The dining hall of a military leased house, Magdeburg, 1634

Cory Joe Lang looked down at his empty place mat. He had a bad feeling about the group's latest action. There had been mutterings about the food before, but this time they'd sent it back untouched. Even he hadn't been prepared to try Chef Magnus' latest offering, and with Velma Hardesty for a mother, he'd grown used to eating just about anything that was put on the table. Usually, anything had to be better than whatever his mother had cooked, but he hadn't been able to get past the smell of the stuff, whatever it was.

He looked around the dining room. Aaron Tyler, the guy responsible for initiating the food revolt, was busy telling his friends Vern Bellamy, Clint Acton and Daly Threlkeld about how this would teach the cook not to keep serving up that kind of junk. Cameron Hinshaw looked as guilty as Cory felt, while Casey Vanorman still hadn't recovered from having his meal snatched away before he finished eating it.

There was a rattle of the door and suddenly a Viking berserker burst into the dining room. Cory slid lower in his chair as Chef Olof Magnus stormed up to the table, his eyes flashing and a giant meat cleaver in his right hand. "You sent back my lutfisk!" Chef Magnus emphasized the statement by swinging the meat cleaver, burying it into the table. Then he placed his big, meaty hands on the table and glared at the men seated around it. "What is wrong with my lutfisk?"

The fire in Chef Magnus' eyes scared Cory more than the still vibrating meat cleaver. He and the rest of the guys sat mute.

"Well? Answer me. What is it with you people? You eat my stew. You eat the bread and dripping. But when I dig into the measly allowance the army provides to pay for your food to give you my greatest creation, you send it back. You didn't even try it! Was there something wrong with it?"

Cory tried to sooth the savage beast. "There was nothing wrong with it, sir. It's just that it's not what we're used to."

Chef Magnus seemed to be about to accept Cory's peace offering. Until that fool Tyler started playing with fire. "I'm not eating no more stinking, weird . . . foreign stuff. I demand you make us some real American food."

Oh, God. That's going too far. Tyler is so dead. Cory shut his eyes to spare himself the sight of Aaron getting his just desserts.

After a couple of minutes without hearing the sound of a meat cleaver striking flesh, Cory opened his eyes. Aaron was still alive, for now. But Chef Magnus was towering over the cringing Aaron with that meat cleaver in his hand.

"My lutfisk is not 'stinking, weird, foreign stuff.' It is the ultimate in fine Swedish cuisine and deserves to be treated with respect." Chef Magnus drew himself up to his full five foot six and glared at Aaron. "What, may I ask, is this 'real American food' you demand I prepare for you?"

"Hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, chili dogs . . . " Aaron 's voice trailed off in the face of Chef Magnus' unblinking stare.

Chef Magnus seemed to be a little appeased by Aaron 's answer. He stood in thought for a moment. "Dog." He smiled. "I do a very good roast dog."

There were choking sounds from around the table. A couple of the men giggled. Aaron laughed. Chef Magnus took a firm grip on his meat cleaver. "I have said something funny?"

Even Aaron, Cory was happy to notice, realized Chef Magnus wasn't happy with the laughter, and kept his mouth shut. "Er, sir. Aaron didn't mean he wants you to serve dog."

Chef Magnus glared at Cory before using the meat cleaver to point to Aaron. "He said he wanted dog. I heard him."

"No. Yes." Cory swallowed. The way that meat cleaver was flashing around made it difficult to think. "We didn't eat dog back up-time, sir. Those are just names for the . . . " He paused, searching for the right word. " . . . meals. Up-time meals. Something we call 'fast food.'"

Chef Magnus brushed back his chef's cap with his left hand and wrinkled his brow. "Fast food? You mean something you eat before Lent?"

"No." Corey shook his head. "Fast food is usually stuff that's quick to cook that you can pick up and eat on the run."

"Fast food that is not food before a fast. Dog, but without the dog." Chef Magnus gave Cory a frustrated look. "Do you know how to make any of these fast foods'?"

Cory hesitated. Back up-time he'd worked after school at the local McDonalds. "I've made hamburgers. They're just grilled ground meat in a steamed bun with lettuce and other vegetables, sometimes with a slice of cheese, and maybe a fried egg added."

"Steamed bun? Why would you want to steam a bun? And what kind of cheese?" Chef Magnus was obviously waiting for Cory to say something, but all Cory could do was indicate his ignorance by shrugging.

Chef Magnus buried his head in his hands. "Why me, Lord? Why me?" He lowered his hands to look at the anxious faces around the table. "If you wish to eat 'real American foods,' then I must know how to prepare them. Do you have recipes?" The men shook their heads. "Do you know anybody who has recipes?" Most of the men nodded. "Good. When I have some recipes, then maybe you will get what you want."

Chef Magnus pushed himself away from the table, straightened his cap, took his cleaver in hand and said, "I am glad we have had this little discussion." Then he turned and made his way to the dining room door. He'd just grasped the door handle when Clint Acton called out, "But what about dinner? What do we eat tonight?"

He turned and smiled. "I have some lovely lutfisk."

Several of the men turned a shade of green. Others suddenly had difficulty swallowing. Cory admitted defeat for them all. "That would be nice, sir."

The kitchen of the same military leased house

Olof gathered his assistants around. "Nils, Petter. First thing tomorrow, I want you to go around to the American mission and start asking about recipes. Find out everything you can." He smiled at his assistants. "We will surprise these idiots with some of their fast food."

"Herr Magnus, one of them has eaten some of his meal."

Olof jerked around at the interruption. "What? Someone gave my lutfisk the respect it deserved? Show me."

The servant pointed at the returned meals. There, amongst half a dozen untouched plates, was one that was at least a third eaten. Olof reached out a hand. There was little heat radiating from the food. He turned to his assistants, an evil grin on his face. "Nils, replace this plate with hot food. Then take it back to the dining room with the rest. Ask who ate their lutfisk. Give him the plate of hot food. The rest of them can settle for eating the food they so rudely sent back."

We're really sorry, but this is only available to up-to-date paid subscribers.

Our columns and editorials are free, along with a few other items, but almost all stories and all downloads are paid only.

If you want to read the entire gazette, you need to either subscribe here, or purchase a download of any single issue at the Baen Books e-book store  or at Amazon.com.

- The Grantville Gazette Staff