Series Title: The Memory of Taste
Vignette Title: The Sweet Taste of Home
Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd/FBoBE/"Febobe")
E-mail: febobe at yahoo dot com
Characters: Frodo, Celebrian, Elrond. This chapter also features Rose Cotton Gamgee.
Rating: K+ (Follows FrodoHealers standards - no sexual content, no slashiness, no profanity)
Summary: A series of vignettes from Frodo's memories, all centered around or prompted by the memory of food and drink. Ranges from early years through post-War of the Ring, though in no particular order.
Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please ... no flaming.
Story Notes: Pure fluff (sometimes angst-filled, sometimes not) written for its own sake. It's not intended to have a grand plot; it's not intended to be impressive, serious fanfic. Just a little set written episodically (read: as the mood strikes me) for the fun of it and nothing more. Lots of Frodo h/c in these, though, so if you like that, you'll enjoy this. Lots of little details, so if you like those, you may be fond of this ... especially if you like food detail! If you don't ... my apologies; to each her (or his) own taste. :) I make absolutely no claims whatsoever that this is a canonically thematic portrayal of the West, though I have attempted to follow some remote semblance, at least, of what we know in that there was never a guarantee of *how* Frodo's healing would come, if it did, but that he might seek it there ... as well as in some other matters, such as some of the book's characters actually being there at this time. Beyond those little points, I'm not even attempting to create a canonical story. This is purely for pleasure.
Chapter Note: While this site doesn't permit the posting of URLs, I would like to reference the original recipe which inspired this fic – it's located at Cooks dot com and is called simply, "Sweetbreads & Bacon." While I haven't personally attempted to make this, I hope you'll visit and take a gander. J The fact that it specifies "streaky bacon rashers" leads me to believe it may be of English origin, given that Americans often are unaware that most British bacon is what is called "back bacon," while the bacon Americans typically eat is called "streaky bacon" in England. The spelling of certain words is more American than British, but still – whomever wrote this was at least aware of the differences between typical English and typical American bacon. J So, in theory, it *could* have been penned by Rose Cotton Gamgee!
Dedication: I often dedicate chapters of this fic to fellow authors who have in some way inspired, challenged, or comforted me, and this one is no exception. Dreamflower, for your talent and penchant for recipe fic, for your recent encouragement, and for your love of the Shire, this one is for you. 3
For permission to reproduce any part of this fanfic, please contact Febobe.
DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. Original characters, such as (but not limited to) Bryonia and Forsythia, are my own work; please do not use my creations in your work. Please respect my original contributions. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom. No slash is intended or implied in this story.
The Sweet Taste of Home
"Little one, do you feel up to some chewing today? I thought you might fancy a change from soups."
Celebrian's soothing voice stirred Frodo from a drowse. She had carried him to the sun-porch after second breakfast, and he had been too comfortable to be very interested in taking elevenses, preferring instead to drowse on the lounging-couch laid with cushions where she had settled him. She had let the matter pass, and had sent the tray away. But now it must be well past noon, or so it seemed. He let her help him sit up, and rubbed his eyes. He was always tired still, compared to before the Quest, but at least here he sometimes felt a little better than he had in the Shire, and the aromas rising from his tray smelled enticing.
Yes. Bag End! And –
He laughed aloud. Trust the elves to find a way of reproducing even THAT recipe….
Frodo huddled beneath his blankets. He had been ill, terribly ill, and only yesterday had Sam been willing to leave his side for brief intervals, and then only reluctantly. Chills had assailed him on the eve of October the sixth, icy chills and freezing, burning pain in his left shoulder and side, and he had found himself unable to use them at all. Sam had found him in his study, collapsed on the floor near his desk, ink spreading across the rug like a deep black stain of blood. He had put his master to bed, and called for Rose, and together they had nursed him throughout the evil nightmares and hallucinations. Not even clutching the white gem had been able to prevent him from being unaware of his surroundings for more than a day.
But around the evening of October seventh, the worst of it had seemed to pass, leaving Frodo weak as a newborn kitten, unable even to sit up in bed without being lifted and propped upon pillows. Sam bathed him and did all he could to keep his master comfortable, and he and Rose brought food suitable for someone who had been very sick and unable to eat – chicken broth, milk-sops, white wine possets, coddled eggs – but Frodo had no appetite for any of it. Rose's cooking was wonderful, and Sam even made several items and brought them, and both of them kept asking whether there might be anything he would like to eat, any food or drink he felt he could manage to eat a few bites of – but nothing sounded appealing, and both his caregivers looked more worried by the hour. Today was October the tenth, or so Sam had told him.
"Mr. Frodo, sir, Rosie's here," said Sam's voice at his shoulder.
"I'm not hungry," Frodo replied in a dull voice, his answer coming almost mechanically. He couldn't eat. He didn't feel like eating. He couldn't find any joy in it any longer. If not even eating could bring him pleasure, and he no longer had the need of the Quest pressing him onward, what reason was there to even continue living?
"Now, sir, you ain't even seen what I made you," said Rose's kind, warm voice as she came around to the window side of his bed to face him. In her hands, she held a small dish, and on that dish sat crispy curls of grilled bacon. The aroma teased at his nose. It smelled of mornings with Bilbo, of breakfasts in Brandy Hall, of Minas Tirith – it was streaky bacon, his very favourite kind, though it was less common in the Shire, and people had never been quite sure why Mr. Bilbo seemed bent on buying it regularly. Frodo knew the reason – it was because his heir fancied it, and at Bag End he had been encouraged to eat as much as he wanted.
He wanted to want it now.
But he couldn't. His stomach hurt. It felt like a hollow ache, the way it did all those awful days between Weathertop and Rivendell.
But there was something else on the plate, too – bits of red and green, and – and –
He couldn't focus well enough to tell what it was. He didn't care to try, though one small part of him felt vaguely curious.
Sam pulled up a chair for Rose and helped her sit close to the bed. She held the tray closer, though not right under Frodo's nose, for which he was grateful. Smells had a way of setting off a feeling of sickness these days.
"Now, Mr. Frodo," Rose said gently, though there was a firmness in her voice, "you've been real bad sick, and I know you're too weak to feel like much o'nothing yet. But you ain't going to get stronger by starving yourself. My mam always says the best thing for somebody getting over bad sickness, somebody who don't have much appetite, is a dish o'sweetbreads and bacon, so that's what I've made for you. It's lamb sweetbreads, and lamb stock from the soup I'm making for supper tonight, with a little onion and some tomatoes and bits of parsley. I've soaked 'em real good, so they'll be nice and delicate for you. Now Sam's going to set you up here, and I'm going to feed you, and you can have some tea with it. I made a cup with sugar and a little milk, the way you like it."
It seemed it might take more effort to protest than to allow them to do as they wished, so Frodo sighed and looked helplessly at Sam, who slid strong arms behind him, raising him gently. He felt safe in Sam's arms, he reminded himself. Sam and Rose only wanted the best for him. Perhaps it couldn't hurt to just try a small bite. And that bacon smelled so good he almost wanted to taste it, to see whether it tasted of anything but choking memories.
"I don't know," he said, feeling numb and hollow inside. "I'm – afraid."
"I know," Rose said gently. "It's all right, Mr. Frodo. We're just going to give you a little taste, and you can see what you think. But Mam always did say nothing perks up an appetite that won't wake like a good dish o'sweetbreads, and Sam told me how fond you are o'streaky bacon."
Frodo found himself propped securely on pillows, with Sam right there beside him. Rose cut a small bite of the sweetbreads and forked it up, managing to get a little tomato and parsley onto the tines with it. Carefully she held it to Frodo's lips.
Nervously Frodo opened his mouth and took the bite.
They were still nice and hot – not hot enough to burn his mouth, but hot enough he could tell they were freshly made, and hadn't been sitting. He could taste the good lamb stock, and a little hint of onion, and the tomato, almost caramelised from baking. He could taste the hint of sweetness in the sweetbreads, the only meat he knew that tasted a little sweet without some sort of glaze. But best of all, the sweetbread had been wrapped in streaky bacon, and Rose had gotten a bit of it onto the fork as well. He tasted salty with sweet and savory all at once.
He could taste it.
Frodo watched as Rose withdrew the fork, her eyes watching him anxiously. Sam seemed almost to be holding his breath.
"Well?" Rose asked gently. "Do you think you might could eat another bite, or maybe even two?"
Frodo considered. It was the first thing that hadn't tasted of painful memories to him. It tasted of – of warmth, and of the Shire, and of good home cooking, not the kind of elegant cooking he had had in Minas Tirith or in Imladris, but – hobbit food. Hobbit cooking. Home. His home. Yes, he was home now, and Sam and Rose were family to him, and they would take care of him. Rose's food was like the voice of love, and though all the food she and Sam had made for him had been of that nature, only now could he begin to hear it. He could imagine Rose in the kitchen, soaking the sweetbreads in cold water, grilling the bacon, slicing up tomatoes and chopping onions and parsley, with as much care and attention as any elven chef….
"Yes," he said at last. "Yes, please. I could eat some more of that. It tastes good to me."