You’ve perhaps not heard of Tom Ramsay; he’s not the most famed of Villains, though I can assure you that he is quite a scandalous figure, and that has meaning in his social circle, where ill-repute is considered every bit as damning as, oh, say, human sacrifice. W. Somerset Maugham was kind enough to write about him a bit, and noted, among many other sterling qualities, the excellence of his table.
As is well-known, I was convinced, by certain persons who will not be herein named, to purchase a time-travel mechanism. After countless adventures, all of them quite horrible, I came to the conclusion that whatever Powers exist out there, they really, really hate time travel. The only way to make any use of that particular phenomenon without opening up enough ill-fated Potentiality to make a vengeful Djinn positively hum…is to summon its chrononautical abilities purely for trivialities.
So it is that I decided to travel back to the 19th century, wherein, upon presenting my credentials as a thorough cad with a penchant for playing baccarat and losing big, I was able to procure an invitation to one of Tom’s little soirées. Being, as you know, the generous sort, I snagged the cart du menu for your edification, and I took notes.
Dinner at the Lair of Tom Ramsey
Service à la Russe
Crème de cassis de Dijon avec Beaune Greves Vigne de L’Enfant Damien; Bouchard, 1864
(I was pleasantly surprised to note that somehow, Tom had gotten ahold of a Burgogne from, not before, but during the Blight. Impressive!)
Tom proposed what I later learned was his customary preprandial toast:
“Long life to all, and to any who, instead, die sudden and inexplicable deaths, your dessert is mine.”
Potage a la Julienne. This refreshing, almost clear broth was, I am told, stock from the marrow of a fresh-shot Unicorn. I found mine delightful; but the person next to me noticed a hoof in hers. The table roundly congratulated her, saying that it was good luck. This was true; in fact, it was so lucky that, before the bowls could be cleared, she was kidnapped by a Leprechaun. I finished her drink.
Salade Wyndham. Let me tell you, nothing cleanses the palate of the fear of vengeful Wee Folk like the discovery of A BOWLFUL OF FRICKIN’ TRIFFIDS.
Apparently, I passed out at this point. Fortunately, one of the guests was a physician, carrying the tools of his trade, and he applied a healthy tincture of Laudanum, then revived me with some sal volatile. The 19th century is GREAT.
Assorted Fruits of the Lost World. In honor of his successful conquest of the far-off land of Grover’s Mills, New Jersey, Sir Ramsey served a selection of exotic drupes, including:
Candied Cherries in Brandied Sherry
(Technically, ‘candied’ anything is going to be too sweet to leave the palate neutral, but I gotta tell ya, whatever you gotta do to make sherry into brandy, we should do it more often. I had a brief lie-down at this point.)
Warmed Asparagus Spears. I missed these, being, as I mentioned, briefly non-upright. They didn’t miss the person across from me, and servants quietly carried away the impaled body of our former companion. I began to realize that Tom is serious about his dessert. I was revived by my good, good friend the physician, who injected me with a seven-and-a-half per cent solution. My heartbeat, which had slowed down to a pace more in keeping with geologic timeframes than human ones, now sped up in a manner similar to merry clip-clopping of iron-shod stallions as they charge towards you with an attacking Mongol horde on their backs. Refreshing!)
Angry Lobster. I had thought this a modern invention, but it seems there was a Ramsey family version which long predated the food fads with which I am accustomed. The Ramsey’s tradition is that the seafood course be ‘as invigorating as the sea itself’, to quote Tom. These huge lobsters had been bred over the course of generations for sweet flesh and unbridled aggression. Tom waited until a lull in the conversation and suddenly loosed them upon us. He was kind enough to recommend that we arm ourselves with the medieval weapons which covered the walls; I had thought them to be decorative, but they were (fortunately) quite functional.
The resulting battle was pitched, bloody, and rather like something out of the Divine Comedy, and between the various substances in my veins, I’m not sure I would have believed any of it, if I hadn’t taken a massive claw to the left outer thigh, leaving a scar I bear to this day. We, the survivors, with that fast and lifelong bond sometimes brought about by near-death experiences, feasted with much joy, and then we plundered the bodies of the fallen for treasure, for such be the immutable law of the briny sea!
Accompaniment: Appreciative sips of an excellent Königsbacher Riesling 1827, served chilled in champagne flutes; and Grog, chugged.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked In A Pie. Chef Anatole himself came in, and, in a Gallic accent thick enough to form a meringue, stressed in the strongest of terms, that blackbirds were out of season, and that he had, therefore, substituted a murder of crows. After centuries of outwitting the semi-sentient scarecrows which dwell at the dimly-lit edges of the Ramsey estate, these juicy and rapacious bastards are a treat to the diner, and a threat to all life on Earth. This year, they’re in the pie; next year, things might be different.
Suggested Accompaniment: Gin, swigged straight from the bottle.
A selection of fromages de campagne, accompanied by wormwood-soaked cigars, because why the hell not, right? At this time, Lord Ramsay congratulated those of us who remained. True to his word, he consumed more cheese than I would have believed possible in man or beast, and seemed none the worse for it; I’m not sure, at this point, that he’s even marginally human, and I have no desire to find out.
Finally, Tom offered us selections from the rest of his justly-famed wine cellar. He had recently acquired a cask of Amontillado from, he said, “someone who has no further use for it,” and we washed that down with bottles and bottles of cold water imported straight from the River Lethe, but it was to no avail; I remember every accursed minute of that meal.
In good news, though, it turns out that Chef Anatole, while unable to pass into the next world due to his sins on Earth, and therefore technically a ghost, is fully able to wield kitchen implements with the same skills he employed while living. I dug up some of his bones (the Ramsay estate is now a shopping mall, and Anatole was living the hellish existence of a French culinary artist trapped in a food court), and he now inhabits my own abode. I’m having a dinner party next week; can you make it?
Author, musician, Villainpunk, and terrible chef Jeff Mach makes only one kind of food, if he can help it, and that would be “reservations”.
Jeff is a writer and creator who has long aspired to be the sort of person who neither needs to promote his other work at the bottom of his short stories, nor need speak of himself in the third person. Sadly, in both regards, he has failed.