After the amusement of The Great Yak Quest (2019–2022), nothing could have pleased me more than to be assigned a new quest just one year later — an opportunity for shtick which I look forward to milking for as long as possible.
As a result of a misunderstanding following some perfectly innocent asset-pricing research — asking representatives of a neighboring barony how much they would be willing to pay for one of the province’s fine cantons — I was called before their Excellencies of Østgarðr in their Pennsic Court and tasked with bringing them an exceptional citrus.
For presentation at Barleycorn, I figured I would offer them a succade, or candied lemon peel. This method of preserving the intense flavors of citrus fruit beyond its natural season appears to have developed in Asia, and was transmitted from the Middle East to the Mediterranean in the fifteenth century or so, reaching northern Europe by the sixteenth. As a result, this seemed to be an appropriate gift for the vicereines, who are Renaisance-era Florentines.
I obtained a half dozen lemons, sliced them and then separated the peel from the innards of each slice, preserving just a bit of the pith. I blanched these rings of peel in several changes of boiling water, then candied them by simmering in a simple syrup for an hour. Finally, I fished them out one by one and tossed them in some powdered sugar to help keep them from sticking to each other, and packaged them in a glass jar adorned with a tiny bit of green ribbon.
This was the first time I had candied fruit, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out — a nice tart citrus kick, balanced with enough sugar to make it palatable… not something you could eat by the handful, but a pleasant nibble that might pair well with an afternoon drink.
I can be awkward at extemporaneous speechifying, so I put together a script for the presentation and ran through it a few times in advance — I am sure that the words I delivered in court differed in places, but hopefully this will give a sense of the tone I was going for:
Thank you for seeing me, Your Excellencies, I just need two minutes.
As I am sure you remember, it has been just a few short weeks since you called me before you in your court at Pennsic, and tasked me with completing a quest that would be challenging, but probably not fatal — which, considering the range of alternatives open to you, reflects your considerable mercy and good grace.
We needn’t bother reciting the sad circumstances which led up to that point — indeed, the precipitating incident may have been unfortunate, but it happened a long time ago [— aside to the populace: it was February —], and perhaps it would be best if we allowed it to pass into the mists of time and be forgotten.
And, uh, speaking of forgetting, I regret to report that I failed to record the precise terms of the quest [— aside: and it was at our camp party, so I might have been drinking —] but I do have some recollection of how the day went, and having sworn to see this task fulfilled to the best of my abilities, I cast my mind back to that fateful moment and tried to remember your words — had she… did she really ask me to bring her… a lemon?
But no, it wasn’t just any lemon — you had asked me to bring you… the greatest lemon!
Or, no, that wasn’t it — I’m pretty sure you asked me to bring you… a grated lemon!
Well, it might surprise your excellencies to learn that when you put a lemon through a grater, most of it turns out just be juice, which came as a shock to me, so that’s gone [— aside: and sorry sweetie, but our kitchen is a disaster —] but I was able to preserve most of the peel, and I imagine that must be the most important part.
Anyway, I am terribly relieved that I was able to complete this quest so quickly [— aside: these new nobles are much less demanding than the last set — sheesh! a year later and I’m still finding bits of yak hair every time I move our sofa — these Italians are softies by comparison! —], uh, and having now completed the task precisely and to the exact letter of the assignment, I urge you to enjoy this… grated lemon… peel… and consider me discharged from the duty you set before me.
… uh, this is what you asked for, right?
And when the vicereines (unsurprisingly) replied that this was in fact not at all what they had demanded, and charged me to look again and return to them with a perfect lemon, I took my leave with words to the following effect:
I’m filled with remorse that I have fallen short of your expectations, and I swear I will not rest until I have seen this quest through to the bitter end… or it the sour end?
Thank you for sparing my life, and giving me more time to complete my quest… and perhaps the populace will assist me in ensuring that you are provided with a variety of … let’s say “distinctive citrus,” in hopes that among these gifts you will find the perfect lemon you have asked for… eventually.