Steampunk Family

Onion Porridge

December 17, 2010
This entry is part of a series, Voyage to Antafrica»

The farmer’s name was Ifan Solanum and his wife was Gwen. Two farm hands (not arms) lived in a separate hedge-house. The children slept piled together on the floor of the farmer’s house, and did not wake when Ifan left to work in the morning. Perhaps he would have let them sleep all day, but Gwen thumped pots and clattered dishes together until they woke. When Ifan and the hands came in for breakfast an hour after dawn Gerhardt was sweeping, the twins winding yarn from a skein into a ball, Claire chopping an oniony-smelling grass that made her eyes water, Adolphus polishing the stiffened leaves that served as plates, and Bettina shelling peas.

Ifan frowned when he saw this activity, and spoke to Gwen at length. The twins strained to hear until Mirabelle thought to roll the ball of yarn in the arguing couple’s direction and slowly retrieve it. A few minutes later Gwen clapped her hands and gestured everyone to the table, her glittering eyes bright in her red face. Breakfast, a sort of onion porridge, was tense, and not very tasty. Afterwards the children washed up.

“He doesn’t think we should be working,” Mirabelle told the others. “He says we’re too important.”

“Important how?” Claire asked.

“We’re explorers and adventurers,” Adolphus said, “of course we’re important.”

“I think…” Mirabelle hesitated. “They were talking fast and I’m not sure of all the words, but I’m afraid it’s because we have lighter color skin than he does.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Gerhardt pulled his hands from the hot wash water. “My hands are the same color as he is now.”

Adolphus looked thoughtful. “In the Indian subcontinent–”

“Will you leave off about the Indian subcontinent?” Annabelle demanded. “I can give you half a dozen reasons proving we are not in the Indian subcontinent, and the first one is they don’t speak Welsh!”

“I will not leave off! I have a salient point!”

“Go on, Adolphus,” Claire said. “There’s a first time for everything.”

Adolphus glared at her, but would not be distracted. “In, as I say, the afore-mentioned Indian subcontinent, society is managed through a caste system.”

“Broken leg?” Bettina asked.

“Not that sort of cast!” he said. “It’s this idea that some people are more important than others, and that everyone has a defined place. Certain castes are limited to certain jobs, and you can’t switch or marry outside it and so forth.”

“That doesn’t sound very nice,” Annabelle observed.

“I dare say I wouldn’t like it,” Adolphus agreed. “Don’t like being told what to do. The point is, the salient point being, that factors determining caste include lineage, occupation, and skin tone.” He looked around at his siblings expectantly.

Claire nodded. “That was a salient point. Wherever we are, this society may have a caste system, and our hosts might think we’re in it.”

“If that’s the case,” Annabelle said, “then we’re lucky they think we’re higher up. They might not let us stay if we were lower down.”

“I hope our luck holds, then.” Mirabelle said. “After that I heard Gwen ask Ifan why we were abandoned or alone – I don’t know the exact words but I think she wants to know if we’re so important why are we so pathetic.”

“That is the nature of a life of adventure,” Adolphus said. “One day you’re sipping cocoa on a sumptuously decorated airship, and the next you’re begging onion porridge from red-skinned Welsh-speakers.”

“I don’t like being dependent on strangers,” Gerhardt said.

“I don’t like that we’re causing our hosts to fight,” Claire added. “Maybe we can work hard today and leave in the morning.”


Photo credit Blue Lotus
Entries in this series:
  1. On Grandmothers
  2. With A Bang!
  3. In Search of Ancient Angiosperms
  4. Assault on the Galley
  5. The Sorrows of Chef
  6. Faeries, Helpful Siblings, and other Mythological Creatures
  7. Meanwhile, Back in the Lab
  8. A Day of Discovery
  9. The Children’s Hypothesis
  10. A Research Date
  11. Aboard the Schmetterling
  12. The Cave
  13. The Cage
  14. Knee of the Yeti
  15. Kidnapped!
  16. A Clue
  17. The Yeti and the Comb
  18. Fighting the Count
  19. Fighting the Yeti
  20. Falling
  21. Breadcrumbs
  22. The Search is On
  23. Flight to Saigon
  24. On the Streets of Saigon
  25. The Sad Man
  26. At the Grandiere Club Aeronautique
  27. If you Give a Count a Cookie
  28. Out of Cookies
  29. Stuck!
  30. Airships Float?
  31. Where is Claire?
  32. Drowning
  33. Into the Drink!
  34. Boat!
  35. Mushroom Trip
  36. Ambush
  37. The Variegated Strangler
  38. In a Strange Land
  39. Hand over Hand
  40. The Last of the Gouda
  41. An Unusual Breakfast
  42. Downstream
  43. What's for Dinner?
  44. Axe and Fire
  45. Meanwhile, Back at the Airship
  46. Over the Gobi
  47. Return of the Grandmothers
  48. Warning from Huang
  49. Anxious Hours
  50. Ulrik Prepares
  51. Destruction by Dawn
  52. Finding Philomena
  53. No Luck in Pekin
  54. The Children Rescue...Something
  55. Corndog Liberation
  56. The Fate of Corndogs
  57. Have you Tea?
  58. Antafrican Hosptitality
  59. Onion Porridge
  60. Homesick
  61. On the Hunt
  62. Farm Living
  63. Singing for Supper
  64. You Say Potato...
  65. Curiosity is the Foundation of Discovery
  66. An Awkward Position
  67. Trouble Comes Riding
  68. Capsicum Capture
  69. To the Palace
  70. The Death of the Lincoln
  71. War Wings
  72. A Long Way Down
  73. Enter the Lightning
  74. Before the Queen
  75. You are a Tomato!
  76. A Sunken Ship
  77. Eglantine Aubergine
  78. Children of the Soil
  79. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  80. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  81. At Night in the Nightshade Court
  82. The Price of Popcorn
  83. Ulrik and Chef
  84. Fire!
  85. Claire's Bluff
  86. Tomato Queen and Aubergine
  87. It's Going to Blow!
  88. Rhodri in the Gardens
  89. The Servant's Fountain
  90. History Revealed
  91. Fight at the Fountain
  92. Repercussions
  93. Father Discovers the Yeti
  94. Aboard the Lucy Stone
  95. Summoned
  96. The Queen's Accusation
  97. The Queen's Rage
  98. The Khan
  99. The Last War Wing
  100. Eglantine Departs
  101. Thumping Rhodri
  102. Bad News from the Boys
  103. Where's the Count?
  104. In Search of the Count
  105. Spying on the Queen
  106. Confronting the Count
  107. Orphaned?
  108. Orphaned?
  109. Montesanto's Experiments
  110. Montesanto's Experiments
  111. The Queen's Tantrum
  112. Bettina's Tantrum
  113. The Flaming Queen
  114. Uprising!
  115. Uprising!
  116. Escape
  117. On the Run
  118. The Mysterious Coach
  119. Red Racer!
  120. Revolution Reset
  121. By the Acid Sea
  122. Farewell Antafrica
  123. Home Again!
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1 Comment for this entry

  • Sharyn says:

    Wonderful installment. The children’s reactions to learning about caste were interesting. I like that the idea of caste was upsetting to them. They’ve obviously been taught people are all equal no matter the skin color.

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