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To Cañon City

The last thing I remember was that Rory was concerned that eating a priceless carp might upset the person who owned it, which, in this instance was the Emperor of Japan, I tell Rory that we are surrounded by valuable pieces of furniture, a Chippendale commode and lamp-stands, writing desks that belonged to Marie Antoinette, an incense burner belonged to the Shah of Persia; so Rory should not be concerned about something that, after all, was only an overgrown goldfish, however, we all agree the Japanese Emperor’s sacred carp tasted wonderful, and we are sorry the Japanese Emperor isn't here to enjoy it. Fatty complements the chef, saying that very few people could cook a two hundred year old carp and produce something tasting as fresh and tender. The chef, Monsieur François Crétin, says that it is fresh because, half an hour ago, it was alive and happily living in the garden pond, and it is tender because the carp's flesh was tenderised when the cooks dragged it from the pond and beat it to death with frying pans. Rory has a delicate stomach, and a tendency to complain about the the slightest thing, and, hearing this detail, we expect him to react negatively, but he surprises us all by agreeing with Fatty, adding the fish was delicious, light, delicate, and, all together, the meal was perfect.

Monsieur François Crétin bows his head in acknowledgement of this praise but, noticing that he appears to be oddly bemused, I remember that, for some incomprehensible reason, in every meal he creates, Crétin always includes a deliberate mistake. It is puzzling, the meal was, indeed, perfect;  so I wonder if, this time, Crétin's deliberate mistake was to omit the deliberate mistake, in which case, for the meal to be imperfect, it must be perfect, and the other way around. This is too difficult to think about, especially as it occurs to me that Monsieur François Crétin's deliberate mistake might be that he failed to omit the mistake. But this is too complicated to think about without feeling ill. Fortunately, my thoughts are interrupted by Rory telling us that, at long last, he has eaten a flavoursome meal of such delicacy that it has not upset his stomach at all.

Fatty tells Rory that carp is a very tasty fish and very easy to digest, unless the chef forgets to remove the carp's gall-bladder, in which case, Fatty says, digestion is not an issue. Rory wants to know what happens if the gall-bladder is not removed, and why it doesn't affect the digestion. Fatty says that the taste of a carp's gall-bladder is so unbelievably horrible that diners immediately spit it out before swallowing it, so they never get to digest it. I remind Fatty that it is easy to tell when this happens as, strictly speaking, it is not the gall-bladder itself that tastes vile, it is the bile contained in the gall-bladder that has a disgusting taste. If the gall-bladder is not punctured, the carp's taste will not be affected, but if, during the cooking process, the bladder is punctured and the bile released into the flesh of the carp, the whole fish will be corrupted, therefore, as the fish tasted delicious, François did not make the mistake of puncturing the gall-bladder and polluting the whole fish with the noxious bile. Fatty suggests that it is possible that François did, in fact, leave the gall-bladder in the carp but that he did not puncture it, so it is also possible that someone swallowed the gall-bladder without noticing. I tell Fatty that they will not notice immediately, but, after a few moments, when their digestive acids eat through the gall-bladder and release the stinking, poisonous, acrid, bile directly into their stomach, they will definitely notice it. Rory confirms this by suddenly gasping, grabbing his stomach, turning green, uttering a gurgling screech, and spraying the dining room with projectile vomit. We all dive for cover and, as I hit the ground, I notice that, far from being alarmed, François has a satisfied smile on his face.

I hold Rory's jaws open and Juan forces medication down his throat, in the form of a bottle of Vintage Dailluaine Private Reserve, which he keeps for such purposes. The malt's wonderful efficiency at quickly cleaning out the system is unquestioned in Scottish medical circles, and certainly not questioned by Rory who, within a few minutes has forcefully discharged a great deal of toxic waste. I tell Albert to clean Rory up, because, as everyone can see, he is rolling around in his own filth and, obviously, not in a fit condition to clean himself. Albert protests, saying that he is a scientist, not a nurse. I tell him that he is too stupid to be a nurse. Albert says that he is not too stupid to be a nurse because scientists are more intelligent than nurses. I tell him that only a stupid person could think such a thing, so that proves he is stupid. Albert blusters, but, helpfully, to prove it again, Fatty challenges Albert to answer a simple children's puzzle.

George tells Albert not to take on the challenge. Albert says that, if it is a problem so easy that a child can solve it, then, certainly he will answer it. George reminds Albert that Rory once had a lemming farm and tells him that Fatty is probably going to quote one of the the problems created by our old friend Arthur Mee, who used to try them out on us during Friday night sessions in the Cheeky Monkey. Arthur's puzzles might be childish and simple but they caused a lot of violent disagreements which ended with bloodshed and mayhem, not only that, as Arthur is responsible for the mass-suicide of lemmings, the subject might be sensitive to Rory. Fatty tells George that it is one of Arthur's problems, it's called 'The Problem of the Travellers Dinner', but the subject has got nothing to do with lemmings, and he recites:

'Two Arabs who were travelling to Baghdad stopped at a small village for their midday meal. One of them had five loaves with him and the other only three. As they were about to begin eating, a stranger came up, and saying that he had money but no food, asked if he might share their meal. He promised to pay for what he had, and the two travellers agreed to divide the loaves equally among the three, and invited him to sit down.

After the meal was over and all the food had been eaten, the stranger laid down eight coins of equal value in payment for the food he had eaten, and, bidding his hosts good-bye, went away. The traveller who had five loaves took up five of the coins as his share, and left three for the man who had had three loaves. But his man disputed the division of the money, and insisted that he should receive half of it.

The men began to quarrel very bitterly, and as they could not agree, they went before the magistrate, so that he could decide who was right.

The magistrate listened attentively to the story which the men had to tell, and them to their astonishment, he said: “Let the man who had five loaves take seven of the coins and the man who had three take only one; that will be a fair division of the money.”

Was he right?'

Rory, flailing around in puddles of unpleasant eliminations, yells at that he doesn't want to hear anything about, or by, Arthur Mee; over the years, Mr Mee has been solely responsible for the mass-suicide of hundreds of millions of lemmings, at the annual Åbjørvatnet festival, generations of lemming farmers gather together and throw effigies of Arthur Mee over a cliff. Albert says that Rory seems unwell, I explain Rory is just exhibiting some mild side-effects of the medicinal malt, but, other than that, Rory is fighting fit, however, to calm Rory down until he feels better, I knock him out with the incense burner, unfortunately Rory's head damages the incense burner and the thing crumples into something that isn't an incense-burner any more.

Albert says that the magistrate is right because he is the magistrate and, as the magistrate, whatever he says is the law, so he has to be right. George says that he thinks the magistrate is wrong, obviously, the stranger gave the travellers one coin for every loaf, so the person with three loaves gets three coins and the person with five loaves gets five coins, that's what the stranger wanted, and it's fair.

Albert says that that is not the point, what some stranger wants doesn't effect anything and fairness and the law have got nothing to do with each other; the magistrate can divide the money up in any way he wants, it might be unfair, but it's right. George says that he could be a bad magistrate, then he could be wrong, or he might have been bribed, or he might be a stupid magistrate and not understand the problem at all, but the magistrate is still wrong. Albert starts to explain, again, why, in the eyes of the law, the magistrate was right, but Juan snarls, kicks a commode over Rory, throws François out of a French window, grasps Albert by the neck, and shouts that he can't stand it any more, we are in America, nobody cares abut the law, America is full of cars and trains to go in and roads and rails to go on, and mountains and plains and great horizons to go to; America, he yells, is the most beautiful, wide-open, country in the world, with the most beautiful, wide-open, women in the world, and he is stuck inside with a bunch of smashed up old furniture and some deranged people and, he adds, shaking Albert until his moustache flaps like a bat in a wind turbine, if he doesn't get out for some fresh air and women he will go berserk. I agree with Juan, but it isn't right to agree with an out-of-control idiot, so I remind him that we are hamrelishly behind schedule, and don't have the time to go sightseeing, and I try to hit him over the head with a lamp-stand, to calm him down, but he ducks and I smash one of the writing tables into smithereens, Juan grabs another lamp-stand and swings it at me, I avoid it and his lamp-stand crashes into the other writing table, reducing it to splinters. George tells Fatty that we are smashing up the furniture again and he should do something about it. Fatty responds by picking us up, throwing us at the wall, and stamping on us until we're unconscious.

When Fatty kicks us awake, we are surprised, and, after such a long time in the club, delighted, to find we are in the great American outdoors, on board a train, heading for Cañon City. Fatty apologises for knocking us out but, to make up for it, he has procured cases of Vintage Macduff, Linkwood, Tamdhu, and Knockdhu Special Reserve. I tell Fatty that he did exactly the right thing, Juan agrees and, to celebrate, we offer toast after toast to the Agency, and it's extraordinary clubs, drink to everyone living the American dream, salute the President, then, yelling with excitement, we inflate our bagpipes and, to the rhythm of the engine and the noises Rory makes when we kick him in the shins, we play the 'Pibroch of Douil Dhu', 'The Hills of the Highlands', and 'Tullochgorum' as loudly as possible as we rush up and down the train in hysterical confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary

Carp, baked

Ingredients; 1 carp, For the forcemeat; 8 sauce oysters, 3 anchovies boned, 2 tablespoonfuls of breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoonful of finely-chopped parsley, 1 shallot finely-chopped, yolk of 1 egg, cayenne, salt.

For coating the fish: 1 egg and breadcrumbs.

For the sauce: ¾ of a pint f good stock, 1 oz. of butter, 1 tablespoonful of flour, half a tablespoonful of Worcester Sauce, a tablespoonful of lemon-juice, a teaspoonful of made mustard. Batter for basting.

Method: Clean and scale the fish; remove the beards f the oysters, and simmer them for 15 minutes in a little fish stock or water. Cut the oysters into small pieces, but do not cook them; also cut the anchovies into very small pieces. Mix breadcrumbs, oysters, anchovies, parsley, and the stock in which the oyster-beards were simmered. Put the forcemeat inside the fish, and sew up the opening; brush over with egg, and cover with breadcrumbs. Place in a baking-dish and cook gently for about 1 hour, basting frequently with hot butter. Melt the butter, stir in the flour, add the stock, and stir until the sauce boils. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the mustard, lemon-juice, Worcester Sauce, and the gravy (strained) from the tin in which the fish was cooked. Garnish the fish with cut lemon and parsley, and serve the sauce in a tureen.

Time. From 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours.
Sufficient for 4 or 5 persons.
Seasonable from November to March.

Note; the fish may also be stuffed with ordinary veal forcemeat.

Carp, Fried

Ingredients. 1 carp of medium size, butter or fat for frying, vinegar, salt and pepper, flour.
Method. Soak the fish 1 hour in salt and water, then split it open, lay it flat, and REMOVE THE GALL-STONE FROM THE HEAD. Dry well, sprinkle with salt and cayenne, dredge with flour, and fry in hot butter or fat until nicely browned. Garnished with cut lemon and the roe, fried, and serve with anchovy sauce.

Time, to cook, from 20- to 30 minutes.
Sufficient for 2 to 3 persons.
Seasonable from November to March

The Carp

This species of fresh water fish, which forms the special type of the family Cyprinidae to which the barbels, tenches and breams belong, occurs throughout Europe, and frequents fresh and quiet waters and slow- running rivers. It feeds chiefly on worms and aquatic plants. During the winter it buries in the mud. The mouth of the carp is small, the jaws toothless, the body smooth and of an olive-green and yellowish colour, and arched and compressed, the scales large; the gils are formed by three flat rays, and there is but one dorsal fin. The carp is one of the earliest known fish in England. It was much preserved in ponds by the monks, for table use. The carp is very prolific and attains to a great age – to 100 years and even longer. The flavour of the carp is influenced by the character of its habitat. The well-known gold fish (Cyprinus auratus), supposed to be a native of China, is allied to the common carp.

Information and recipes by Isabella Beeton, 1861.

This was the magistrate's explanation.

“One of you had five loaves,” he said, “and the other had three, making eight loaves in all, and then, when the third traveller came up and joined in, the eight loaves were divided equally between the three of you. Now suppose each loaf to be divided into three equal parts, there would, of course, be twenty-four parts, and as you divided equally between three of you, each received what was equal to eight of these parts. But one traveller originally had five loaves, or fifteen parts, and as he only consumed eight parts, he must have given seven to the foodless traveller. The other man had originally three loaves, or nine parts, and as he consumed eight, he only gave on part to the foodless traveller, therefore, as you can see, my decision is quite fair; the seven coins go to the man who gave seven parts, and the one coin to the man who gave one part.”