Letters from Armorica- Hardening Cookware (6 Avril 34AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

Spring—le printemps, I mean to say—is here, and what I have feared has come to pass. The snow has melted, at least in most places; the hot springs are once again readily accessible; the plants are starting to grow; the village green will soon be green instead of muddy brown; and Amelie's friends are bringing me their cooking pots.

I suppose it was inevitable, once word got out that I am a member of the Former's Guild. Marc passed that bit of news to Onc' Herbert last fall, and we discussed during that significant interview in that little chamber at the hot springs; and Onc' Herbert may have had need to refer to it while the men of the village discussed me and my presence among them that afternoon. But he may well have held his tongue, for I got no hint of it from anyone all winter long.

But then I made the mistake of mending one of Amelie's pots.

Mistake? No, that's too harsh a word. I simply didn't think about it. The sauce pan needed mending, and I used my skills to attend to it. And having done that, it was only natural to harden the others; and in not very long, my beloved had a complete set of well-formed cookware.

It was normal while I was growing up: if ever the cook had need of a new stew pot or sauce pan or what have you, she would purchase an ordinary one; and then Father would send one of his apprentices to harden it. Often enough that was me. No tinkers ever called at our house, for our pots never needed mending!

It wasn't until I was older that I discovered the prices that well-formed cookware could command. It was never available in the shops, even in Yorke, but only bespoke; and then usually only as a personal favor, for formers are few and their time is in great demand. It was seldom available on the open market. But if ever a great house were broken up and its contents sold, the resulting auctions were a thing to see.

So when one of Amelie's pots began to leak I mended it and hardened it without thinking; and then, of course, I did the others; and then, of course, she bragged about it to her friends. Which I hadn't forbidden her to do, mind you; I hadn't even thought about it. And why shouldn't she be proud of her husband?

But now I have the ladies of the village coming to the shop with their pots, and I don't know where that will end. Not the flow of pots, I mean, for the supply of pots in Bois-de-Bas is necessarily limited. But what else will they come up with for me to do?

And yet I cannot turn them away. Bois-de-Bas is my home now, the place that took me in when I was in need, and these are Amelie's friends, the young women she has grown up with, and their mothers. I cannot deny them.

I tried to do the work for free, for it is easy enough, but they will have none of that. They know what a mended pot is worth—to them, at least—and that an ever-lasting pot is worth even more, and so they insist on paying. And I, I am a shopkeeper now. What am I to do, turn away their coins and goods? That is no way to stay in business!

But it feels wrong, counter to everything my father tried to drum into me about the "professional standards of the Guild." I've rejected much of his teaching, but I still feel it.

I have often thought that an enterprising young former could make quite a good living from cookware, if it didn't mean forgoing even more lucrative work—and if the Guild didn't censure the young fellow for "lowering standards," as they certainly would have had I pulled this in Yorke. But here I am, doing exactly that. The Good Lord alone knows what will happen if the Guild in Mont-Havre comes to learn of it. Or, rather, when. It is a small chapter, in a young colony; perhaps the masters there have had to make their own compromises with professional standards. But that is a problem for another day.

And yet I am happy, too. I am helping my neighbors; I am pleasing Amelie, always a joy; and I am getting paid for it, if not the extravagant fees I would command in Yorke. (My neighbors have no notion of what I could charge in Yorke or Toulouse, or even in Mont-Havre.) I am doing well by doing good, as they say. And if it means that I can afford to build that work-room sooner rather than later, well. It might not be such an extravagance as I thought.

Next Letter
photo credit: wuestenigel Guatemalan typical food via photopin (license)

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