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[fic] feast, THG
hwister
Title: Feast
Summary: Five stories of food in a world of hunger.
Disclaimer: Suzanne Collins.
Notes: Only because I have been watching too much food porn.

[Also, I turned nineteen on the run. I do not like this development.]

~,~

I.

It's her sister's birthday – seventh, and that means she still has five years of peace – and her mother cooks the little food they've saved up for the occasion. The humble fire casts muted gold circles on the ceiling and illuminates the ravaged planes of her mother's lovely face. Outside, the rain beats a soft melody against the roof.

Her sister looks up when the water boils and the subtle aroma of sweet potatoes fill the room. Her birthday meal: tiny boiled sweet potatoes dug up from a kind neighbor's garden, their rotten portions cut off, a chunk of crusty bread the size of her tiny fist, made with tesserae grain and cooked with tesserae oil, a pinch of cheese and sugar coaxed from the kindly baker.

And it's not a meal, no, it's a feast.

Her sister's fingers are already skeletal as they wave shyly from the table. A changeling of bones and skin, that's what her sister has become, unrecognizable with her ribcage straining prominently, famine rattling in her blood, a stomach swollen with malnutrition. Starvation is curse that ripped life from her flesh, shine from her dark eyes, slowly and insidiously, until she was all hollowed out. In Panem, the Hunger Games was the televised crime, but hundreds more had died, unnoticed in their homes, through perpetrated hardship and abuse and exposure.

She closes her eyes in despair, resolves to find a way to cope and soon – Cray, and she's always thought him despicable until now, now when her family was hungry and there was nothing else to commend her – and presses a lie-shaped smile to her lips, not wanting to think about how her sister, will probably be dead before her next birthday.

~

II.

They have this treat once a year if they're lucky, President Coin says, and he remembers being lucky only only twice in nearly two decades of rigid frugality, remembers only twice when they were allowed free reign at the table. The occassion commemorates holidays the world had once celebrated before the Dark Days – so many days jettisoned for joy that it cannot be imagined – the President adds, careful to remind why this was not the case anymore: The Capitol, always the Capitol, who stole all the days of rest and merriment everyone ever needed.

There is game and fish and fruit. Wild fowl cooked tenderly in a watery, burgundy sauce. White fishmeat still steaming. Small, puffy rolls of bread. Wild ferns and ginger and berries. All fresh, and that's something they haven't had in a long time.

Everyone eats with gusto, tucks in heartily, but, at the end of the feast, there is still more than enough food to keep everyone fed for a couple more meals. Several would say, shyly, that they took too much, greedily split a second roll with a neighbor, ate until they felt full.

Command would look on and smile, knowing that each man and woman and child really took only as much as necessary, and would know that they have succeeded in breeding sacrifice within their citizenry, succeeded in the first step towards building a battle-ready empire upon the bones of a wartorn district.

~

III.

Madge Undersee remembers almost everything she's been told. She remembers everything her mother says, with a sense of familial responsibility, about the sweetshop and candies and jellies, about Maysilee and her laughter like spun sunshine, about a golden mockingjay pin and always remembering who the enemy was. She remembers every instruction from her father, every word heavy with the patterns of their society, gullies in which iniquity ran like so many quiet rivers, follows with quiet obedience. She remembers lessons.

Be good. Be quiet. Be brave.

And, always: be grateful.

Dinner that long ago night had been: Bread, warm and flaky, subtly herbed with basil and thyme. Meat, smoked over the fire, heavenly-smelling. Strawberries and brown sugar – crumbly like stardust – for desert. Madge had pushed away her food and cried, then six years old and still inexcusable.

Her mother had taken her cheeks in both lands, stared cleanly into mirroring blue eyes, said, listen to me, Madge, listen to me. Be grateful.

Be grateful, Madge learned it well, carried it all through her short life. Be grateful for everything you have. Not because there are starving children far around the world, there are starving children right in your street, gazing into your frosted windows, watching your feast, just waiting for you to put your bread down so they can leaf through your garbage at night.

~

IV.

The feast during the Victor's Tour had always been a high point in an infinite weave of loss that blanketed Panem. District 4 had always celebrated it with requisite enthusiasm for it meant – a living child come back to them, one less coffin to send out to sea, one less grieving family – boxes of food every month, a feast. Turquoise and silver streamers strung up against a banner of stars, tiny box lanterns lit throughout the beach and floating the dark water, boats hung with white lights, cascades of confetti.

There were crabs, red and spicy, and fish, crusted and baked, broiled and smoky, filleted, served with garlicky butter and sauces and vegetables. There was rice, white and fragrant. Bread, hot and buttered and heavy with fruit. Pies filled with sliced apples and nut and cream. A cake topped with chocolate and caramel and a candied depiction of a swimming girl.

Even in a Career district, where people are generally better fed, children during summertime had to keep watch for Peacekeepers before they swam out for food: tiny shells, scuttling crablets, long ropes of seaweed. Treats they otherwise wouldn't get to taste. Families still scoured for adequate meals. People still loved a feast.

But this year they were celebrating a girl who barely remembered how to smile, how to breathe, how to be alive again.

Some bile must've seeped into the fish flesh, for the meal was bitter.

~

V.

To cook food was to breathe life into a person, and this made chef a difficult and unsavory lifestyle choice in the Capitol.

With everything available at their fingertips, they could make everything one could ever want –

Barbequed meats skewered with onions and green chillies and tomatoes the size of cherries. Steaming noodle thin and translucent in a thin, milky soup. Dumplings filled with meat and spice. Stuffed turkeys with tender meat and rich sauces. Cold colorful salads. Bread brushed lightly with chocolate and nuts. Cheesecakes and honeyed pastries. Cakes decorated with jewels and pearls.

– and the feast still wouldn't be enough, never, not for a people who consumed life so greedily, so comfortably. Vomited it just as easily.

Everyone in the Capitol had been told in schools long ago, that people in the districts were ungrateful parasites, jealous of their liberty and their freedom and their elite lifestyle and must be kept at bay. But, to the chefs, there's always a contradiction. Always during the Hunger Games and only then do they see what gratitude looks like: an emaciated tribute holding something of their making – a tiny crust, flour and water and a little yeast, made quick to the push of a silver button, checked for steroids and vitamins and even excess sugar – holds it so dear. Weeps thanks so pathetically.

(To cook food was to breath life into a person, and somehow that forges a connection. Chefs for the Games had walked out time and time again whenever their - for somehow, the starving kids were theirs to claimtribute was killed. At the first broadcast of Katniss Everdeen, the man who makes the lamb stew with the plums disappears and doesn't look back.)

~.~
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[Hey, if you've read this, drop a line. I have massive WB and feedback would be helpful. :)]

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Thanks for posting, I like this blog!


That last one just GUTTED me. (Although, the lamb stew chap--doesn't lamb stew show up again later in Mockingjay? I guess someone else makes it later, just not as well.)

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