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Pirates in Paradise 2010 - Key West, Fl

madPete and Shay cook up a storm
Photo: Mission
Chapter 7 - Of Sunday night including such searing topics as... making dinner, delivering dinner, serving dinner, eating dinner, the curiously fortuitous phenomenon of Commodore Poppycock, the induction of new cannoneers, the opening of the Tavern for the pirates and what took place therein and ghosts, (There must always be some reference to ghosts at this event despite the fact that the author tells us he doesn't believe in them - not even a little) and an absurd flamingo joke taken way too far.

The Model A would not start after the parade on Saturday and Shay had had to leave it at the park the day before. Since this was how we were going to get back to her place in Key Largo, she needed to troubleshoot and fix it on Sunday. She spent most of the afternoon doing this. This would have been all well and good if she hadn't also planned to make a very fancy seven course dinner for a select group of pirates (By 'select', I mean, 'nearly random and ever-changing'. She had asked a few people ahead of time, but mostly the guest list was made up as it event went along.) The upshot of all this was that she didn't really get back to start cooking this until sometime after 5pm. Dinner was scheduled for 7ish.

Shay working with a diamond in the rough
Photo: Mission
One thing you should not conclude from this was that Shay was disorganized. She had started talking about this dinner months ago. She did extensive research to make sure that the menu was correct to period. When we first arrived in Key West, I took her to Faustos Food Palace in downtown Key West where she ran the store manager all over the place finding the correct items she could not bring down with her. She even asked him to order Muscatine grapes for her - which he did! She had pre-prepared as much of the food as possible, but it all came down to that time right before the dinner when we had to do the final cooking and assembly chores. madPete and I both volunteered to help, but we were probably more in the way than helpful. However, she thanked us very graciously and said she couldn't have done it without us.

Finally, everything was completed. Compared to what followed, that was the easy part. We now had to load seven courses of food, much of which was hot, into the Model A. Now the Model A is a lot of things, but large isn't one of them. She patiently packed her trunk into the rumble seat and had madPete and I sit up front. She then arranged everything that would be safe behind us on canvas of the convertible top and proceeded to load the rest of the food onto our laps. "Make sure this doesn't spill" she admonished in a stern but friendly tone. Then she started the car and off we went. You don't fully begin to appreciate just how jouncy the ride in an antique auto is, or how clunky old fashioned shifters are until you've got a lapful of hot food to protect.

The Model A driven into the camp
Photo: Mission
Now your surgeon, being a precise sort of person, is also sort of particular. I like things just and so. As we tooled up to the Fort park gate, weighed under with hot food, I realized that none of us were going to be able to get to our pogs. They had been particularly particular about checking each and every person's pog when you entered the fort after hours. My pog was sitting in my pocket, which was weighed under an aluminum pan of hot escargot. The guard asked for our pogs. Shay admitted that we couldn't get to them. He looked at all the food we were holding. "We're here with the food. We need to drive into the fort." Shay explained. (I should note that driving directly into the fort was strictly verboten.) Not only did he not ask for our pogs, he moved the gate so that we could drive straight into the fort grounds! Shay later admitted that this had always been her plan, but she knew how 'nitsey' (a Shayism) I was and elected to weigh me under with food and not to explain the plan to me. This was actually a very good idea.

A table set Photo: Mission
A Full Table of Delightfully Degraded Dirty Dozen Photo: Mission
Table with Lanterns Photo: Beowulf

Shay and Israel with 'Pheasant'
Photo: Mission
De Bois 'Pheasant' under spyglass
When we arrived, some of the members of what Shay had decided to call the 'Delightfully Degraded Dirty Dozen' had reserved the table next to the Viceroy's table. This requires some back-story. Last year, the the Viceroy had set up a high-toned fancy and to-do table with a white linen table cloth, candelabras, Champaign and other 'hob-snobby' (another Shayism) comestibles. Shay had even entertained at the table. Finding it all to be a bit stuffy, Shay decided this past summer that it would be fun to do a 'parody' dinner of similarly fancy finery and foodstuffs.

As I mentioned, Shay researched the menu very carefully and took great pains to make the result period-correct. In period literature, mention is occasionally made of how the pirates feasted when they were on shore loaded down with plunder, so fine food and drink might not be too far off the mark as far as period-correctness goes. (Thus it is much better to play a pirate than, say, a British soldier or settler in the new world if you occasionally like to eat well and still stay in character.) I could rattle off what we were eating for you, but Shay supplied me with the menu in toto and her description far exceeds anything I could come up with. From her email, our fare included: Shay and Israel with grapes
Photo: Mission
Musket Deens Grapes

  • Escargot Bourguignon w/ Baguette
  • Smoked Salmon with curdled milk, shallots, white pepper, capers and caviar
  • Sweet Barbary Almonds Veronique (French for 'with grapes'); the grapes were Authentic Musket Deens
  • Pickled Pig's Feet
  • Black Olives (to appease those who were SO disappointed in missing the pig's feet)
  • China Oranges Entremets ('sweet' in French)
  • Smoked Oysters and Mussels
  • Lychee Fruit from the Far East
  • Shallots, green beans, and carrots in thyme (just in time, actually) Oooh, bad, sorry, Mission. [Actually, it's no worse than the rest of this account.]
  • De Bois Pheasant Under Spyglass (de bois is 'wild', and yes that was one wild, partying turkey masquerading as a pheasant
  • Pears of Rousselet de Champagne
  • Cheshire Cheese with wine

She also added: "Interesting aside: I decided to kick off the dinner with snails which go back to Roman times: 'The Romans, who were addicted to snails, grew them on ranches where they were fed special foods like bay, wine and spicy soups as pre-seasoning.'"

madPete and smoked salmon Photo: Mission
madPete and his smoked salmon
Shay offers Lily almonds Photo: Mission
Shay offering Lily almonds
Patrick Hand & a Breadstick
Photo: Mission
Patrick Hand with a breadstick

QM William straightening his cravat
Photo: Mission
William adjusting his ascot
Shay with Patrick & Breadstick
Photo: Mission
Shay, Patrick & Breadstick
When Shay first starting talking about this, I asked her what we - the benefactors of her spoofing largesse - were to do. "Just have fun, eat good food and behave like pirates." How could anyone argue with that? If you're into pirate re-enacting there is at least a little bit of ham in you (and we're not talking pork), so it wasn't too hard to get people to overact. The result was what you have seen in the previous photos as well as in the ones I have here.

It was also interesting to see who was willing to try haute cuisine and who was not so adventurous. I should be grateful to my mother for making me try at least some of everything that was on my plate during my childhood, because almost everything there was amazingly good, even if the thought of clams, pig's feet and snails doesn't exactly conjure images of loveliness. (Although have you ever really looked at a cow?) Whatever else, it was magnificent fun and I did my best to behave like an uncouth pirate to create the proper parody mood. I think we all huzzah'd Shay for her tremendous work and effort, but if we didn't, I do so now.

Shay and her spyglass Photo: Mission
Patrick lighting Mission's breadstick Photo: Mission
Silkie drinking it straight
Photo: Mission

Of course, we were all pirate pikers compared to the star of Shay's 'Delightfully Degraded Dirty Dozen'. Funny thing is, no one even knew he was coming dressed as he was! Who am I talking about? Why Beowulf! While we were unpacking the Model A, he appeared in a wig and the fanciest of fancy finery that included (I kid you not) white patent leather shoes! He said something in a very hoity-toity voice like, "I am Commodore Pompey." (I am not totally sure that was the name, but if not, it's pretty close.) As you already know, your surgeon's mind works in mysterious, associative ways and I replied, "No, you're Commodore Poppycock!" Everyone seemed to like that, so it stuck. Beowulf pulled the role of a dandy off with such wonderful irony that it was the perfect icing for Shay's delicious meal.

Commodore Poppycock Photo: Mission
The Commodore & Silkie eating 'pheasant' Photo: Mission
Commodore Poppycock & Shay
Photo: Mission

Alas, poor Urkel
Photo: Mission
There is one last dinner story for me to tell and then we'll move on. You may recall a few chapters back that madPete had been cutting a piece of PVC with my 250 year-old bone saw. The pipe was intended to be used with a skull which we had purchased from Christine and Michael Lampe's store. madPete had also purchased paints and brushes to repair some superficial damage to the boyo. Yep. Urkel
Photo: Someone
Shay wanted to mount him on the PVC pipe on the Model A. With one thing and another, the poor skull was forgotten at the condo and never made it to the parade. We were all dutifully sad about this. Well, OK, we weren't. When she was packing the trunk for the dinner, Shay decided not to let the skull go to waste and she threw him in. "We can use him for a table decoration," she said. So we did. Now anyone who knows me at all realizes that I have a bizarre fascination with skulls. I'm not even sure why this is myself. So I adopted the skull and played with the thing for much of the evening, including doing the inevitable Shakespeare thing with him. When we got back to her place, Shay said she had neither room nor use for him, so I adopted him. Alas, poor Urkel...

Gareth inducting new cannoneers
Photo: Mission
Gareth inducting new cannoneers
Photo: Mission
Following dinner they decided to induct the new cannoneers. This is the tried-and-true tradition of wiping peoples faces with the stinky cannon-swabing sponge so that everyone who has had to go through this induction process in the past can feel smug about the fact that they don't have to go through it ever again. (If we could all just get over our wounded pride at being talked into doing idiotic stuff, things like this, fraternity hazing and reality TV could all be eliminated from our culture.) Among the new cannoneers were the Mercury's own madPete and Beowulf. Gareth, who was doing the face-swabbing honors, walked down the line, asking each new inductee their name and then sloshing that gawdawful sponge across their cheeks. I was somewhat proud to hear Beowulf declare his name to be 'Commodore Poppycock." (The things that happen as a result of your surgeon's writings and utterings defy comprehension. And sanity.)

Bawdy Be singing
Photo: Mission
After all the post-dinner formalities were completed, much of the crew repaired to the Tavern. The Tavern is a space set up back in a corner of the fort. Dedicated (but not yet committed) readers may recall that it was in the 2007 PiP Tavern where I really 'got' the magic of pirate re-enactments. It used to be open every night then, but since last year, they have only opened the Tavern on Sunday night. When Shay and I entered, Bawdy Be was leading some of the local pirates in sea shanties. Tonight was what they had been practicing for when I walked in on the group a few nights back and recognized Spike. Several people around us started singing along, including Shay, but your surgeon studiously avoids learning shanties for some reason.

After a few songs, Lily Alexander got up and gave a lovely speech about what a wonderful job Fayma/Momma Ratsey did this year getting the event running, despite many new challenges. She then presented Fayma with the shirt we had all signed a few chapters ago. Momma Ratsey was very grateful and thanked us, all her little Ratsey children, for coming out and making the event happen. Silkie McDonough then got up and presented Lily Alexander with a deck of period era cards, each of which was signed by we pirates at PiP. It was a small gesture to thank Lily for all her hard work behind the scenes, organizing the troops and getting really, really sun burnt issuing pogs on Friday morning. It was lovely, truly.

Lily presents Fayma's signed shirt Photo: Mission
Mama Ratsey thanks her children
Photo: Beowulf
silkie presents cards to Lily Photo: Poppa Ratsey

Harry telling a fort ghost story
Photo: Mission
Mission conducts ghostly presences
Photo: Beowulf
After the presentations were finished, Harry Smid got up to tell us a ghost story. He started by explaining that there were commonly said to be seven ghosts in the fort, but he had a particular favorite. And, unfortunately for you, dear reader, that's all I remember. Harry's story was so compelling that I think I just absorbed it in through my pores, putting me into a trance or something. Afterward, I was so wired, that I, like Jonah Hex, appear to have gone outside of the Tavern and started communicating with the dead somehow, conducting them with my spiritual force as seen at right. At least I hope that's what I was doing. I can't explain why I was standing there, posed like that in any other way. I blame this on the Kilo Kai, which was the officious 2010 PiP rum. It was what everyone seemed to be having and what I recall drinking quite a bit of on Sunday night. Incidentally, if you didn't get the Jonah Hex reference, it's probably because you haven't seen the movie. I am not recommending it, nor will I accept any responsibility for the hours you will waste if you do decide to watch it.

Mission's flamingo pants
Photo: Beowulf
Now some of you may have noticed my dinner suit for the evening. At the start of the evening, I was wearing the Dread Surgeon Mission kerchief. (I had not thought to bring the Dread Surgeon Mission mask this trip, but it had somehow managed to squirrel itself amongst my gear, so I figured it must be kismet Mission's flamingo pants
Photo: Beowulf
and wore the stupid thing for dinner.) Unfortunately, the Dread Surgeon Mission head kerchief has a tendency to become itchy after extended wearing, so it was missing by the time the post-tavern photos were taken. The other bit of 'style' I had incorporated into my garb was a pair of pink flamingo breeches, as magnificently created by Lady Brower. The reason behind this is all explained in the PiP 2009 journal which I'm not going to repeat here. Instead, I'll just link you to it so you can read at your leisure if you should so choose. I would like to note that these are actually made from a period pattern and that Lady Brower generously included a pink flamingo embroidered pocket and slits in the breeches to reach it. So I have a pocket, but you can't see it because then you could also see my underwear and you know how self-conscious I feel about that. Suffice it to say, it is stunning and period correct. So there.

A rogues gallery?
Photo: Beowulf
With the ghosts all conjured and the table cleaned and all Shay's fancy items stowed in the Model A (that happened off-screen), it seemed like it was time to go. You know how it is when you're tired and ready to leave, but you're still having a good time chatting with all your friends and not sure you really want to leave? It was like that. We posed for several photos, most of which I won't include here, although I like the one here at right which contains Israel Cross and madPete looking serious and me with the slap-happy drunk grin of mine. Israel then made an impassioned plea for Shay to take him for a ride in the Model A claiming it was something he had always wanted to do. (Seriously, I remember him saying that.) Shay is always happy to help a friend, so Israel was able to cross one item off of his bucket list. He got out at the gate and walked back and we went home. Whew! Quite a night.

Israel begs for a ride in the Model A
Photo: Mission
Israel in the Model A
Photo: Mission

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