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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Girl Meets Gruel

As promised yesterday, I have a sketch to share featuring a strong female character. Or a female character, anyway. She’s probably female. We’ll get to that.

Speaking of ‘strong female characters’, though, I’m squeally to report that the Mug of Woe collection, in which a story of mine plays a small part, is now available and ‘In Stock’ on Amazon! Many thanks and congratulations to ‘strong woman characters’ Jenn and Kyle for making it happen, and putting together a terrific crop of tales of mortifying embarrassment. Go have a look. You Woe you want to.

And speaking of ‘tales of mortifying embarrassment’, here’s that sketch I mentioned. Bon appetit.


GIRL MEETS GRUEL

“There are lots of ways to add ‘zing’ to your evening mush, without breaking into the tithing purse.”

[Scene opens on Marga, tending a huge kettle set over a crude stone fireplace. Marga is thirty-ish, barefoot, with shabby tattered clothes and matted hair. Her face and hands are grimy with soot and dust, and she’s missing numerous teeth. A few feet away is a waist-high block of roughly-cut wood, upon which sit crude wooden bowls and utensils.

Marga turns away from the pot to face front, waves with her stirring paddle, and speaks cheerfully.]

MARGA: Hello, and welcome to ‘Girl Meets Gruel’. I’m your host, Marga Kettleblack, and today I’ll show you how to spice up your boring old gruel with some fun and zesty alternatives. The pot’s nearly boiled, so let’s get grueling!

[As Marga walks to the butcher’s block, Igor, a shabbily-dressed hunchbacked man enters opposite, holding a small wooden spoon and plate. He bangs the spoon against the plate vaguely rhythmically as he speak-sings in a rough, raspy voice:]

IGOR: It’s Girl Meets Gruel!

Don’t be cruel!

Give Marga a whirl!

She’s the grueling girl!

[Igor shuffles offstage, wheezing painfully.]

MARGA: Ladies, we’ve all been there. It’s time for the daily meal. Your husband and surviving children have worked all day in the lord’s manor, and they’re starving. Maybe literally. And your plain watery gruel simply won’t satisfy their serf-sized hunger.

Not to worry. There are lots of ways to add ‘zing’ to your evening mush, without breaking into the tithing purse. Let’s have a look.

[Marga carries a large bowl back to the hearth.]

MARGA: Now, this kettle’s boiling nicely. It’s ready for our meager handful of smashed millet or groats.

[Marga takes a small handful of grain from the bowl and tosses it into the huge pot.]

MARGA: But why stop there? This is a perfect time to add a few secret ingredients, and infuse your dish with wild and exotic flavors. A healthy pinch of sand, for instance, will really bring out the earthiness of those grains, and provides a satisfying crunch. I’d recommend harvesting from roadsides or fallow fields. You generally want to avoid sand from stable areas or anywhere near your local tavern — those sands tend to be too bitter and pungent for this particular application.

[Marga tosses sand from the bowl into the pot.]

MARGA: If you have meat lovers in the family — and I know I do — you can yank it up a notch for them, too. Now, chances are you don’t have any actual meat, or money to buy meat, or animals of your own to kill for meat. You could try stealing one of the master’s, I suppose — if you want to feel the wrath of his lash, right, ladies? That’s not delicious! No, sir!

Instead, I suggest collecting loose hairs and fur from a species you find particularly delicious. [Marga pulls a large wad of matted hair from the bowl.] It could be pig, or cow or dog; horse fluff works quite nicely here, as well. You can often find tufts rolling near slopping troughs or kennels, or for choicer clumps, you might consider lying with a trapper or groomsman. This tasty morsel comes straight from the mane of one of the field oxen. Mmm-mmm, tangy.

[Marga drops the hair into the pot. Igor limps back onstage.]

IGOR: *ahem* *cough hack hrm* M’lady. An inquiry, if you please.

MARGA: Ah, is it viewer feedback time already? How delightful.

IGOR: Indeed, m’lady. One of th’ sotted wenches along th’ back wall has asked about rats.

MARGA: Rats?

IGOR: Precisely. Rats.

[As Marga speaks, Igor shuffles near the butcher’s block, wiping his nose on his sleeve.]

MARGA: Well, that’s a very important question. As we know, rats are all too prevalent around the kitchen. They bite, they spread filth, and they spoil and sully whatever larder supplies they touch.

And you’ll never get enough fur from one to taste in a pot this large. Instead, I recommend cutting the tail off any carcass you find, and steeping three to five of those together in a mug of slightly brackish water overnight to make a nice refreshing tea.

[Marga lifts a mug from the butcher’s block, with several stringy tail-like objects hanging over the edge. She hands it to Igor.]

MARGA: It’s bold and peppery, with just a hint of gamey vermin. Once you’ve tried this, I guarantee you’ll never go back to plain sand tea again. And the old village crone says it even wards off the Black Death. Why, Igor here’s been chipper as a jester since he’s started taking it.

[Igor takes a deep sip and tries to say ‘yuuuuum’ while violently coughing. He bows awkwardly to Marga and shuffles offstage with the mug. Marga takes a ladle and plate from the butcher’s block and heads for the kettle.]

MARGA: Now let’s see how that gruel is doing. Normally, you’d boil this for several more hours to marry the flavors and achieve the right consistency, but with the magic of cooking shows… voila!

[Marga scoops gruel from the kettle with her ladle and dumps it on the plate. The gruel is in all ways completely indistinguishable from plain water, except that it may have a clump of fur floating in it. Marga turns deadly serious for a moment as she considers what she just said.]

MARGA: It’s not actually magic. I swear on the Book, I am not a witch. Please don’t dunk me again.

[She cringes, waiting to see if she’ll be carried away by an angry mob. When she isn’t, she continues in her usual cheery manner.]

MARGA: …No? Fabulous! Well, all that’s left now is to garnish and serve. You can add a sprig of scrub grass or turnip leaf for color, sprinkle more sand or small field stones to taste, and serve with rat tea or a huge tankard of mead.

[While Marga delivers the next line, she produces an enormous gross tumbleweed of matted fur in all different colors and places it on the butcher’s block. She channels her inner ‘Marga Stewart’.]

MARGA: And for an extra festive touch, you can fashion your stock of cooking fur into a unique and tasteful centerpiece. It’s a gruel thing.

That’s all the time we have for today. Tune in tomorrow for our special “Oat-stravaganza”, where we explore all the ways to prepare your raw oats for gruel. Should you crack them or stomp them? Beat them or bite them or soften them with ox spittle? We’ll tell you next time, on ‘Girl Meets Gruel’.

[Marga waves goodbye to the audience with her stirring paddle, while Igor returns and bangs on a plate with his mug of rat tea, coughing and hacking instead of singing any jingle lyrics.]

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