Posts Tagged ‘humour’

Troll à la Morceaux: A Warhammer Recipe

January 13, 2020 5 comments

This short piece of fiction was written in 1989 or 1990 for a never-published sourcebook on Ogres and Trolls in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Marcel de Morceaux is mentioned in the adventure collection Rough Nights and Hard Days, and I might use him in some future adventure if the opportunity presents itself.

Marcel’s cookbook Adventures in Gastronomy includes some of the most ambitious – and dangerous – recipes ever published in the Old World. It is banned in many places, and of all its contents, Troll à la Morceaux is considered the riskiest. Even if every precaution is taken to ensure that the Troll does not regenerate back to life during the cooking process, one can never be sure….

Very few are brave or foolish enough to try this dish, but there are some in the Old World who will venture beyond the limits of convention and common sense in search of new and unique experiences.


Picture from Lure of Power: Nobility in the Empire (Fantasy Flight Games, 2009). Used without permission. No challenge intended to copyright holders.

The preparation of the flesh of the Troll requires the greatest care and the most trustworthy of assistants, but if the many pitfalls can be overcome, a chef who can present his lord with a dish such as Troll à la Morceaux will never want for employment. But you must remember, mes amis, that one mistake can lead to disaster, and such a disaster can lead to the gallows or worse.

Firstly, your Troll must be absolutely fresh. Do not trust those robbers who will sell you venison at ten times the price and tell you it is Unicorn or Troll. Great cookery demands that no short-cuts may be taken.

The butchering of a Troll presents several unique problems, but a chef who is truly dedicated to his art may be daunted by nothing. The Troll must be securely bound, with its head held in such a way that it cannot eat the ropes that bind it. As each cut of meat is removed from the carcass, it must be placed immediately in a strong marinade of vinegar – the strongest vinegar you can find, for the presence of acid will slow down the process of regeneration.

Any waste and off-cuts must be burned immediately, or if you have arranged to sell pieces to a wizard or alchemist, he must be on hand to take them away tout à l’instant. Remember, and drum constantly into your servants, that not even the smallest scrap of the carcass must be left lying about.

You must be extremely careful when cleaning the carcass, Remember the great size of the stomach, and the immense power of the acid it contains. If at all possible, seek the guidance of a wizard or alchemist in carrying out this process; it is not too much to offer him the stomach in payment for his supervision, for a mishap with a Troll’s stomach can be a catastrophe véritable.

After the meat has stood in the vinegar marinade for two hours, inspect it closely; if it shows the slightest signs of regeneration, add more vinegar. Keep the meat in the marinade for as long as you can – the longer it stays there, the more tender it will be when cooked – but take no chances.

Enfin, we come to the cooking of the meat. This requires the greatest of care, and must be carried out in two stages.

First, the meat must be seared to prevent it regenerating once it is removed from the vinegar marinade. Use a large skillet of cast iron, and heat it until it literally begins to glow. Drop the meat in, turning it repeatedly until all sides are seared black.

This done, the meat is roasted, fried, or stewed in the same way as beef or venison, allowing double the normal cooking time.

A final word of warning. Do not – jamais, never – undercook Troll. When le patron demands his Troll medium rare, it is perhaps time to consider a change of employment.

Trolls in the Pantry

If something goes wrong, the result could be like this – but not as funny.

Bits of Books, Part 3

Around 25 years ago, I took part in a play-by-mail En Garde campaign run by the Small Furry Creatures Press. In addition to En Garde, they ran many other games through their eponymous magazine, and one I particularly enjoyed was Bluff My Call.

It was based on a BBC panel show named Call My Bluff, where one of the two celebrity teams was given an obscure word from what presenter Robert Robinson sometimes called “the haunted wing of the Oxford English Dictionary.” One team member was secretly given the correct definition: the other two had to bluff, and the members of the opposing team had to decide which definition was correct.

The Small Furry Creatures version used less obscure words, often with a small and furry connotation: I remember lambast, ratatouille, and dogmatic, among others. The player who submitted the most entertaining false definition of the word was rewarded with a free turn in all the games running at the time.

I enjoyed the game immensely. Following the success of Douglas Adams’ The Meaning of Liff I was even tempted to collect my entries together and add more until I had a book, but I haven’t yet worked up a decent proposal to send to an agent or publisher. It’s still on my mind, though, along with a hundred other projects.

For now, here’s one of my earlier entries. I recall that I wrote it shortly after I encountered cassata siciliana for the first time in an Italian restaurant in Nottingham.


Renaissance Italy was fragmented in more ways than one. Even before the coming of the Ostrogoths, it had been held together only by the staggeringly complex and occasionally effective provincial administration of the Roman Empire. By the late fifth century everything had fallen apart, and it was not until the days of Garibaldi that one could truly speak of Italy as a single entity.

As it was with politics, so too with cuisine. Once the last of the Roman orgies had finished, it was barley bread, warm gruel, and warm Ostrogoth beer for everyone until the Renaissance dawned. Even then, things scarcely improved. The new age of reason and inquiry led to a flourishing of experimental cookery, to be sure, but as in many other fields of endeavor a boundless enthusiasm coupled with an incomplete grasp of essential scientific principles led to one disaster after another.

It was well known, for example, that Lucrezia Borgia’s enthusiasm in the kitchen outstripped her ability by some way, and more than one Roman noble took his own life upon receiving an invitation to dine with her. The peasant on a leash became a vital accessory for any Renaissance gourmand, the food remaining untouched until it was clear that the taster was not about to turn green and make a dash for the garderobe. The situation became so bad that in 1503 Pope Pius III was obliged to issue a Papal Bull making it clear that Grace was a prayer of thanksgiving for the food, not a plea to the Almighty that it might be edible. His own time on the throne of St. Peter was cut short, for he succumbed shortly after an inuagural dinner thrown by the Florentine ambassador.

Across the Alps, French cuisine was making immense strides. A moderately stable soufflé recipe had been developed in 1482, and in 1505 the royal chef Armand de Roquefort was elevated to the rank of Marquis after his invention of the first truly lump-free cheese sauce. Once the gastronomic hub of Europe, Italy stood on the brink of humiliation. The Italian nobles reacted with characteristic subtlety, launching a campaign of misinformation that has many scholars convinced to this day that the rash of mysterious dinner-party deaths had a political, rather than culinary, origin.

Finally, in 1525, a glimmer of light dawned. It was in that year that Fra Angelico Tortellini, a traveling Franciscan friar, chanced upon a small village in Sicily and there discovered a confection known to the peasants as cassata. Based upon ice-cream, this dish was enhanced by the addition of dried and crystallized fruits and a selection of aromatic herbs. Like many monastics of his day, Tortellini (who would go on to make his own mark upon Italian cuisine) was a skilled herbalist, and recognized at once the healing and soothing properties of the mixture of fruit and herbs used in the dish. As any devout Catholic would have done, he set out immediately for Rome with the stolen recipe concealed beneath his habit.

Italy was saved. Tortellini became a Cardinal within the week of his arrival at the Holy See, and the Church distributed the recipe for cassata throughout the land. The promise of the recipe alone was instrumental in turning many recusant nobles away from the influence of Luther, and within two years one could eat without fear in any noble house the length and breadth of Italy.

Provided that the cassata was taken as the final course, its healing herbs would avert the effects of all but the most spectacularly extreme culinary disasters. A number of petty wars were swiftly brought to an end, having been started in the first place only to give an air of political significance to the rash of dinner-party deaths.

England, at that time more than any other, was cut off from the mainstream of events on the Continent. Under the vigorous guidance of Henry VIII, with his preference for good, plain food and his tendency to have dissenters beheaded, the English diet had not undergone any of the ambitious but deadly changes which had affected Italian cuisine.

Thus, when cassata eventually reached England’s shores in the reign of his daughter Elizabeth, its properties as a means of surviving lavish experimental cookery were not especially noted. Chroniclers of the day, most notably Geoffrey of Pontefract in his Gastronomia Mundi, mention its soothing properties in a general way and list it as ‘a tonick for the jaded pallette.’ The name cassata undergoes a degree of change in translation, becoming casta or catta, and from here the name took on the form under which it finally entered the hallowed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary: catta-tonick or catatonic.