Yes, they actually spelled it "sallad" on the menu. Do not think that the Milkrather Grill is illiterate! They were pretending to be all archaik [sic] and traditional and all. Thery of course noted that it should have been spelled "sallet", if they were going to bother spelling it anciently. But I'm getting ahead of the story.
Every class was over! Every examination was written, and in the terrible claws of the teachers for grading and possible interment! Most of us had most of our grades already, and there wasn't even too terribly much suspense about waiting around for the rest.
And that, according to archaik student tradition and sheer common sense, called for a celebration!
So, the five of us (me; Dustweed; Havune; Thery; Yarwain) went to see the jabow dancers. Jabow dancing is not entirely a new phenomenon. In the old days -- archaik, if you like -- extroverted Orren sorcerers skilled in Mutoc Corpador would sometimes take the shapes of elegant beasts and dance before their villages. Now, with spellbinding, they can give those shapeshifting spells to a whole troupe of equally enthusiastic but less magically potent Orren.
So, the jabow dancers turn into fisher-jabows. These aren't the jaran-jabows that adventurers worry about, the huge three-headed birds that peck with the force of hammers and toss corrosive spiral pink fires about. Fisher-jabows are three-headed magenta storks, more or less. They eat fish, and sometimes they fight Orren (but only Orren in water form) for the fish, but they're basically harmless.
So, five or six Orren turned into fisher-jabows, and cavorted on stage to the accompaniment of lute and harpichord, violin and reed flute. Do not mistake these instruments for the elegant ones you might find in a count's parlor! They are coarse but enthusiastic, and as lively as a pack of Orren who mistook kathia for fish soup!
(Actually, I may already have mistaken them, but I'm not a musician so I don't know the proper names. 'Fiddle', maybe, instead of 'violin'.)
And the fisher-jabows cavorted and pranced and flapped their wings, clicking their beaks as extra instruments, twining their necks together. It was great fun, and I am not doing it justice.
After which, of course, we went to the Milkrather Cafe. Yarwain had remembered the Milkrather Cafe as being a calm and unpretentious sort of place, but it had been discovered by the lesser nobility in the intervening two years, which meant that the prices were much higher and the menu had gotten floofier. We decided to stay anyways, for it was getting late.
And I ordered the Rampaging Bird Salad. Rampaging Bird is a common enough appetizer: fatty bits of your favorite eating bird are stuck on skewers, rubbed with spicy butter, grilled, and dipped in a fearsome pepper-vinegar sauce and presented to you like so many weapons. It is served as spicy as anything in the region's cuisine; people sometimes get into too-spicy-eating contests with it instead of with just plain hot peppers. Since it is so hot, it is served with a bowl of sour cream to calm it down. Eating the sour cream is bad form in the contest.
Anyways! I did not have a Rampaging Bird appetizer. I had a Rampaging Bird Dinner Sallad. It has come to my attention that I am not quite properly Zi-Ri-sleek anymore, and that I should be just a bit careful and maybe evict a few ounces of weight. Hence the salad, which was advertised to be bits of non-fatty parts of the bird, not greatly buttered before grilling, served on a big pile of greens, and in all ways a good and moderate food of considerable flavor. Even if it was spelled "sallad".
Well, it had considerable flavor.
When a Zi Ri vomits, it is not pleasant. Our natural fires heat the vomitus, often making it boil and steam. Our natural fire resistance is not as good against steam -- or at least, when we are sufficiently sickened to be vomiting, the fire resistance is shaky. So in addition to the noxious flavors and stinging acid that, say, Rassimel must endure, we also get steam burns.
The sallad was like that.
The meat and leaves and such were all fine, really. The dressing ... they had poured a great quantity of fearsome pepper-vinegar sauce over it, and a moderate quantity of sour cream, by way of dressing. The pepper-vinegar sauce was the sort of thing you'd dip an oily buttery fatty grilled bird bit into and nibble it delicately, unless you are trying to impress someone with the fortitude of your mouth and tongue, which I wasn't 'cause none of the Orren I am halfheartedly chasing was there. The sour cream was exceedingly sour. Havune, nose-sharp as any Cani, gave me an odd look, but was too polite to ask the question that might have saved me (viz. "Are you sure you want to eat that? That sour cream is rather on the turned side").
In proper Rampaging Bird appetizers, the hot sauce and the sour cream combine in pleasing ways: the hot sauce tingles and envigorates; the sour cream smooths and calms; and together they maintain an excellent combination of decorum and excitement.
In the Sallad of the Bad Cafe, they combined the other way. The rottenness of the sour cream conspired with the viciousness of the sauce, leaving the nice and tasty halves of the two condiments aside. I took a bite or two: "This is not very nice ... where have I tasted that before?" I took another bite or three. "Oh... the time I was severely sick when I was eleven."
Yes, it was that bad. The cafe had done a splendidly accurate reconstruction of the flavor, as near as I can remember. It wasn't steaming exactly -- I have no actual burns -- but the croutons were very very hard, to the point of leaving scrapes and cuts inside my mouth, which is probably worse or at least more embarrassing to talk about.
Thery was kind enough to share her sandwich with me. But it was sweet potted wudgeon with almond butter and sardines: a traditional combination for one holiday a year, but not one I enjoy elsetimes. And after the taste of the Sallad, I was quite hungry and quite afraid of eating.
I ate about the fifth part of a dinner between the Sallad and the sandwich, and tossed two lozens on the table, and fled the Bad Cafe.
For the rest of dinner, I had a bit of rum and went to sleep. I couldn't face solid food. The Sallad was that bad.