“Tell me what goes into a meal like this,” I asked, holding up the recorder.
The chef at hand lifted the entire hog by himself. His huge green arms lined with lightning-bolt tattoos. The pale pink carcass crunched against the wire rack. The room was dense with sweet smoke and crackling fires. “It’s all in meat. Can’t have some lab grown protein or something half-starved from a cage. I get these from a grower in the Interior.”
“Must be expensive.”
“Aye, but it’s worth it,” said Pitmaster Garug. “Business does well enough.”
“You’re one of the few orc-owned restaurants in the District. Do you feel a level of responsibility?”
“I guess, sometimes, Orcs aren’t known for any food culture. But we’ve always had a wide understanding of what tastes good, but mostly what can feed a lot with very little.” He scratched his jaw. “My clan, The WildHogs, came from southern Germany originally so you have a lot of basic Euro spices; garlic, bay, marjoram, onions. The crossing over gave us sugar, peppers, limes and such. From what I was told, we lived south of the Mizizppi River until the Thirties. So we learned plenty from the humans there. Then we learned a few things up here.”
Garug folded over the wire rack before sliding the beast into the smoker. “Now, it’s smoked with Cherrywood coals for about twelve hours. And yes I usually sleep here, they always ask that.”
“So would you say this is an amalgamation of orc traditions and southern barbeque?”
“I would. My mentor was human. Good Southron man, skin as black as coal, gave an orc a chance in a kitchen.” He moved to the next smoker. Garug opened up the smoker where a golden brown hog split down the middle hissed and crackled.
“Christ that look’s good.”
“Damn straight it does,” said Garug. “Now the sauce…” he reached for a mop and a bucket filled with brown-black sludge.
“What’s in the sauce?”
I raised an eyebrow.
He lifted the bucket, offering it to me. I dipped my pinky and licked off the sauce. Immediately I felt hot burning throughout my mouth. I coughed as the peppery taste went straight up my nose.
The orc laughed, “And?”
“Habanero, Chipotle,” I sniffed. “Maple Syrup.” I coughed a few more times. “Garlic, onion puree, cumin, paprika, black pepper, clove, maybe a little bit of soy.”
“Very good! Now don’t you dare tell them the recipe!”
“You get it all fresh?”
“Try to. Garlic and onions are easy, soy too. It’s hard to get decent spice down here.” He took the bucket and began slathering the inside ribs of the pig. Each dip hissing with flavour and delicious vapour.
“What’s your clientele like?”
“Oh, a bit of everyone. Everyone likes good food. I always got young ones with something to prove asking for the Reaper Chili sauce. Idiots burn themselves a new arsehole.” He slapped the sauce over the pig’s haunches. Pools of fat and seasoning gathered in the ribs.
“And you just serve the whole hog as is?”
“Yup!” The lid rung when he slammed it shut. He moved to the next smoker. “I’ll personally take the beast out for the big table we got on the Patio. Parties only, I ain’t wasting this on adventurers. Families, Clans and big parties get this. Otherwise we just piece it out.”
“You do good work here, sir,” I said, the deep peppery taste still tingling my tongue. “What keeps you doing this?”
The orc closed the lid. “Oh, it’s helluva lot better than Mercenary work, which most of my broodbrothers died doing. I’m still here.”
“It can’t be just safety?”
“It ain’t,” he opened up a smoker where a huge hog was blackened and crisp. The skin had caramelized like candy from the hourly layers of sauce. He gripped the hog by the haunches and set it on a tray by the door. Droplets of fat fell on the cement floor.
As he backed out of the smokehouse with the hog in hand, he grinned at me, “Orc languages generally don’t have a word for hospitality. It’s a weird concept to a war society. I love the looks on their faces when they see me with this.”
He vanished into the dining room. By the door, a smaller orc flipped ribs, steaks and poultry on a charcoal grill. The smell of the room made my mouth water.
I shut off the recorder. I had all I’d need for this week’s piece. I asked if I could have a taste. The orc grinned and sliced me off a chunk.