Friday, September 2, 2011

Beef a la Mode Surprise Surprise!

— Darling, just a reminder: we have dinner at the Emperor’s place on Sunday.
— Damn! I was going to play a round of golf on Sunday. Can’t we decline?
— Not really, no.
— Well that is awfully irritating. Why does it have to be Sunday of all days?
— We all have to worship the sun now. He decreed it so. Elagabalus, everybody calls him behind his back. Like helio, the sun.
— By Jupiter! What’ll he think of next? I’ve never heard of such piffle.
— Just grin and bear it.
— Do we have to take a gift for the lady of the house? Who’s he married to nowadays anyhow? Isn’t it Julia something?
— No; he dumped her for a Vestal Virgin — it caused quite a scandal. Then he married some widow named Annia whose husband he had executed.
— I’ve heard he swings both ways.
— Really? He does seem to spend a lot of time playing games with a charioteer….
— Do you have any idea what the menu will be?
— My friend said she heard that six hundred ostriches were brought to the palace.
— Ugh — you know how I hate ostrich brains.
— There will probably be nightingale’s tongues then. Or camel’s feet. Don’t worry. We can always grab something on the way home.
— That is if we aren’t smothered to death with rose petals! Remember that! What a debacle! People didn’t think that was funny.
— Just chew carefully. That way, if he hides jewels in the lentils like he did last time, you won’t break another tooth.
— Fourteen’s too young to be made Emperor if you ask me. It’s all just jolly japes and pranks. Rome will be made a laughing stock.
— Oh come on — he’s not that bad!
— He prostitutes himself naked in the palace hallways.
— He does not!
— Yes he does; I have it on good authority from an associate of mine whom he propositioned. He was wearing a ton of makeup to disguise himself.
— That’s shameful!
— I’ll say. Someone needs to put that whelp out of his misery.
— No doubt the Praetorian Guard are working on it. They always are.
— How about a bit of hanky-panky before you blow the candle out?
— I thought you’d never ask!

*  *  *  *  

— Well, that wasn’t so bad.
— I had a start when he sliced that roast though! Didn’t it look like he’d had the fingers of slaves poked into it all the way through?
— I was afraid to touch it.
— But they were only carrots.
— Let’s hope so. At least he didn’t make us eat wax replicas of his meal this time.
— Oh that was a trial, yes. And he just sat there laughing his head off watching us try to swallow it. That poor chap who asked for a drink of water to wash it down….
— I know. He was tied to a wheel and spent the rest of the evening being spun over a tank. His wife was furious.
— I say — my stomach is a bit upset. I do hope that damn beef wasn’t poisoned.
— They say his guests never leave empty handed. Oh Jupiter…me too….

McCall's Cooking School, Random House, 1972

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