EP038: L’Alchimista

By N.K. Jemisin.
Read by Paul Tevis (of Have Games, Will Travel).
Discuss on our forums.
Guest host: Salim Fadhley.
All stories by N.K. Jemisin.
All stories read by Paul Tevis.

She did not particularly care whether he paid; it wasn’t her inn. But
at his words she lifted an eyebrow. “What sort of challenge?”

“A very special one.” He slipped a hand into his coat like an
old-fashioned pistolero, but before Franca could worry he pulled out a
bulging sack made of what looked like deerhide. He set this on the table — carefully, Franca noted.

“You are willing to follow a recipe? So many chefs of your caliber
think themselves above the direction of others.”

She lifted her chin. “I was head chef for Parliament once — before
that bastard Berlusconi, anyhow. While I was there I had to make Florentine
dishes like a Florentine and Venetian dishes like a Venetian and the Madonna
help me if I did them wrong. If the recipe is sound, I can follow it.”

Rated G. Warning: Food descriptions may be intoxicating. Do not listen before grocery shopping.

Referenced sites:
Resonance FM
The Exciting Hellebore Shew

Comments (17)

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  1. Nolan says:

    Just listened to this superb story – definitively one of the best I’ve ever heard on EscapePod.

  2. Lora says:

    This was excellent. Really lovely and interesting ideas.

  3. Jesse says:

    That was a great hosting job Salim!

    On your editorial… the way I look at it – the genre distinctions between mainstream and the fantastic literature written these days has arisen because mainstream fiction has ghettoized itself, not the other way round. I figure this happend mostly because it started playing into mundane character description and prose pretty contests – back in the day – say the 19th century – popular literature (the mainstream) used every trick in the book (pun intended) to tell a good story.

  4. Joe says:

    This story is the best I’ve heard on Escape Pod yet!

    Anthony Bourdain (in his Las Halles cookbook) talks about how good cooking truely is magic. that in the simmering of ingredients, the melding of flavors is something that isn’t engineered by a cook, but pure magic that occurs under the lid of the pot itself.


    Excellent story, great ideas, excellent descriptions.

    Thank you, please write more!

  5. Yet again, you’ve chosen well… both by choosing Salim to guest host and by either having Salim pick the story, or using another of Steve’s great selections.

    It’s nice to have guest hosts every now and then to break up the flow of the show, and to keep us all on our toes.

  6. l.m.orchard says:

    Have to agree with everyone: Great story. I especially loved the matter-of-fact presentation in the bit where preparation of some of the ingredients “tended to manifest imps” and so she cut the mix with holy water.

  7. sal says:

    Steve orchestrates the whole thing; The introducer and the reader are chosen to compliment the story. I got to read the story a couple of days before you got to hear it.

    I’m not entirely sure that we can say a genre has ghettoised itself. The way I see it is that when a genre-defying book comes out publishers start demanding more of the same. Fan fiction is easy to write, and much of the fantasy-genre occupies a world-space not dis-similar to J. R. R. Tolkien because for a long while publishers have been desperate to find something else that would appeal to the LOTR audience. Just because books get published and use different characters and place-names it doesnt lift ’em much further above Fan-Fics.

    The spin-off thing works much the same way; A marketing audience is identified for a particular movie, game or TV-Series and books are commissioned because the publisher believes that there is a captive audience. This audience will recognise brands and possibly buy a star-trek spin-off instead of the work of an unknown writer.

  8. HE says:

    This story was lovely. The descriptions of the food- both mundane and magical- made me hungry for better food than I have the money to buy or skill to make. So, darn you.

  9. The_Spide says:

    I love the imagery of the meal, just mouth watering. This almost deserves its own genre “culinary fiction” 🙂

    My favourite part … “As she had planned the firebird’s glaze, which contained a few drops of left over frava oil, sparked on the flint gizzard in its mouth and caught fire the moment he tried to carve a slice. The illusory flames billowed and curled around the dish like the birds lost feathers and the slice he’d cut floated gracefully to his plate.”

  10. MatthewArt says:

    I loved this. Just barely dicovered escape pod.
    L’Alchemist was original and surpriseing, funny and just plane good. I sorta pictures something like a howls moving castle enviromen. I’d like to know where they go next.
    What a great thing this Excape Pod is… I’ve only heard one episode and I’m hooked for life. Thanks to all involved for filled void that so desprately needed to be filled.

  11. I agree with everyone that this was an excellent episode of Escape Pod. I’m a little biased because I published this story originally, but Salim’s guest-hosting and Paul Tevis’ wonderful reading complemented the story wonderfully, providing a sumptuous meal of the entire experience.

    If y’all are interested in reading Nora’s story in print, it, along with a whole host of other food-related fiction, reside in Scattered, Covered, Smothered, an anthology edited and published by Two Cranes Press, the independent publisher I run with my wife, artist-writer Janet Chui. In addition to Nora’s story, we have contributions from Jeff VanderMeer, Nalo Hopkinson, Bruce Boston, Toiya Kristen Finley, Barth Anderson, Rhys Hughes, and many more.

    And now I will stopping pimping myself and return the board to its adulation of this story. 🙂

  12. Tim says:

    Very nice story. I thought it started out a bit slow and was almost ready to stop listening, but I’m glad I stayed with it. Nice pick, nice job.

  13. Nora says:

    Wow — I’m really awed by all the positive comments here; many thanks, folks. “L’Alchimista” is probably my favorite of the shorts I’ve written, so I’m glad to see it getting some love here. Many thanks to Paul for his excellent reading!

    (If it’s any consolation, HE, I’m not that good a cook either, and I sure as heck can’t afford truffles and whatnot. Much of the cooking in this story was wishful thinking. But hey, it’s fun to dream. ^_-)

  14. Judy says:

    I enjoyed the story. Good choice.

  15. WGH says:

    Food as magic. Magic as food. Tasty story, delicious reading.

  16. scatterbrain says:

    Now I’m just hungry!

  17. […] L’Alchimista by N.K. Jemisin […]