something in the centre of the court.

The chef and Thomas pushed their way through. Carême saw several dead cats. They were ghastly – stiff, with contorted limbs, grimacing leers, petrified in death with open-eyed faces. They had succumbed through horribly pain-racked convulsions, and then the chef saw ‘it’ – the reason, for a gnawed turtle shell laid in the middle of them. The same turtle whose meat had gone into François’ soup—

The chef panicked, and then bolted, but instead of retreating the crowded way they’d come, Carême ran along the covered passage that dog-legged around the Kitchen Stables, the flank of the Great Kitchen, and led straight to the Decking Room.

Quickly out of breath, and feeling his legs would give out for lack of oxygen, Carême burst through the glass doors just in time to intercept the Prince’s soup tureen. It was the last one, and going through the door to the Banqueting Room.

Carême grabbed the arm of the footman, gasping, “Back to the kitchen with that.”

The footman obeyed, although with a confused scowl on his face, and Carême followed. He told the man, “Take that straight to the sink and pour it down.”

“Yes, Chef.”

In the Great Kitchen, Carême was first occupied with finding another tureen. He told the appropriate undercook, “Fill that with the barley soup and see it’s served immediately to the Prince Regent.”

“Yes, Chef.”

Carême had yet to think of François, and then suddenly his partner was standing in front of him. The man was trying to speak, but couldn’t. Then François’ eyes glazed and rolled back in his head. Spittle turned to foaming at the corners of his mouth, and the man’s legs gave out under him.

Thomas appeared.

Carême dropped to his knees, reaching out for François, but the maitre-d’ began convulsing on the floor, violently.

“Mon dieu,” Carême cried. Then he shouted at Thomas, “Call for Kitchiner!”

 

 

_

Copyright © 2022 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 3
  • Love 5
  • Wow 10
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

AC Benus

Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, frosenblum said:

I wish I could come up with a witty cooking metaphor or something British, but all I can think of to comment is: that sure came out of left field.

Brilliant chapter.

Food metaphors aside, thank you for reading and commenting, frosenblum! The ending of the events portrayed here are sudden, and sometimes, that's the way it's most effective in literature.

Thanks again! 

Edited by AC Benus
  • Like 1
  • Love 3
Link to comment
AC Benus

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, 84Mags said:

The previous chapter weighed on my mind as I started reading this one, so I went back and re-read it. (With this chapter's startling ending, I am so glad that I did!) This time around, during the interactions between Francois and Thomas, it struck me how deeply Francois cares about Careme. Even though Francois is angry/jealous towards Thomas, it is important to Francois that Thomas complete every task to perfection and recognize the honor bestowed upon him by Careme. It was crucial to Francois that Careme have his significant moment to shine. One of Thomas' assigned tasks was to clean the turtle. The same Thomas who, in this chapter, took Careme aside for a brief smooch and to tattle on Francois for not treating him well. Also, the same Thomas who is Doctor Kitchiner's 'person' in the kitchens and the one chosen by the Doctor for a sexual dalliance with Careme. It is interesting that killing and cleaning the turtle had no ill effects on Thomas but eating the raw shell and 'leftovers' killed the cats. Perhaps the source must be consumed, as Francois obviously did.

Careme should have taken the matter between Francois and Thomas more seriously, rather than viewing it as nothing consequential. I also wish he had actually thought about Francois and the obvious likelihood that Francois had tasted the soup. It felt as though Careme is, once again, so caught up in achieving his own mastery that he is missing details around him.  This line made me laugh, thinking that humble is the exact opposite of how he took in the room and his culinary pinnacle: "Once done, he humbly made his way back to the kitchens."  

One must wonder who is masterminding the unfolding events. 

Thank you for your brilliant comments, 84Mags! If I'm allowed to quibble, then the only small point I might have a nibble at, is the suggestion that our dear Doctor chose Thomas to be the one in the Pavilion to develop feelings for Carême. Those emotions arose all on their own. However, Kitchiner's seeing how rocky and potentially unhappy François' Bi indiscretions were making Carême -- and judging correctly that there was mutual attraction between Thomas and Antonin -- caused him to play cupid. And Lady Morgan, likewise caring deeply about her friend, assisted facilitating in Rottingdean because the boy was already getting "blamed" for sleeping with the chef. With the Irish novelist, though, I believe she for one -- having more knowledge about the Frenchmen's relationship -- does not conceive of the chef's dalliance leading to any sort of broken-home situation between Carême and François, but that's a guess on my part. In other words, I don't think she sees any advantage in having the 10-year-long partnership of the men dissolve. The rules and boundaries of each relationship are unique and worked out by the parties directly involved.   

And yes, regarding the withdrawing humbly, this chapter allowed me to explore a bit more of its author's sense of humor / irony. Such moments crop up now and again in the book, but here we get a chance to see a feeling's birth, development and completion (as he exits the scene).

Thank you for highlighting that moment. I truly appreciate it!  

Edited by AC Benus
  • Like 1
  • Love 4
Link to comment

This ending is scary. Did Francois just taste the soup? How deadly is it?

Thanks for a provocative chapter.😘

  • Like 1
  • Love 4
Link to comment
42 minutes ago, Theo Wahls said:

This ending is scary. Did Francois just taste the soup? How deadly is it?

Thanks for a provocative chapter.😘

If the cats are any indication, the soup is pretty darn toxic . . . 

Thanks, Theo Wahls, for reading and commenting. It's much appreciated  

  • Wow 3
Link to comment

I don't think that Thomas is a suspect, he carries too much affection and hero worship for our hero.  My first thought, prior to the very end, was that Francois was a good suspect, he hated the Russian Duke and Thomas would get the blame.  But, unless he accidentally poisoned himself, he didn't do it?  One of the two bureaucrats that hate Careme?

  • Like 1
  • Love 4
Link to comment
58 minutes ago, CincyKris said:

I don't think that Thomas is a suspect, he carries too much affection and hero worship for our hero.  My first thought, prior to the very end, was that Francois was a good suspect, he hated the Russian Duke and Thomas would get the blame.  But, unless he accidentally poisoned himself, he didn't do it?  One of the two bureaucrats that hate Careme?

**rubs hands together in fiendish glee**

👀 🐢 👀 Seems almost cruel of me to hold back the next chapter for an entire week, doesn't it? 👀 🐢 👀

 

But I like your logic concerning the suspects. I suppose we have to consider who has what to gain, and when. For now, we better hope François does not succumb to the fate of the poor Brighton felines. Thanks for another set of great comments, CincyKris. They are much appreciated. 

  • Love 5
Link to comment
1 hour ago, drsawzall said:

What a great chapter and...I suspect the hand of Donald Bland...

Looks like we will need Lady Morgan as well!!!

Well, drsawzall, an author can't hope for any better than hearing their chapter was great, so thank you! I agree with you that Bland might be capable . . . and I also back up your call to bring Lady Morgan in on the case! She's awesome 

  • Love 5
Link to comment
5 hours ago, AC Benus said:

Thank you for your brilliant comments, 84Mags! If I'm allowed to quibble, then the only small point I might have a nibble at, is the suggestion that our dear Doctor chose Thomas to be the one in the Pavilion to develop feelings for Carême. Those emotions arose all on their own. However, Kitchiner's seeing how rocky and potentially unhappy François' Bi indiscretions were making Carême -- and judging correctly that there was mutual attraction between Thomas and Antonin -- caused him to play cupid. And Lady Morgan, likewise caring deeply about her friend, assisted facilitating in Rottingdean…

Good point, well made. It would have been better had I used the word aided, because there was most certainly a mutual attraction. My thought was that Thomas didn’t have the means, without the assistance given, for either of the dalliances to happen in the way they came about. 
I mentioned this in another comment as well, but still want to add that my initial comments are not meant to imply I think Thomas is the culprit. I actually believe he is a pawn. 

  • Like 1
  • Love 3
Link to comment
20 minutes ago, 84Mags said:

Good point, well made. It would have been better had I used the word aided, because there was most certainly a mutual attraction. My thought was that Thomas didn’t have the means, without the assistance given, for either of the dalliances to happen in the way they came about. 
I mentioned this in another comment as well, but still want to add that my initial comments are not meant to imply I think Thomas is the culprit. I actually believe he is a pawn. 

It will be most interesting to see your thoughts once the additional information of chapter 16 is added. (Suggested only at least half-jokingly) You still have time to order the hardback and have it rush-delivered to you if you are feeling disinclined to wait a week :yes: 

Thanks again 

  • Love 3
Link to comment
On 7/20/2022 at 7:38 PM, frosenblum said:

I wish I could come up with a witty cooking metaphor or something British, but all I can think of to comment is: that sure came out of left field.

Brilliant chapter.

It was like a bolt out of the blue. 

  • Love 4
Link to comment

Well I didn't see that coming. I felt awfully sorry for the turtle. I'm glad Thomas acted so quickly.

I'm sorry for Francois. I think this might help both him and Careme figure out what the feel for on another. 

Poisoning on purpose or bad sea food? We need Lady Morgan to help. 

Could it be Bland trying to discredit Careme? Or a political agent hidden in the kitchen? Let's see. 

  • Love 4
Link to comment
2 hours ago, Doha said:

Well I didn't see that coming. I felt awfully sorry for the turtle. I'm glad Thomas acted so quickly.

I'm sorry for Francois. I think this might help both him and Careme figure out what the feel for on another. 

Poisoning on purpose or bad sea food? We need Lady Morgan to help. 

Could it be Bland trying to discredit Careme? Or a political agent hidden in the kitchen? Let's see. 

Thank you, Doha! Yes, the poor turtle, and the Britons ate so many of them, they stopped visiting English waters entirely. Even in 1815, 98% of the creatures turned into the ever-popular soup were imported, mostly from the Caribbean colonies. 

In the next chapter, we get a glimpse at how well Carême cares for and nurses his ailing partner. In this chapter we may learn more about where the poison turtle came from too. 

Thanks again for a wonderful set of comments! I appreciate it  

  • Love 2
Link to comment
AC Benus

Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, Doha said:

It was like a bolt out of the blue. 

...which is a good thing... :yes: At least for a mystery book

Edited by AC Benus
  • Love 2
Link to comment
raven1

Posted (edited)

That was a very unexpected twist.  Whoever poisoned the soup must have used a very subtle, but quick acting poison since Françios was not able to taste it.  It could have been Françios hoping to poison the Grand Duke who he hates, but he doesn't seem to be the type of person to commit suicide. Bland who is not only out to ruin Carême, but seems to have a great deal of dislike for Prince George's spending is also a candidate on my list.  Getting Lady Morgan on the case is a must.  I hope Dr. Kitchiner is close at hand.  

One thing doesn't seem to add up for me.  The cats were killed by eating the raw turtle meat, not the soup.  That would mean that the meat was poisoned before the slaughter, or during the slaughter of the turtle.  Thomas was the one responsible for killing the turtle.  If the turtle was poisoned before the slaughter, it was done while it was still alive.  That leaves Thomas as the chief suspect, but he doesn't seem to have any motive.  A very perplexing puzzle.  It would seem that we need more information about what happened after the turtle arrived alive.

Edited by raven1
  • Love 3
Link to comment
On 7/29/2022 at 8:51 AM, raven1 said:

That was a very unexpected twist.  Whoever poisoned the soup must have used a very subtle, but quick acting poison since Françios was not able to taste it.  It could have been Françios hoping to poison the Grand Duke who he hates, but he doesn't seem to be the type of person to commit suicide. Bland who is not only out to ruin Carême, but seems to have a great deal of dislike for Prince George's spending is also a candidate on my list.  Getting Lady Morgan on the case is a must.  I hope Dr. Kitchiner is close at hand.  

One thing doesn't seem to add up for me.  The cats were killed by eating the raw turtle meat, not the soup.  That would mean that the meat was poisoned before the slaughter, or during the slaughter of the turtle.  Thomas was the one responsible for killing the turtle.  If the turtle was poisoned before the slaughter, it was done while it was still alive.  That leaves Thomas as the chief suspect, but he doesn't seem to have any motive.  A very perplexing puzzle.  It would seem that we need more information about what happened after the turtle arrived alive.

Thanks, raven 1. You raise some good questions on how the soup was poisoned. I suppose we'll find out soon enough, but the good thing is Doctor Kitchiner is rather like Lady Morgan in always seeming to be on the spot. Hopefully quick medical intervention can avert disaster for Françios.

You cast an intrigiung shadow over Thomas' actions too . . . we'll have to see if any of them play out later on.

Thanks again for a wonderful set of comments. They are much appreciated!

  • Love 1
Link to comment

I finally have time to continue this story, and wow, what a chapter! Luckily for me, the next one is already posted. :)

  • Love 2
Link to comment
6 hours ago, ObicanDecko said:

I finally have time to continue this story, and wow, what a chapter! Luckily for me, the next one is already posted. :)

You are lucky in a way! You stopped at a good place, because after reading this chapter, you would have suffered waiting a week for me to post Chapter 16 ;)   

Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Love 1
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..