Hello readers of Eliza's wonderful blog, History Undressed!
Firstly, I must say that all those wonderful recipes are Eliza's work. I can't, unfortunately, claim any credit, although she graciously tried share it. Hopefully you will find this deleted scene from THE CONQUEROR, just as interesting — if not quite as tasty.
This is from the 2nd half of the book. The heroine is in the kitchen gardens with Cook, planning meals for an upcoming frenzy of celebrations, when the castle will be filed with nobles and knights, their ladies and retinues.
I cut this rather rough-draft scene for several reasons. What do you think they are?
Too much space. Too little drama.
See what you think…
Gywn was down in the garden with Cook in the bright sunsetting world, planning meals. At least a hundred nobles were about to descend on the castle, starting tomorrow. The greatest would be lodged in the castle and its walls, but most of their retinues and lesser folk would be in tents on the valley floor, or in the village.
From the corner of her eye, Gwyn saw a rider come through the gates. She turned back to the gardens, her brow was furrowed as she looked over the humped rows of fresh herbs.
“Milady, ye're right that we keep it simple tomorrow eve,” Cook said, one eye screwed up as they surveyed the rows. “Just a frumenty for the soup course.”
Gwyn nodded, but her attention was slowly being divided by the awareness someone had been allowed to ride in after the gates were closed for the evening. It wasn’t unheard of, of course. Just uncommon, that someone would be let in. That they’d be out riding so late in a war-torn land to begin with.
“Yes,” she said vaguely, turning back. “Frumenty. William just brought in five sacks of new almonds.”
“That’ll do. With the boiled wheat and venison from today’s hunt, it’ll fill their bellies after a day’s ridin’.”
“Then rabbit. With basil,” Gwyn said, kneeling beside the furrowed row of dirt. Her fingers brushed the furry leaf. “And mint, I think.”
Cook’s belly rumbled. “Inside a pasty crust. ‘Twill be just fine. Have you got word yet about–”
The sounds of shouts came from somewhere in the outer bailey. Someone asking where the countess was. Cook looked over. “Someone calling for ye, milady?’
“No,” Gwyn said in a loud voice. “Please, go on.”
“I was just to ask about the eggs. Have we deliveries coming?”
“Thrice weekly,” Gwyn replied rather too quickly. The sound of boots drew nearer. “Four hundred per delivery, to begin tomorrow, when the nobles begin arriving.”
“And I know just what to do with ‘em,” Cook said, obviously immune to Gwyn’s anxiety. “We need more colour than ever before. This is yer wedding, milady, and it ought to be a bright, joyous thing.”
Yes, it ought to, Gwyn thought. She listened absently as Cook described various concoctions, more or less colourful, depending on they might be low on at the moment: mint (green), saffron (yellow), or the plants that created ‘dragon’s blood’ (red).
“But I’ll have ye know, milady,” Cook gruffed, as the boots drew up behind Gwyn, “I’m rather violently opposed to using the best of anything, a’fore your bless’d nuptials. For truly, milady, that’s the only thing that matters.”
Oh, if only that were so.
“Lady Guinevere?” said a low male voice.
Gwyn’s heart tumbled into a deep and cold well. She looked up.
“I have something for you.”