Meat Matters

Xanadu Weyr - Kitchens
The kitchen is large and well-stocked with technology as well as those with culinary skill. State of the art equipment has been brought in from the various crafts to be used - stoves and large ovens replacing the hearths that used to be in here. Three baking ovens are usually going full bore half the day, from early morning through to mid-afternoon. Large windows take up the entire of the western wall, generally open wide to the mountainous landscape beyond allowing the cool breezes in to keep the kitchen's temperature to a desirable level.

Tables, cabinets, and counters take up the remaining spaces and walls. Various spices, herbs, and other foodstuffs are found here, and what's not ready at hand is tucked away back in the storage caverns or the massive cold-room large enough to walk inside.

The night hearth beside the door to the main caverns has been kept out of a sense of nostalgia, but the smaller stove set beside it is what's actually used to prepare late-night food. This is where you find late night meals of stew and soup simmering in pots, and pitchers of klah and tea in their electric units to be kept warm.

It can't be the first time that a candidate is assigned kitchen duty, only to find themselves working closely with one who's authority in the place is so much greater than their own, but it is the first time Stefyr is here with Percival as his would-be boss. Asked by some other cook to bring in a hog that was fresh killed by a blue and his lifemate on the hunt outside the Weyr, the younger man with the build for such substantial hauling does as he's bidden, bringing the sizable beast from the clearing in and to the man who would be the expert in such matters, today anyway. Stefyr doesn't look terribly overburdened by the hundred/hundred-fifty pounder but it's not the kind of thing he wants to stand around with all day, and his face is tinged with red from the trek. "Where do you want it?" He asks of the butcher, ready to follow the directions given him. At least the blue did the honors of the initial messy bits, leaving the thing split up the middle but relatively free of excess blood and entrails.

If they both weren't Candidates, then it would be feasible to say that Percival has some authority over Stefyr but for now, they're technically on equal ground. The only difference, really, is that one man has had formal training in what they're about to do. Percy already has a long countertop in the center of the room clear for the current delivery to be processed on. "Just lay it down right here on the counter. We'll make it smaller in a minute." Percival is wearing an apron and gloves rising just past his wrists. Off to the side, he gathers up a selection of knives and other implements of his trade, lining them up on a baking tray before carrying them over. "You carrying it in here answers my question on whether or not you're squeamish. Good. Now go up to that sink and wash up to the elbows. There's an apron there if you want it but it looks like it won't make a difference at this point. Make sure you go to the laundry as soon as you're done here so they can get the spots out of your clothes before they set. Normally, I would be an asshole and make the apprentices do it but today, I'll give you a choice. You can do the cutting under my instruction or I can do it and just explain what I'm doing."

Stefyr is not one to scoff at formal training and, really, if Percival's had any contact with Stefyr during other shared chores or lessons, it's pretty plain as plain that generally speaking the big blond is attentive and interested when there's someone who can help him learn something new or something old better. And so it is that the younger man is fully prepared to cede control of this situation to the one of them with the dragon's share of the experience. No, he's not squeamish and in fact, "All of us who were strong enough took turns doing the butchering on the farm," so he actually has some measure of experience at the task at hand, though surely nothing to compare to the finesse with which one who makes this their daily work can command. "I'm interested to see how you do it." And that's not because he's lazy, but because he actually, truly wants to see the Journeyman at work. He follows the directions, predictably, washing carefully for al that he arrived to his shift here as pristine as V'ayn could wish, freshly scrubbed and smelling sweet. He doesn't smell much worse yet, but he washes all the same without complaint, dons the apron for good measure and comes back. "I'd like to watch, if you don't mind? But maybe I'll jump in if there's some part in particular you think I ought to do?" He's not unwilling, see, just trying to have the best vantage for the educational part of today.

Right now, the kitchens are particularly busy but the men have a wide berth awarded to them when it comes to the processing of meat. Percival slowly nods, content with the answer he's given and he moves to position himself center of the carcass provided by the lovely Stefyr. "This is how I do it," he responds, reaching over to pick up his first tool off of the tray. "First, the head needs to come off. The less dead weight wobbling around, the more precise the cuts we're going to make. Take a good mid length knife like this one and just circle around from behind the ears, around the neck…" The butcher begins the cuts, rotating the animal as he goes. Thankfully the entrails are gone, making the weight a little less of an issue. "Then, the saw… The head isn't difficult to remove from the carcass. Just line it up between these vertebrae and…" With firm motions, the saw advances into the meat and finds its way through in no time. Percival slides the head across the countertop, off to the side. "Now, we don't want to get rid of the head because there's a lot of usable material on it. You mentioned farm work? Then you already know nothing is wasted. Use everything, including the eyeballs."

If any of Percival's approach revisits pockets of personal experience for Stefyr, there's no sign that he's bored by the other candidate's take on familiar touchstones. He doesn't stay back, he only stays back far enough to give Percival room to move without risking life or limb in a freak kitchen accident. Aside from that, he's sort of all up in the butcher's business to get a better vangage to observe the process. "Everything," Stefyr confirms with a little pained sound in his throat. "My brothers liked to surprise me with the contents of what particular dishes were when I was small." WHAT BROTHER WOULDN'T LOVE THAT PRANK? REPEATEDLY. Being the youngest, probably Stefyr. "But we still ate whatever it was, all the same." Because you don't waste anything when what you're eating is also the livelihood of your entire family and the same thing that's putting a roof over your head. "What made you choose butchery over the other options?" It might seem a little out of the blue, even as Stefyr looks more interested in the ongoing process than Percival's particular answer, but a flick of his eyes to the older man's face shows that there's actual interest there, not just a token inquiry into his fellow candidate's personal choices and life before The Knot.

Percival pauses in his work for a moment, mindful where the blade is in his hand and where it's pointing in relation to the carcass in front of the man. He tilts his head from side to side as if he's listening to a song only he can hear. "I grew up on a cothold and there was plenty of work to be done so I had very little time to get bored, you know? Over the turns, some things just came easier than others and after breezing through our own butchering, the family just thought I'd be a waste if I didn't do it professionally. Figured it'd keep me out of trouble and they were right. Apprenticeship had its ups and downs but I do miss it, and here I am ready to teach the next generation of butchers for our craft. I've baked before, I've done the general work in the kitchens and I can step in, in a pinch. This, this is where I feel the most at home." The hog is given an affectionate pat and the knife is placed neatly back on the tray. Always in place never lost. "As for Impression? Well, if it happens, I'd probably keep in the craft after the point. If not, then I'll be here to support my friends doing what I do best." The man shrugs and turns the carcass, examining the gaping void that once housed the innards. "At least the meat is still pretty good. I like it when the smaller dragons do the hunting. They use the right amount of blunt force, right amount of claws and teeth. The pork belly is in excellent condition, which means some bacon can get to curing." It feels unusual to be on the receiving end of attention, but the fact that Stefyr has been following well shows that Percival’s time is being well spent.

If the big blond is surprised by the forthcoming nature of the story told as Percival works, there's no sign of it on his face. Really, as much as his eyes are largely on the butcher's work and the deft hand movements that are the proof in the pudding of why he ought to do this professionally, he has an expression of listening, and not run of the mill listening, but something with an intensity that well might be a little unnerving. "I like bacon," is really an unnecessary comment because WHO DOESN'T, STEFYR. He leans a little to get a better look at how dragon-dealt death wounds look on this particular variety of beast. "I imagine that's useful. When they use the right force and all. Seems like the size difference between them and something like that could make it difficult for dragons, the bigger ones especially." There's a little pause while he looks and then gets a little more out of the way. "I heard we're going to have to learn to butcher for dragons if we impress," do they? He might not really know. "I'm not sure everyone in the barracks is going to manage well with that." He sounds vaguely concerned, as though it's a problem he's appropriating for himself, even though he, himself, is evidently ahead of that curve in in basic experience and desensitization.

Percival moves the carcass around to get a good look at the inner lining, and he makes sure to actually look at the tray as he reaches out to collect his thin long knife. "The bigger the dragons, the higher the chance of it getting crushed. Depending on what you're using it for, might not be a big deal, but it is if you want intact ribs or bone on steaks or chops. If it's just going in a stew, then no biggie. It's just that the weyr has to process meat continuously and get it into stores when there's enough of a stockpile, especially closer to winter as far as the freezer is concerned. It's better to have an intact animal like this to portion out then having to pick through a pile of mush to make one complete animal. Especially when you have to feed hundreds daily." The candidate-turned-butcher begins cutting away at the sides of the carcass, freeing the belly meat and placing it on a tray. "Nice future bacon with those cuts. Always best to take them right off before doing the rest. Makes it easier. Yeah, everyone is going to have to learn how to do it. They might not have to break the animal down as far all of the time, but at the very least, they need to know where to get the best cuts as the babies are growing. They're going to need the nice fatty meats and then introducing more leaner as they grow older. Once old enough to hunt, then no more butchering unless they're ill or injured." Percival simply shrugs, from the outside it could sound a little intimidating but when you get down to the bones of Weyrlinghood, it's all just a series of mundane processes. Getting over the emotional novelty of it is going to be the tough part for the new riders. "If anyone has any issues, I wouldn't mind helping them a bit. I can get through this pretty efficiently. At most, I might crack jokes or make some interesting comments, but I'm not gonna let a baby dragon go hungry. So long as the rider does the feeding, it won't cheapen the bond."

Stefyr's eyes follow the change of tool and there's some mild recognition for at least the shift, even if the blade gets some particular attention from blue eyes as though committing it to memory: a Turnover gift idea for the farm he left? Possibly. There's a noise from the big blond as the butcher talks about the uses of meat that sounds like agreeable understanding. "Hundreds is certainly a bigger job than the farm back home." He doesn't offer a ready tally, though so maybe even Stefyr doesn't know exactly how many mouths the kitchen there took care of on a daily basis, or maybe he doesn't know if the numbers have changed since he left. There's no flinch from the younger candidate as the journeyman continues to ply his craft. He's really very boring that way. He does take his time to look at the shape of the cut that's made and take a moment to commit that to memory as best as he can. "I wonder if baby dragons like bacon," WHICH IS A DUMB THING TO WONDER ABOUT BECAUSE WHO DOESN'T LIKE BACON (HOW MANY TIMES CAN IT BE SAID IN ONE SCENE? LET'S FIND OUT). "Do they not have you teach classes about this to the candidates in case one of them decides they can't handle the blood or the smell," which is substantially better here, in a clean kitchen, than say in a slaughterhouse where decay can't be completely avoided even with the most dedicated cleanup. "Good of you to be willing to help out. I don't have any like skills, but if there's anything I can do to help you with something," offer of repayment, in advance of services rendered, and not even services he seems likely to need, "just let me know what needs doing, how I can help." STEFYR'S GOT YOUR BACK, PERCY. Everyone's backs, really. He's gonna exhaust himself at this rate, the little empath. "Have you cut meat for the baby dragons before? Is it very different than breaking it down for our uses?"

"I'm sure they would love bacon but I don't know if all the salt and spices we put into it would be good for their bellies. Maybe unseasoned for them." Meats meat when baby dragons are hungry, after all. Percival lows his knife work to spare a glance in Stefyr's direction, thoughtfully, then his eyes are back at the carcass in front of him. "Not really as lessons, I just do the prep to bring the cuts down to larger chunks and the rest is literally Weyrlings just getting used to cubing or cutting into strips or smaller chunks depending on the size of their dragon. All the gross stuff is done back here in the kitchens. They don't have to handle entrails or the like. Most if not all of the blood is drained, already. They really only have very little to do and an area is staged near the barracks, it's kept pretty clean. If they're not used to the blood from kitchens by now, they're not going to have much of a choice to get used to it to feed their babies. Hand feeding is part of the bonding process, too. They'll have to endure it." Tiny tummies have no sympathies when they're hungry. The Weyrlings will just have to enjoy their chores through baptism by fire! The loins are freed and added to the collection of cuts, allowing the butcher to rotate the carcass to get a better look at what he's got. At the offer of help, Percival returns a smile to Stefyr, slowly nodding his head. "I appreciate the offer and will be sure to call on you when I need it. Busier times are coming, more skilled hands are always welcome." That, plus bonding and stuff. "There was one case where I did have to cut up meat for a baby dragon. Only because their weyrling was injured on the sands and couldn't move around well enough to do it. So I'd prep him a big tray and would carry it over so he can hand feed since he was able to sit up. That way he's not missing out on anything. Another weyrling would just run the tray back when he was done. After a couple of times, his peers took over. As long as they don't trick themselves into thinking it's hard, anything will come easy with enough effort." Alright, front legs, time to go! Percy takes his knife and cuts around the flesh, then switches up to a small saw to finish the job. Each leg is placed aside and then he moves on to the back. Ham anyone?

"Oh." No entrails. "Well, that should be easy then," should, Sweet Stefyr, but have you met some of your fellow candidates? Oh well, naivety rules as it usually does, the topic passing along without any more thought. "Maybe if we end up with lifemates, we can try the unseasoned bacon thing." That prompts a grin. Impression is far from a certainty, but who wouldn't like the notion of sharing one of life's greatest delights with one's newest walking belly, should things prove to go that way. The big blond turns to take a look over the loins and then returns his focus to the work at hand. There's a moment that is sort of awkward because it has the man pressing his lips slightly together before offering a helpless smile and maybe weird compliment, but no less earnest in its delivery for it's strange content: "I'm very impressed. Your cuts are so smooth and seems like you get the sweet spot every time." LOOK. THEY'RE A NOVICE'S COMPLIMENTS FOR A MAST— JOURNEYMAN OF THE CRAFT, OKAY? It might be weird to some people to be impressed by the beauty of a fine slab of pork, but there it is. Stefyr falls into that weird minority. "It makes sense that they'd want the new riders to do as much for their lifemates as they could. I mean, on the farm you'd encourage the new mothers any way you could and only step in if the baby was rejected in truth." He purses his lips, perhaps thinking back to those farm lessons and drawing new meanings from them. Even while he's thinking, his attention is largely on the task at hand, watching the artist at work until the carcass is broken as far down as it needs to be for the purposes of a kitchen that feeds hundreds at every meal.

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