I’ve been wondering all week whether to write about our visit to The Marrow Pot. After all, half my online friends—especially the really older ones—are always posting pictures about the latest wonderful (not) dinner, desert, soup or cake they’ve eaten.
That’s so Boooor . . . . . . ing.
And I want to be original.
But here goes anyway.
Ganhook says The Marrow Pot is his favourite eating house. It’s not a house, it’s a skull. And that skull is attached to a buried Graphine skeleton that was converted into a restaurant by a master chef called Crombel. The Marrow Pot is like an iceberg. You think the skull is big, then you see what’s underground, and you just go . . . WOW!
The ‘Pot’ is located in the Steam House Bay district of the docklands. The concentration of intact skeletons is high there, and the area is renowned for food, drink and insane entertainments. By the time we’d arrived last Saturday night, the queue outside curved at least fifty metres around the side of the skull.
While lanterns marked out the upper half of the skull, the lower half was decorated with images of seafood. The sight of all those scaly, thorny, blubbery, toothy things did little for my appetite. And they were only the fish. The other things, the crawlers, clingers, climbers and countless indescribable horrors, looked ferocious enough to put us on the menu if we ever encountered them.
It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
It was also great to see such a mix of richly dressed and ordinary dressed people in the queue. Actually, some were dripping in so much gold and shiny clothes they just had to be famous. Aisling and I joined the queue. I turned to Ganhook, and said, ‘It’s great to see that everyone has to queue.’
‘We are all equal here,” he replied, leading us out of the line and straight to the entrance. ‘No time to dally. I’m starving.’
‘So much for ‘we’re all equal here’, I mumbled, shocked that he’d so blatantly skipped the queue.
‘What?’ he replied.
Judging by the way he was eyeing me, he’d heard what I’d said. And judging by way Aisling was glaring at me, she wanted me to drop it. I said no more. But I made a mental note to scold him later. He was always preaching ‘fairness’ to us. Now I had something to preach back.
‘Some people are quick to jump to conclusions,’ Ganhook added before ushering us inside.
A waiter led us along the entrance corridor. Lined with serrated teeth, this was the graphine’s snout, and I got that ‘human on the menu’ feeling again. We emerged into the skull cavity which was now the main reception hall.
A long bar stretched one end of the hall, the candlelight reflecting off the wall of glasses, bottles and mirrors behind it dazzling me. Lines of lanterns curled up along the contours of the skull, casting a pale yellow glow over everything. And right at the top, dangled a hive light, the luminous blue tailed insects jittering about like fiery sparks, as if dancing to the whistling background music.
Every table in the place was packed, and the heat and smell of food, beer, woodsmoke, lantern smoke, spices and perfumes set my head spinning. Hoping to see that normal food was on the menu, I peered over a few tables. But this was only a socialising area. Apart from bowls of breadsticks and crackers, beer glasses filled the tables.
A tall man in a grey suit strode through the crowd towards us, arms spread in welcome. Even in this place, he looked odd, but I couldn’t place why. Maybe it was something to do with his long nose.
‘Bet you that’s Crombel,’ Aisling said.
‘But he’s dead.’
‘Look at his face.’
It was only then that I realised his head was as grey as the suit. And, while the suit was real, that head was more mist than flesh.
Crombel had been dead for two centuries. He still ran the place, though, whenever he wasn’t sleeping his famously long sleeps. Wherever he went in his dreams, he always had a head full of new recipes when he awoke.
‘Dear friend,’ Ganhook said. ‘Did you sleep well?’
‘Amazingly,’ the ghost pretending to be alive said. ‘I dreamed of wonderous places and wonderous foods, recipes to delight and shock with. And, I have reserved my most special creation for you.’
I shivered. I’ve eaten things in this world that would make a sewer rat spew. Greenbottle flies on toast, pludgeworm, roasted tobe grubs served impaled on a mintspine branch, and other horrors. And, though we’d never eaten out much, I knew by peeking into eateries and examining menus that the more expensive the meal, the worse the horror on the plate.
Judging by the queue outside, this place was expensive, so I was dreading the food.
Totally ignoring us, Ganhook and Crombel embraced and chatted while Aisling and I stood awkwardly about. We wandered over to examine a seating plan hanging on the wall behind the payment desk.
Every bone in the skeleton had been hollowed out. The spine was a corridor, the ribs were eating halls, and the massive hip bone (Aisling called it an Ilium) had been converted into a bar. The four thigh bones were eating places too, but they’d been segmented into cubicles. One of thigh bones was angled backwards so steeply, guests had to climb down a ladder to get into it.
Everything was connected with a maze of tunnels and stairs, reminding me of a Snakes & Ladders board.
The lower legs and tail were missing from the map, so I assumed these were private and cooking areas.
Crombel led us along the spine corridor and up a stairs into a room containing two tables, four chairs, and a glass dome that gave an amazing view out over the docks. This room hadn’t been on the map. Then I remembered something from the ‘Foundations Bones of The City’ encyclopaedia about graphines having humps, and figured Crombel kept this as his private place.
Moments after we’d sat, a waiter placed trays of bread on each table.
Astonished, I stared at Crombel as he swallowed half a bread roll. And, though I saw the food disappear down his throat, my mind couldn’t accept he’d eaten it. Ghosts couldn’t eat—not real food anyway. Maybe it was a trick, some ghost food to make him fit in. Then again, Ganhook was eating it too, so . . .
As if tying her lace, Aisling stopped and looked under Crombel’s chair. I guessed she was trying to see if the food had passed straight through him and tumbled out onto the floor. I couldn’t resist peeking, too. Crombel had his trousers tucked into his socks, making it impossible for anything to fall out.
‘I’ve ordered for you all,’ Crombel said. ‘A simple but effective dish.’
The words set my pulse racing. I felt like telling him I was already full of bread. That would have been rude. And, secretly, I was glad we hadn’t been given a menu to choose from because I didn’t want to know what was coming before it arrived.
‘A rare treat,” Crombel continued. He patted Ganhook’s shoulder. ‘Especially for my business partner.’
When Ganhook flashed me a knowing smile, I felt my heart sink. Okay, so I’d jumped to a conclusion about his queue skipping, but he should have told us earlier he part owned this place, which gave me something different to scold him with later.
While Ganhook and Crombel fell into a deep conversation, I tried to distract myself by staring out over the harbour. All I saw were fishing ships heading out to sea. And all that did was remind of food—specifically the horrors decorating the skull. By the time the waiters laid serving dishes on front of us, I was ready to plead illness and flee.
My stomach tightened. The waiter lifted the lid, releasing a cloud of steam. I stared at the food. My mouth fell open.
There, sizzling on a bed of coals, was two mincemeat patties topped with onions. Beside them, three pieces of bun bread sizzled away.
‘A Big Mac?’ Aisling gasped.
I was so shocked, I couldn’t reply. It certainly looked like one. Smelled like a burger, too. The deliciously meaty aroma ignited an instant hunger.
‘You’re one of the first in Dunari to taste this,’ Crombel said. ‘I call it the brugear.’
‘Burger,’ Aisling said.
‘Burger.’ Crombel’s brow briefly folded back into his skull. ‘Yes. Burger. That sounds so much better.’
‘Where . . . did you get the idea of a Big Mac?’ I asked.
‘Big Mac?’ Crombel’s brow furrowed again. This time it pulled his mouth up into a smile. ‘Sounds a reasonable name. But who is Big Mac? And how big is he?’
‘Nobody!” Aisling cried. ‘I . . . don’t think any Mac’s could like being called after a food.’ Then, to me, she whispered, ‘He can’t call it that. It’s . . . cultural appropriation.’
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. ‘Cultural abbprop . . . Cultural what?’
‘It’s . . . er . . . something to do with claiming ideas from other cultures. Our culture can’t be introduced here. Can you imagine if every food stall in the city was selling things like Big Macs. I’d go crazy.’
I sighed. Sometimes things get so ridiculous you just want to switch yourself off.
But I ate the burger regardless. And the stringy fries that arrived soon after.
Ganhook’s meal looked like a Quarter pounder, and when we’d finished we were served up a pot of ice cream that resembled a chocolate McFlurry. Crombel didn’t have any ice cream, which was a good decision because, when we’d finished, and he stood up to leave, one of his trouser legs slipped from his sock and all the food he’d eaten rolled out across the floor.
Once we got home, Aisling and I convinced Ganhook that Crombel couldn’t label his new dish a Big Mac. After Ganhook retired, we stayed up late trying to figure out the deal with Crombel.
‘He’s not dreaming,’ Aisling finally surmised. ‘He’s travelling through dimensions without even realising it.’
It was a fair theory. I didn’t full accept it, though, until we Googled ‘spooky sighting in McDonalds’ and read about a recent sighting of a ‘ghost with a nose’ in a Munich McDonalds.
We didn’t bother trying to discover more. This was Dunari. Strange things just happen.
We just figured it was probably something he’d once ate.