The Gastronome
by P.S.Gifford
forum: The Gastronome
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Gastronome


       I am what you might call a gourmand. Food, please understand, is my complete and obsessive passion. I dropped out of school and began working in kitchens as vegetable prep and dishwasher when I was just twelve years old—and gradually worked my way up to the very top of the trade. I am proud to say that I am a chef by trade and after many years of hard work, study and dedication I managed to rise to the impressive status of a four star Michelin chef in my native country of France. During my fifty six years I have traveled the earth several times over in pursuit of the ultimate culinary delicacy, and have felt thusly inspired to have written three bestselling travelogues of my eating adventures. (You are no doubt familiar with my name, yes?) I have eaten some bizarre things on those travels, allow me to tell you. I have consumed items that would surely make you recoil and squirm. Everything from pickled monkey brains, deep-fried cockroaches (surprisingly good…), poached pigs' feet, and many other epicurean delights. One particular delicacy I experienced in China, however, carried even me to new lofty culinary heights Please allow me to explain…

       It was just four months ago when my three week tour of China was quickly coming to an end when, after much discussion, with the guide I had hired for my culinary excursion, he begrudgingly informed me that there was one taste unrivalled by any. Yet, he hastily added, this dish was certainly not for the squeamish or the faint of heart and required a certain amount of self sacrifice… but legend has it, if prepared just right, it is by far the definitive gastronomic experience.

       So that is how, to cut a long story down to size, we ended up traveling by night by train to the heart of the country. I managed, aided by several generous measures of Red Star Erguotou Chiew (I keenly recommend it) to doze on the journey only to be awoken at the station. The journey continued, to my amusement, by a cow pulled cart along dusty roads for almost two hours to the very isolated Shuizhang village. My tour guide finally led me to an obviously ancient stone house on the very outskirts of the small village. I could not help but think, as I affectionately gazed about, the Chinese must have lived liked this for centuries, and whereas the big cities were becoming increasingly modernized, the modern world had had minimal impact here… Inside the stone house, I was met with a tantalizing array of curious aromas. A woman, of undeterminable age, nodded to me in greeting as she stirred pungent greens over a wood fire. I inhaled the smell of smoke infusing the straw baskets piled along the walls and the slabs of pork drying from the rafters as the sound of cows and chickens filtered through the floorboards from a pen beneath the house. I profoundly understood that whatever I was about to eat, it was going to be nothing if not memorable.

       I soon discovered that the lady did not speak English, and as I unfortunately do not speak Chinese, all communication had to be done using my guide as a translator. I watched in greedy expectation as the lady dished some dark green broth into a bowl and placed it in front of me. She muttered something, and the guide informed me that this was going to soothe me. I lifted the clay bowl to my nose and breathed in its peculiar aroma. I prize myself of having excellent powers of fathoming ingredients purely by the aroma of the dish alone, yet this one defeated me. I placed the vessel to my lips and tasted it. It was acidic and spicy and rather refreshing. I had soon finished the bowl, as the lady and my guide watched on with evident approval.

       I must confess what precisely happened next I cannot recall. I must have fallen asleep, sound asleep, presumably drugged. I awoke to find myself sitting at a wooden table. I had no feelings in most of my body, and my fingers felt alien as I ran them over the wood. I tried to stand, but I had no strength. I was angry; I looked around in desperation for my tour guide. It was at that moment that a most horrible thought struck me—I was miles from anywhere, in a strange stone house in the middle of a tiny village, seemingly isolated. What was worse, the only person who knew I was here was my now missing tour guide and the strange lady… However, soon the lady appeared carrying a covered clay pot and once more smiling at me… She placed the tureen in front of me and, after giving me a very curious look for a moment, removed the lid. I was instantly overcome by the most sublimely seductive fragrance I have ever experienced! I peered in, to discover that the meal was some sort of a stew. There were various root vegetables and small chunks of meat in an almost translucent gel infused broth… I found that lacking sensation in my hands made it hard to eat, but I clumsily persevered… Finally I managed to coax a piece of the peculiar meat into my eagerly awaiting mouth… Oh my goodness... There are not simply enough superlatives contained in the English language to explain how divinely exquisite that flavor was. It was delicate, balanced and subtlety sweet… I did not recognize the flavor yet somehow, on some level, it was strangely familiar. By the time I had devoured the entire contents, my feelings had returned to my hands and feet. It was only when I chance to glance downward that I screamed… I suddenly became horrifyingly aware, as pain now thwarted my every rational thought… You see, my left foot was gone. What remained was nothing more than a stump wrapped in blood stained bandages. At first I was incredibly angry…The pain was intense… I attempted to stand with every intent of placing my hands around the lady's neck. A lady who now cackled wildly at me… But the taste of the meal still lingered in the back of my mouth… Whatever pain I was experiencing, whatever permanent infliction had been done to my body… I strangely already felt myself craving more. It was a desire and compulsion I had never experienced before…

       It was at that moment my tour guide sheepishly re-entered the room. He cautiously examined the expression on my face… I nodded, and he came and sat by me at the table.

       He explained that human flesh is the tastiest meat to the human palate, and flesh from your own body is the sweetest of all…

       As I said… That was four months ago… I need to finish this, as I am just about to eat once more my favorite meal. Both of my legs are entirely gone now… And I am considering just how much I need my left arm…



copyright 2006 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford is an Englishman who now lives in Lake Forest, California. He has had numerous stories published. Most recently his work can be found at In addition he has a rather nifty website—