Summary: Pippin learns about how Aragorn came to like mushrooms during the wedding feast of the new king. Written for the Middle-earth Express Prompt:87.
Feast on Mushrooms
By Nieriel Raina
Pippin glanced at the dark haired elf on his right, and then at the golden haired one seated on his left. He had the strangest feeling that he had been placed between these two on purpose, almost like how his mother would make him sit between two of his younger cousins who were known to misbehave at the table. So far, the elf on his right, Glorfindel, smiled and chatted with the other guests around him. The other, however, quietly observed the great hall in which they were seated and kept casting glances down the table at Strider and his lady, or over at Glorfindel, who ignored the looks. Pippin looked across the table at Merry with a grin.
Merry's gave him a crooked smile, his eyes widening comically as just his eyes moved left to right at the fair folk seated around them. "Good company we have here," he said. The elf seated on the older hobbit's right laughed and engaged Pippin's cousin in conversation.
Pippin listened for a time, but his attention kept being drawn back to the elf on his right who appeared to be a bit uncomfortable. He had already tried to engage Erestor in conversation, but the elf did not seem that interested in the things that Pippin did. Still, it was not like the young hobbit to remain quiet for any length of time, and in truth, he was growing bored waiting for the food to be brought in. It seemed Gondor had a lot to learn about how to throw a feast. Why, everybody knew you always started a feast with the food on the table!
And so he turned again to Erestor. "I'm hungry. I wonder how much longer until we eat."
Erestor's lips turned up in a resemblance of a smile, yet he sighed. "I am not sure, Peregrin Took. In Imladris, the food is always brought out immediately."
"I liked the food in Rivendell. I like the food here, if it would just be served."
Now the elf chuckled. "It seems to me that you like all food, Master Hobbit," Erestor commented, looking across Pippin's head at someone, Glorfindel, most likely.
"That is not true." He said, turning to look at Glorfindel and then back at Erestor. "I do not like cabbage or rutabagas. And I don't like gizzards in the dressing, or boiled onions by themselves. Onions are alright in soups and things, but just onions? No. And I don't like strawberries, though I do like blueberries…."
"That is good," Glorfindel interrupted with a grin. "Blueberries are my favorite."
"I prefer raspberries," Erestor commented.
"Yes, well, that is because you like sour things." Glorfindel cast a mischievous glance at the other elf, and Pippin, not happy that the conversation had taken a new direction, frowned.
"I like raspberries, but with cream and sugar, and…."
"Yes, but Erestor likes them just by themselves – tart." The golden haired elf smirked, and Erestor began to fidget, looking a bit upset at the other's pointing out his likes.
"And you like peaches and cream. What is your point, Glorfindel?"
"I like sweet and you like sour."
Pippin felt as if he were watching a game of pass the potato. No wonder someone needed to sit between them. He looked up at Merry, but his cousin was still speaking with those on either side of him and had missed the exchange.
"What are you implying?" Erestor asked, and Pippin felt as if the air had suddenly gone chill.
But Glorfindel shrugged. "I like sweet and you like sour. Just an observation."
"Well, as I was saying, I like…" But just then the doors were pushed open with great ceremony and the food arrived on large platters carried by servants in pristine dress. "Oh, good," Pippin forgot what he had been saying, "the food is here."
Bowls and platters were set on the table in front of them, and Pippin's eyes scanned the fare. There were roast fowl, sliced venison, and fish sautéed in butter. Nearby were bowls of fresh greens, steaming potatoes, sliced carrots with apples in a sweet sauce with raisins and a couple bowls of which he could not see the contents.
"Are there mushrooms?" he piped up, straining to see in the bowl nearest Glorfindel.
"I do hope not," a grumble came from beside him.
Pippin turned in surprise, but then remembered what Strider had told them early in their journeys. Not all elves liked mushrooms. He wondered if Erestor was the one who had threatened another, but he couldn't remember who Strider had said, so he shook his head. "I hope there are. I love mushrooms." He turned back to the golden haired elf with a hopeful look. "Are there?"
"Indeed, Master Hobbit, there are!" It was said with a bit too much enthusiasm, and Pippin decided these two must be the ones Strider had referenced. "Would you like some?" The elf lifted a bowl, and took hold of the spoon to serve Pippin.
"Yes, yes, I would, thank you," Pippin said, noting the grimace and paling of Erestor's features when the fungus was scooped onto his plate. "But I don't think Erestor wants any."
Before Erestor could respond, Glorfindel grinned. "Oh, I know. Erestor is not as adventurous in food as some of us, so he has not yet come to like the taste of mushrooms."
The dark haired elf glared. "I do not find fungus appetizing. And since I do not have to ingest it to survive, I will pass."
That statement peaked Pippin's curiosity. He swallowed the bite of mushrooms in his mouth and asked, "What do you mean, not have to ingest them to survive?"
Erestor shook his head and blanched. He waved his hand dismissively, and reached for the roast pheasant. "It is a tale better told by Glorfindel. After all, he was there."
Pippin turned to look at Glorfindel, who was cutting a piece of the roast venison before placing it in his mouth. "Well, what did he mean?"
Glorfindel chewed slowly and then swallowed. He took a drink from his wine goblet, and began the tale.
Estel sniffed and rubbed his hands together for warmth while his brothers built up the fire. It was his first long trip into the Wilds with his brothers and Glorfindel, and the weather had turned unseasonably cool. It was barely Iavas. Normally the weather was still hot at this time of the year, but the temperature had dropped when the sky became overcast. "What will we eat since we found no game?"
Elrohir looked over at him with a knowing smile. "Glorfindel has not yet returned, Estel. He will have something. He always has something."
"Though you might not wish to eat it," Elladan mumbled under his breath, earning a smack on his arm from his brother.
"Do not start. Estel needs to learn to eat what he can find in the wilds, no matter how palatable it is."
The young man, approaching his sixteenth year, wrinkled his nose and glanced around looking for the Captain of Imladris. "What do you mean, no matter how palatable? What could he bring that tastes bad?"
"Mushrooms," Elladan blurted out to the ire of his brother, judging by the irritation in Elrohir's eyes.
"Yech," Estel made a face that matched his eldest brother's expression. "I do not like mushrooms."
"Then you will go hungry, young one."
The sons of Elrond turned to see Glorfindel smiling at them, holding a sack in one hand and a single hare in the other. Estel eyed the fat rabbit. "I'll eat that," he pointed to the hare.
Glorfindel shook his head, but tossed the game to him. "You will clean it as you have been shown, and then cut up the meat. I will cook it with these." He held up the sack. "Tonight we feast on mushrooms!"
Again, Estel and Elladan's expressions were so similar, this time Elrohir laughed. "Come, brothers, the other option is to hope a deer stumbles into our camp, and I seriously doubt that will happen. So, hurry up, Estel, I'm hungry."
"But I hate mushrooms!" the young man complained as he moved over to a rock with a fairly flat surface and began to skin the rabbit with a sharp knife. Glorfindel had already gutted the hare away from camp. It would not do to attract any bears that might be in the area looking for any food to fatten themselves up before their winter's sleep. "Ada does not make me eat them."
"And when you are at home, where there is plenty to eat, you may skip the mushrooms, Estel." Glorfindel sat a pan on another rock, tossing mushrooms into it as he sliced them, along with several herbs. The older elf moved much quicker than Estel, and he brought the pan over to where the boy sat cutting the meat off the bones as best he could and adding it to Glorfindel's pan. When he was finished, he gathered up the remains of the rabbit and took them into the woods and buried them, while Glorfindel set about cooking the rabbit and mushrooms.
The smell of the cooking rabbit, mushrooms and herbs caused Estel's mouth to water, but when he was finally given his share, he quickly ate the rabbit and the herbs large enough to make a bite, and left the mushrooms. He was still hungry, but could not bring himself to eat the vile mushrooms. With disappointment, he noticed that the meal had been divided evenly, so there was nothing else left in the pan for him to pick out. To his dismay, even Elladan ate all his food, though he made a face while doing it.
"Are you going to eat those?" Elrohir eyed his mushrooms hungrily.
Estel's stomach rumbled, and sighed. 'Yes," he said grumpily. Then he stabbed a piece of the fungus and put it in his mouth and chewed.
"But Strider seemed to like mushrooms when we were traveling," Pippin pointed out. The meal had progressed while he listened to the story, and now people were beginning to stand and mingle. The hobbit remained seated between the elves, helping himself to another serving of mushrooms. "And it doesn't sound to me like he liked them very much back then, even if he ate them."
"No," Glorfindel agreed. "He ate them, but nearly gagged on them. Still, he learned the importance of eating on the trail over being finicky."
"I am not finicky." Erestor sniffed.
"I did not say you were."
"You implied it."
"I did not."
Pippin's neck was getting tired. "But how did Strider come to like mushrooms?"
"I ate them a lot."
Pippin turned to find the new King of Gondor standing behind them looking amused. "So much you learned to like them?"
Strider nodded, and cast a glance at his new wife as she came to stand beside him. "And I learned that my beloved happened to be fond of them as well. So, I made a point of trying them different ways, until I found a few recipes I liked. Over time, I suppose I forgot I disliked them."
The lady smiled knowingly at something Pippin felt he had missed. Then a thought occurred to him. "Erestor," he turned to look at the elf who returned his look warily. "maybe if you just tried them…"
"I am not eating fungus!"
There came a snort, and Pippin glanced at Glorfindel. "Careful, Peregrin Took," the golden haired elf said with a grimace. "You do not wish to force mushrooms on Erestor. For I can assure you that mushrooms shoved up one's nose is not a pleasant experience."
Pippin's eyebrows rose and he turned to look at Erestor. The dark haired elf just sat there, staring at his plate with a satisfied smirk on his face.
"What a waste of mushrooms," Pippin said, returning to his own plate and shoveling in another bite.
"What's a waste of mushrooms, Pip?" Merry asked, catching just the end of the conversation.
"Oh nothing, Merry." Pippin replied eyeing his empty plate. His eyes strayed to Glorfindel's plate. "Are you going to eat that?" And before the elf could reply, he stabbed the last mushroom and popped it in his mouth. "MMmm….these are good mushrooms. You should have tasted them, Erestor."
- o -
Iavas – Early Autumn
Thanks for reading! Please comment or Erestor is likely to get creative with fungus.