Humble Gifts by Shirebound

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Humble Gifts   

Weariness fell from [Bilbo] soon in that house, and he had many a merry jest and dance, early and late, with the elves of the valley. Yet even that place could not long delay him now, and he thought always of his own home. After a week, therefore, he said farewell to Elrond, and giving him such small gifts as he would accept, he rode away with Gandalf.  ‘The Last Stage’, The Hobbit    

Elrond sat contentedly across the table from his daughter as they shared a light luncheon together on the wide porch of the Last Homely House.  Arwen had recently returned from a visit to Lórien, and it was good to have her home once more.    

“Ada, I love this,” Arwen said, helping herself to another slice of the round, seeded cake, moist and light, redolent with spice and a hint of brandy.  “There are so many flavors here, I can scarce identify them all. Why do I not remember this from my childhood?”    

“I myself did not taste this until Bilbo returned to this valley after Smaug was no more and Erebor reclaimed,” Elrond said.  “He gifted me with this recipe, and others, before returning to the Shire.”    

“There are more?” Arwen asked, her eyes lighting up.    

“Oh, yes,” Elrond said.  “Bilbo at first declared his recipes a poor gift for our hospitality, but I assured him that was not the case.  However, I gave them little thought until the cooks began enthusiastically serving one Shire dish after another.”    

“Recipes such as this are kingly gifts indeed,” Arwen declared.  “I wish to learn this Shire cookery.  Today.”    

Elrond bowed his head for a moment.  He knew without asking whom his daughter hoped to please.    

“I do seem to remember a certain young man clamouring for more of this cake,” he said softly.  “When Estel returns from his travels, I doubt not that he would be delighted to taste it again.”    

Arwen smiled happily.    

"When Bilbo returned to live here, he was amazed to discover that the cooks had copied and preserved his original recipes in a book,” Elrond told her.  “Every word was also translated into Sindarin, with illustrations added.  Who could foretell that Bilbo would someday add to the book in his own hand!  It is nearly filled now.”  He gazed at his daughter with mock severity.  “I suspect there are enough of them to keep you out of trouble for quite some time.”    

"Ada, when was I ever anytrouble?" Arwen asked sweetly.  She got to her feet, kissed her father, and departed.    

As Elrond slowly sipped his wine, he spied Bilbo himself walking slowly past the herb gardens.  As the old hobbit rarely left the House, Elrond instinctively hurried towards him.  As he approached, Bilbo turned to greet him, the hobbit’s ears as keen as ever.    

“Master Elrond,” Bilbo said, bowing slightly.  He then looked up and grinned, warming the Elf-lord’s heart.    

“Are you well, my friend?” Elrond asked gently.  “Is there anything you need that is not being provided?”    

“Spearmint,” Bilbo said at once.  “I’ve been told that there are lovely beds of it near the waterfall.”    

“Yes, there are.” Elrond knelt, trying to sense any unusual problems in the frail hobbit’s fëa.  “Are you ill?  I keep spearmint tea among my medicinals, but it is not often called for.”    

“But there are no leaves in the kitchen or the gardens.” Bilbo shook his head in dismay.  “The cooks have allowed me a small portion of the prepared cocoa beans that arrived from the South, but were puzzled by my request for spearmint.  How am I to make a chocolate-mint cake filling without any mint?”    

Elrond chuckled quietly.  There were still Elves in Imladris who were astounded at how informally the hobbit spoke with him, but he found it refreshing.    

“I am relieved that you are well, Bilbo, but... chocolate and mint?  Together?  I have never tasted such a combination.”    

“Oh, you have such a treat ahead of you!” Bilbo said enthusiastically.

“Then I will not delay you further,” Elrond said.  “Do you wish some company in your spearmint foraging?  Arwen is quite eager to learn Shire recipes, and I know she would enjoy spending time with you.”    

“That would be splendid,” Bilbo said happily.    

“I believe I know just where to find her.  Bilbo, we might need to begin a second volume of your cookery book if you have any more surprises for us.”    

“Lots,” Bilbo grinned.  “I’m glad to be able to earn my keep, in a small way.”    

Elrond suddenly found himself quite taken with the idea of chocolate-mint cake filling, and he smiled fondly at the hobbit.    

“Far from small, my friend.  Very far indeed.”    

** END **

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