by Nin Harris
The milk of Lusini alpine goats yield a butter that is so soft and so smooth that one could eat it as though it were pudding. Salted only slightly, the most generic kind has a faint taste of burnt caramel that lingers on the tongue. Butter is never left untended in the Lusini Alps. The sticks and rounds of creamy white with a silver shimmer are kept under lock and key. They are watched with even more vigilance when the Eldest Moon is in the sky. Some are gently coloured with the yellow of mountain flowers, but even the yellowed pats of butter have streaks of silver within.
Lusini butter should only be churned on a night that is ruled by the Eldest Moon, for everyone knows that Lusini alpine goats came from that moon. If you churn butter on any other night, do not be surprised if the only thing you will get come daybreak is curdled cream.
* * *
Only the strongest, most stalwart of the Lusini are allowed to be butter-makers. They are the ones who will not be undone by the desire to partake of their own handiwork. They will be fortified by days of meditation, fasting and twenty-hundred mantras chanted on the peak of Mount Laila. Their hands are laced with intricate and devotional henna tattoos, their foreheads anointed with ceremonial ash for seven days before they are allowed into the butter halls.
All butter halls are places of worship on Lusini.
* * *
If you spread butter when the sun is in the sky, the luminous slivers upon your freshly baked bread will sparkle. The first contact with your tongue is ticklish, with a fizz to it like sparkling alpine flower wine before the smooth, creamy texture soothes the palate. It will feel as if a sigh is building inside your mouth. It is an alien exhalation that is not your own. The act of consumption will invite upon your consciousness artificial memories of supernovas, and curtains of iridescence that shimmer in the northern night sky.
It is an intrusion that many have paid huge amounts of money to experience.
Afterimages of exploding stars and planets in orbit will inhabit your mind and the insides of your eyelids for days.
* * *
If you spread Lusini butter on a moonlit night, do not be surprised if the sliver of that light creamy substance on the edge of your knife takes on the shape of a tiny being, or if, inside you, that wistful sigh becomes a stronger groan.
You will be consumed by a butter-daughter.
* * *
In a world with seven sentient moons, there is no such thing as a moonless night.
* * *
Do not eat anything with Lusini butter at night. Do not even look at anything that has been touched by it. Do not go near it. Keep it in the iron butter boxes. Lock the butter boxes with the provided padlocks.
Do not even think of cooking with Lusini butter when the sun has retired for the night, even if you swear you can do so without succumbing to the temptation to take a bite. There is a history book somewhere with lists of famous chefs who have disappeared because they could not resist a taste of what they were preparing.
They were undone by intense culinary curiosity.
* * *
Songs have been written about the Butter Queen, daughter of the Eldest Moon who bestowed her goodwill and grace upon the people of Lusini. It was she who sent armies of silvery white goats to the colonies on the Lusini alps, and taught them how to make butter from the shimmering cream of the goats.
Other ballads are darker.
They say it was not her grace that she bestowed upon the colonies.
* * *
In the daytime, the butter-daughters cannot be drawn out of its silky confines. That bit of grace within the butter cannot pull them down from the embrace of the moon. However, if you invoke them at night, they will merrily consume you from the insides of your body. They will frolic in the sunlight with the innocence of the newly-birthed.
* * *
There was a young Lusini goatherd who was so inflamed with a longing for a round pat of newly churned butter that he conspired to break into the butter halls to take a slice, to taste it whole upon his greedy tongue. It was the night of the Courtesan’s Moon, so he thought he would be safe underneath its rosy glow.
We do not know what ecstasies he experienced upon possession. Most do not wish to experience the same terrors.
They found his emptied and dried out carcass in the morning sun, surrounded by indifferent goats chewing on the sweet alpine flowers that framed his remains, his rib-cage spread-eagled like a grotesque flower, his shrivelled entrails in a tangle beside his body. A few yards away, the butter-daughter sat on a sun-toasted rock, plaiting her ebony hair as she stretched, her silvered limbs reflecting back the rays of the sun.
The butter produced by those indifferent goats was of the finest quality ever to be enjoyed on our continent. There were bidding wars amongst the butter-merchants to procure every last slab of it. The flavour of it was richer, sweeter and far more elusive to the tastebuds than any of the previous batches of butter. There was a faint aftertaste of violets, interspersed with a sensuous, smoky fragrance.
* * *
It was almost like consuming silky violet-flavoured caramel that had been smoked in incense.
* * *
I bid a third of my life’s savings for twenty slabs of that butter. They will remain under lock and key until the night when I feel that my life’s worth is not as great as this ever-present culinary curiosity, gnawing at my insides, filling my waking thoughts. I have made guest-lists in preparation. Among my hypothetical guests are my culinary rivals, my lovers, my benefactors, and my ex-wives. I have reserved a place of honor for our august Mayor and three of our most illustrious politicians. I have bought fifty-five bronze goblets for the finest Verconian wines to accompany my serving platters. I have ordered the finest crystalline platters for the desserts that will be made with my pudgy fingers.
Oh, to be consumed by the most enigmatic butter-daughter of them all! I can see her in my dreams, her limpid eyes beckoning at me, urging me to partake of the banquet of imploding galaxies and debauched stars. Some nights I can imagine her bending over me when I sleep at night, whispering to me of delights that may be mine if I would only succumb. If I just opened my eyes, perhaps I could run my fingers through her dark hair, pulling her face down towards me. Perhaps we will kiss and in that kiss I will finally know the ecstasy experienced by the goatherd before his ribs were opened as though in tribute to the sun. Soon, she whispers. Soon. You know what you need to do, my love.
It will be a banquet not forgotten by history.