A Dish Best Served Warm
"It is a Vulcan dish called puk'thayar," Sarek explained as Amanda surveyed her plate. On it was a small, steaming bowl of what looked something like beans and rice, with three baked fronds of some plant on the plate beside it.
"Really," Amanda replied, interested. She and Sarek frequently shared lunch while reviewing translations. A few weeks ago they had started sharing dinners, too. In either case, typically they would go out to a local restaurant or Sarek would have one of the embassy staff bring food in while they worked.
Today was different, however. He had invited her to his office, and when she arrived she found the coffee table already set with this meal.
Amanda picked up her utensil. "I didn't know there was a Vulcan restaurant in San Francisco," she commented. "Or even on Earth, for that matter."
She knew that Vulcan custom typically forbade conversation during meals, but she was glad that Sarek apparently ignored that practice – at least when he dined with her.
"You are correct," the ambassador informed her. "There is not at the present time. This was prepared here."
"Oh," she answered, taking a bite. "Mmm," she murmured at the unique taste. Amanda had eaten Vulcan foods at the embassy, replicated fare or adaptations made with Terran foods, but this seemed different.
"This tastes freshly made. Was it difficult to find Earth ingredients to substitute for the Vulcan ones?"
Although his expression barely changed, it was evident that Sarek was pleased by her approval. "Selar has not attempted to do so," he replied, referring to the embassy's chef. "This was made with Vulcan ingredients."
"Really!" Amanda exclaimed, now intrigued. "But where did they come from?"
"Vulcan," her companion deadpanned.
"You!" she exclaimed again. "Stop that."
Sarek raised an innocent brow, and she chuckled. "Come on, tell me."
Sarek repressed the illogical enjoyment he experienced at the sound of her laughter. "The weekly courier from Vulcan occasionally brings fare other than diplomatic materiel," he said.
"You mean you got take-out from Vulcan?" She asked, incredulous, laughing again. "Don't tell me you get homesick for home-grown food? Or is Earth food just that bad?"
"It is for medicinal purposes," Sarek said with dignity, and she laughed once more at his dry humor. "In any event," he continued, "I thought you might wish to experience the taste."
Now she smiled at him shyly. "That's very kind of you, Sarek." She took another bite. "It's very good." Then her brows knit. "But I don't want to deprive anyone at the embassy…"
"There is no need for concern," Sarek assured her. "This was procured with you in mind." Then, as if realizing his statement could be interpreted as overly personal, he added, "It is logical for one with a professional interest in Vulcan culture to gain authentic experience of it when possible. I am pleased you find the taste agreeable."
"Of course," Amanda murmured, lowering her eyes. She suddenly felt embarrassed without really knowing why. Perhaps it was the deeper timbre of his voice, or the directness of his stare, even as his words attempted to maintain his distance.
At that moment, Selar arrived at Sarek's door. "I ask forgiveness for my delay, Osu," he said, bowing in deference. "I am here to serve mid-meal to you and your guest."
Only then did the chef observe Amanda seated with a plate already before her. His eyes traveled between the Human female and the Vulcan male, before carefully averting his gaze.
"It is of no consequence," Sarek stated evenly, staring levelly back at the chef. "I have taken the appropriate actions in your absence."
The elder Selar may have thought it his place to comment on the propriety of Sarek serving a meal to an unbonded female, even a Human one, but the ambassador's words and gaze quite clearly conveyed that he would tolerate no such intervention.
In ancient times, the bringing of a meal by an unbonded male to a female indicated his interest in her as a potential mate. Nearly everyone was bonded as children now, and so the practice had largely been abandoned; only the proscriptions against unbonded individuals serving sustenance to one another remained.
Amanda was aware of none of this, Sarek knew, but it was logical that he determine if her palette could adapt to Vulcan tastes. It was also logical because he was, after all, no longer a child, and he was in search of a mate. It was not by accident that he had failed to invite any of the Vulcan females sent for his consideration to share such a meal. Only Amanda. In doing so, he was upholding the ancient tradition. Even if she did not yet appreciate the significance of his actions.
She will, in time.
In the meantime, he dismissed the chef. "Your work is commendable, Selar."
Selar departed, confused.
The rest of lunch went uninterrupted and was quite pleasant. Amanda thoroughly enjoyed her meal.
When she thanked him, Sarek commented, "In my travels I have encountered few Humans with a taste for Vulcan cuisine. I am gratified."
Amanda flushed again. What is it about him today that has me blushing like a schoolgirl? "Well, I guess that just means I'm an unusual Human," she quipped.
His eyes bore into hers. "Indeed."
Yes. You are.