You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Of Humble Vegetables and Pompous Regals-

Philip K. Chesterton sat in his favorite pub, pulling contemplatively on a pint of ale. His long-time companion in this pastime and (several times removed) cousin Ralph Chesterton sat with him at the bar, sipping on a Bud Light. The pub itself was endeavoring to appear dark and oaken and at least vaguely British, generally only succeeding in the dark element of the illusion.

"You ought to at least try a real beer." mumbled Philip. "That crap is made of rice. Light beer is generally offensive on so many levels I can't even begin my usual tirade. This amber ale I am drinking has body, is full in flavor, and has a malty finish."

"You always pick on my choice of beers whenever you get bitchy after that writer's meeting you go to." Ralph said. "Why do you even keep trying at that word slinging? What kind of literary bur did they put under your saddle this time?"

"I have to write a story about cabbages." replied Philip. "Lowly cabbages. It's like trying to rhyme something with the word 'orange.'" Philip waved two fingers at the bartender, who promptly delivered two pints and collected far too much money for them. The pseudo-intellectual pub atmosphere barely made the inflated prices of tapped beer worthwhile to the aspiring word-smith.

Ralph stared blankly into space for a time, then shook his head, finished his pint and started in on the new one. "Orange. Hmph."

"Lewis Carroll commented on cabbages, briefly." said Philip. "'Let us talk of other things.' You know. Cabbages and kings." Ralph grunted, so Philip went on. "Kings, of course, are the pinnacle of social order. Cabbages are common and not much thought of. The phrase refers to a broad range of topics for conversation."

"We're in a bar." said Ralph. "We should be talking about women, sports, guns and beer. At least talk about hops and barley."

"Your beer is mostly rice." said Philip. "That being said, I am quite fond of all of those subjects. However, it is on cabbages I must think."

"Is there any liquor made from cabbages?" asked Ralph.

"Not that I know of." Philip replied. "I remember something in a role playing game, but that may have just been made up stuff."

"You are a geek." said Ralph. "You may even be gay. Does your wife know you are gay? Why do I even hang out with you?"

"Because I pay for your poor excuse for a beer."

"Oh, yeah. Thanks."

Philip took a sip from his amber ale, relishing it's complexity and the lack of rice in the making of the lovely brew. Ralph threw back the second half of his pint of Bud Light, relishing the beer buzz and the fact that it was truly less filling.

"I recall something by Alton Brown on cabbage." Philip said. "You know, the food science guy. Humans have been eating this plant in one form of another for centuries. It has been cultivated, bred, and made better over thousands of years, yet is common enough to be the symbol of commonality."

Philip noticed that Ralph had killed his pint, and ordered two more.

"Cooked properly, it is tasty and extremely nutritious. Cooked poorly and the stink reeks of functional poverty and lousy culinary skills." Philip continued. "It is sometimes fermented or pickled for preservation. Recipes for such forms are common in a vast number of cultures."

Ralph stared into his beer, not even being sure where polite grunts were appropriate. Suddenly, he lit up with a rare idea.

"Hey, Phil. You can write a story of somebody talking about cabbages. That way you could get your story done, and then we could talk about something interesting. You know, like that hot cousin of ours that is so far removed that the cousin thing doesn't matter. I think she is even legal, by now."

"You mean like that Short Story Guy on the Internet does when he gets stuck?" said Philip. "That would be just lame. I'll think about it, though, just the same. Now, which cousin are we talking about?"

Ralph regaled him with his lustful description of the barely legal and hardly related vision, while Philip sipped on his ale and contemplated the impact of inbreeding in isolated populations on human evolution. With enough time, it seemed to him, cabbages could be kings.

Slowly, a story formed in his fertile mind.

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