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The Kitten Cookbook, one of the legendary Eight Wonders of the Ancient World, was believed buried under several hundred tons of mud during the Great Eurphrates Flood more than 2500 years ago. Thought to contain recipes of such gastronomical wonder that "The Gods and Goddesses themselves would give their single-eye teeth to taste just a spoonful", the long-lost Kitten Cookbook took its place among the "what might have beens" of history.
Then, unexpectedly emerging from the scorpion-infested sand of Iraq in 2008 the culinary encyclopedia once again exploded into the world's consciousness and excited those with adventurous palates.
Carved by a magical Babylonian chef trained in the food-alleys of Memphis, Egypt, the Kitten Cookbook features stunningly complex recipes which, when properly prepared, make gourmet dishes fit for a dog. Once it was lost forever nobody expected the thing to turn up again. Least of all the world's cat lovers, who hid their beloved pussies and hunkered down for the duration.
A cookbook with nine lives
Sometime during the early 3000 B.C.'s the most renowned chef of his era, Abudeh-Chaj-Zandogm, had a dream in which a spirit representing all of the chefs he had killed told him exactly which spices were best for preparing and cooking kittens. Not one to ignore dream advice, upon awakening A. Chaj Zandogm grabbed a handful of kittens, spiced them up to spec, and invited in a test audience. Cries of "Whoo-la-la Mr. Zandogm!" rang out around the room, and spontaneous shouts of "Abudeh, our compliments to the chef" wafted towards the kitchen.
The 'Kitten Chef', trained in Memphis, could never go back to Egypt, a country that worshipped cats and had a death penalty for anyone who killed or manhandled a pussy. But knowing promotion like the back of his hand, ChaZan!, as he now billed himself, was soon traveling the rest of the known world, cooking here and there, hither and yon, for the leaders of dynasties, sun-god sects, and wandering tribes. Wherever he was scheduled to appear, hundreds of kittens ran for the hills as Zando's advance men gave spirited chase, always rounding up enough of the lovable furballs to fill the bellies of aristocrats and commoners alike.Years passed with lightning speed as ChaZ! became the biggest celebrity of his day. He kept on dreaming, and successfully came up with so many seasoning variations and cooking styles that diners would clamor for just one more paw or the newest twist of the tail. At one point The ChaZ! even tried to expand his menu by serving red pandas, mermaids, and unicorns along with the kittens, but somehow the wine and the lighting didn't work well with these delicacies. From then on Cha-Z concentrated solely on his specialty, and the collective animal world let out a sigh of relief.
Then, suddenly, this golden age of pussy munching was extended in a way nobody could have predicted. One day, rising tenderly from his bed, bones and tendons creaking with age, an elderly CZ - thirty-four if he was a day - carved his secret recipes and exact measurements of exotic herbs and spices onto a rock. Calling it the Kitten Cookbook he backstoried recipies such as "Mesopotamian four-paw salad" and "Purring Thebesian Au Gratin" with an autobiography and a rambling manifesto against the concept of hanging gardens. Z hired his multi-talented concubine to illustrate it, posed with the book and the concubine for a wall portrait, and even made self-effacing spite of himself by using the cookbook as a coffee table during press interviews. The world's first cookbook took everyone by complete surprise, especially the felines.
Dozens of copies of the cookbook were soon being rubbed by licensed rock-rubbers, and it was no longer a safe world to be a kitten. Almost overnight they became skittish, aloof, and jumpy creatures, and evolved those unblinking startled eyes. Leaving behind their balls of twine and little mouse-shaped bags filled with catnip, many kittens successfully hightailed it out of harm's way and hid for the five months it took to grow themselves into cats. But for the vast majority of the soft and cuddly baby pussies the gullet-express was the only ride they would ever take.
Before humanity could turn around and jump to the moon, the years spread into centuries, statues to Abudeh-Chaj-Zandogm adorned most major cities, and the original Kitten Cookbook was stored in a place of honor in Babylon. It was only taken out when a few dozen of the rubbings were needed to replace copies which had faded over time, and those occasions were surrounded by days of unequaled ceremony and celebration, events which children would later mark personal time by. The owners of the mass kitten farms aligned with the most creative kitten breeders, and they became the richest and most powerful money-men and landowners of their time. Governments rose and fell to the tune of the kitten market. Then, out of nowhere, the flood. . .
. . .and it was gone. All gone. The cities. The cookbook. The hanging gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes. Nothing left but a vast expanse of water. Despair couldn't fill the land, because water was already there to do it for him.
Slowly, the waters receded, and Noah and his family moved their stuff everywhere, making themselves at home in everybody's home. They dumped animals all over the place, never picking up after them, and gave the giraffes and dinosaurs and all the other guys free reign to scatter upon the land. Shoo! Scoot! Go now!And oh yes, Noah and Mrs. Noah had two cats on board. But you know what happens after a few months at sea, with those crazy moonlit nights and a winepress, so by the time the ark landed kittens were roaming the place at will and making mincemeat out of the mouse population.
Civilization eventually rebuilt itself, everyone agreed to start up "history" at the place where it had left off, and people went on as before. Except that the Kitten Cookbook was buried somewhere, and all but a few know-it-alls knew enough to forgot all about it.
Then, in May of 2008, an unofficial archaelogical dig on the outskirts of Baghdad was excavating deep into the sand, almost to the bedrock. The digger were looking for both ancient artifacts and weapons of mass destruction to sell on the black market. Suddenly the team found a cave-like depression. Fajad Mullajah Burton, the Iraqi woman in charge of the expedition, knocked away the few remaining inches, looked inside, and gasped. Asked by her four-year-old daughter Harie, who was hanging onto her leg and spitting out sand, "Whaddaya see mommy?", Fajad replied "Wonderful things". Her daughter, having sand in her ears, thought her mommy said "Candy", and rushed in ahead of the archeological team. Thus the first person to get a close-up look at the Kitten Cookbook after two-and-a-half millennia was sorely disappointed.
The perfectly preserved tablet was sent to the Baghdad Antiquity Museum for study. A year later it was announced to a waiting and salivating world that yes, the stoned volume found under the mud was the real Kitten Cookbook. The museum released videos of scholars stunned by the amazing microscopic artwork and culinary delights featured on the rock, and filmed them jumping up and down when they finally translated the part about how hot to preheat the oven. Now historians and chefs could look at the book which had before been known only in a few fragmentary quotations by hostile food reviewers.
As joy reigned upon the land the people of Iraq felt a sense of national pride. Sunnis hugged Shiites, Shiites licked Kurds, and Kurds lay down with goats. The world's press swarmed back to Baghdad - which they had tended to ignore of late - and cooks everywhere sharpened their knives while the kittens started to pack up their things.
The Curse of the Kitten Cookbook
Following the celebration, Iraq decided to send the book on tour. Anticipating unprecedented tee-shirt revenue from "those stupid Americans", New York was chosen as the site of the exhibition's first leg. Since all twenty-three members of the archelogical dig had mysteriously died during the previous year, only the young girl who had first viewed the newly-found cookbook survived to lecture during the tour. Harie demanded bowls of candy in her dressing room, her own personal hairdresser and storybook-reader, and every evening during the video presentation she'd pick her nose, play with her dolls, and tell enthralled audiences about how sandy it was. She soon rivaled Miley Cyrus in popularity, notoriety, and symptoms of early-on set skankdom.
The first sign that anything was amiss was when Pete "Peter the Ingrate" Hoffman, a security guard at New York's Metropolitan Museum, Kitten Wing, was working the night shift. Hoffman was completing his rounds when, as he was never able to tell his friends later, he heard strange mewings coming from the room containing the Kitten Cookbook.
When the doors were opened the next morning, Peter Hoffman's body was found with over 120 puncture wounds, its kidneys, liver, and liver-covered finger-tips removed and partially eaten, and its face covered with cat hairs and tiny streaks of saliva. Police were baffled. Then, the next week, another security guard was found dead with the same suspicious wounds, also in the room containing the Kitten Cookbook.
It appeared to be a copycat crime.
"Back to the mud, back to the mud!"
Mobs formed, on both sides. One group, like an old-timey western lynching party, wanted to march into the museum, take the accursed murdering Kitten Cookbook from its exhibition room, and bury it under concrete. "Back to the mud! Back to the mud!" they shouted and carried on. The other mob, otherwise sedate model citizens, wanted rubbings made of the stone so they could get theirs. "Kittens and roses! Kittens and roses!" somehow became the slogan coming from their watering mouths opening and closing a few inches below their wild and glazed eyes.
Thus a stand-off ensued as battering rams clashed with batter, a sheriff stood in the museums doorway urging the crowd to go home as a chef in a paper hat stood at the top of the steps eating a tomato, and utensils clinked and napkins were unfolded on one side as people obligatory mulled about and grumbled on the other.
Then a startling cry rang-out from inside the museum. "It's gone! The Kitten Cookbook is gone!" Everybody ran inside. In the standard issue laser-protected and approachable-only-from-the-ceiling case where the cookbook had stood just minutes before, emptiness. Someone thought they saw a computer chip moving in the air, but it was only a fly.
A government committee was held, commissions set-up and compromised, and all three investigative reporters left in the States were assigned to the case. Even though no stone was left unturned, no stone ever turned up. Not a clue nor a hair out of place. Nada. The final report of the commission entitled The Case of a Rock Gone Missing went missing itself, and before long everybody started to forget about the brief appearance of "some kind of cooking book, you remember that ma?". Even the kittens had all relaxed and taken up with their sunbeams again.
Then came the flood.
Curried Kitten and Clam Stew:
- 2 cups sliced onions
- 1 pound fresh clams
- 1/10 of a pound unfresh clams
- 2 small branches fresh rosemary
- 2 pats unsalted butter
- 1 1/5 cup clam juice
- 1 pound kitten, de-boned, de-clawed, cubed, except for the cute face, which is left floating.
- 2 tablespoons curry powder, no more, no less.
- Steam clams in water until open. Strain. In a sauté pan mix the rosemary and butter until the rosemary releases its aroma, then discard it. Sear kitten cubes in the fragrant butter until nice and brown. Add onion slices and sauté until tender. Add clams, clam juice, kitten face, and curry powder; heat to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for exactly 17 minutes. Serve within 5 minutes to maintain the essential kitten flavors.
- ↑ Scorpions believe sand is infested by sand mites, who themselves believe it is infested by itty-bitty itchy-baccilli bacteria colonies. From there it's turtles all the way down.
- ↑ Or, in its most basic terms, "Winning one for the Little Dipper".
- ↑ Except for Mi-Khiti-Khiti, a grouchy killjoy who spontaneously let out the loud catcall "There's a whisker in my soup!".
- ↑ As well as the ever popular "Luxor Sandkitten Surprise" and "Tandoori Tibbles with Rice".
- ↑ "Where'd the 700 B.C.'s go? I dunno."
- ↑ After his great-equalizer moment, his given name came back into style.
- ↑ The question "Where were you when they rubbed the stone?" was asked of everyone in the known world at one time or another.
- ↑ Lots of people had to take the names of previous tenants in history, but that was OK, as long as they got to move into their palaces and stuff.
- ↑ Then, yeah, turtles all the way down.
- ↑ Matinees on weekends!