2014-05-22 - The Stomach That Growls At The End Of The World

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Title: The Stomach That Growls At The End Of The World

A one-day food cart with an oversupply of ingredients. A starving Tuner. The rest is schemes.


Ruma Hino, Fred Burgermeister


Tama Outer City

OOC - IC Date:

17 January, 2014 - 5/22/14

<Pose Tracker> Ruma Hino [None] has posed.


"Five hundred yen!?" Ruma's face was lined by startlement, and a little bit of discussed, "What about all the Noise I destroyed by the playground!"

The woman she was yelling at put a finger to her lips, looking around at the coffee shop patrons to make certain noone was looking his way, before he replied in an exceptionally calm voice, "Half-assed Noise isn't worth much Ruma-chan. And you know we have to take our cut to make certain the authorities 'overlook' you."

Ruma continued to glower, but then her posture slumped, "I forgot it was Friday." The woman nodded at her, "Look cheer up, everyone has dry spells."


Many people while starving would lack the energy to do anything, but some people theorized that Ruma ran on sheer willpower. Even as she clutched her stomach which was making rumbling noises so loud that people nearby mistook it for the beginning of seismic activity.

She ambled through the park in her winter clothing, sighing, as she counted the yen for the fifth time. Even with her discount at the bath house, she couldn't stretch this out to buy herself a decent a meal, and she did not skip baths. Part of how she cultivated the image that she wasn't a homeless adolescent was making certain she looked, and especially 'smelled' normal. If she did that, then people would ignore her. And that was worth skipping a meal or two, even as her stomach roiled and rebelled against her negligence.

<Pose Tracker> Fred Burgermeister [None] has posed.

Down one street walks a man with a burden. Tall, broad, American, and wearing an almost cartoonish apron and chef's cap, it is Fred Burgermeister. Before him is a small cart - something that can be pushed by hand - with a few compartments. Steam billows up from the largest, as the cooking oil is hot - but nothing, at present, seems to be cooking there. The others contain an assortment of things - those closest to Fred holding sticks and batter, those further from him holding condiments.

But the normally-jovial American seems disgruntled. Not for the sake of his sales - such was never the intent - but, in honesty, for how much of his supplies remain. It seems today's endeavor may be a failure, the information he had hoped to obtain out of his grasp...

Hark. Can you hear it? Listen - if you have some food remaining, then you can hear it. The sound of a stomach growling at the end of the world...

The cart's weight hampers Fred's speed, but it's easy enough for him to make his way to the park, to find the source of that rumbling. Upon arrival, the girl there takes a few moments for him to recognize. Customers are, as a whole, sheep ambling toward the trough - a thousand blank faces, to be fed and forgotten. Rare indeed is the customer the Dark Fry Kind will deign to recognize...but this one's appetite was unforgettable.

...she is hungry, he has supplies that are wasted otherwise, and there is still hope of obtaining an answer to today's question. A streetlamp switches on for the evening behind him, making him a silhouette with a cart against a bright light as he calls out in greeting. As is his habit, his greeting is peppered with English. "[Good evening, miss.] Would you like something to eat?"

<Pose Tracker> Ruma Hino [None] has posed.

How art thou fallen from the celestial kitchen, O Beelzebub?

Fred may be a gourmand vending glutinous gluttony to the masses, but today it was not the masses that responded. It was a single gorger. You wouldn't think it by looking at Ruma, she was rail thin, and weighed around thirty five kilos soaking wet.

It was her nose who noticed that something was amiss first, as the sweet scent of bubbling fry oil reached her nostrils. As her gaze shifted to behold the cart, silhouetted in a pale heavenly light. So stunned was she, that one might view a Pavlovian conditioned response, before she wiped away her mouth. She tried to compose herself and yet she was before the cart with such rapidity that Fred might believe she 'apparated' right in front of it before he'd finished greeting her. "I would."

Half of her yen was already on the counter, the other would need to be used for her trip to the bathhouse in the morning. As she got a better look at him, and confirmed he was the same man, Ruma held a carefully controlled smile on her expression despite the stars in her eyes, "So is this your newest venture? I thought I wouldn't see you again after your takoyaki stand shut down."

<Pose Tracker> Fred Burgermeister [None] has posed.

The kitchens of heaven art cut down to meager fare, and so shall weaken all the nations.

As a matter of course, Fred evaluates the customer before him. An appetite to rival those gluttons of America who would make the very earth shake - contained in such a small package. Mysterious indeed are the ways of cuisine. The oil bubbling away is a cheap one, and hours have passed since something was cooked within - and yet, that greasy crisp smell of frying batter remains, wafting on the wind.

Two hundred fifty yen. Enough to buy two, perhaps three items at the prices Fred might charge...but such would be insufficient for his purposes. He lays a hand on the coins...and slides them back to Ruma with a mustache-framed smile. "Ah, I could not accept money. The day's business is done - these supplies must be eaten or discarded, and I would rather see them eaten. Keep it, and dine to your heart's content."

Fred sets to work. Four sticks drawn from their compartment, and stabbed into four sausages. Not particularly high-quality ones, and connoisseurs would degrade them to 'hot dog' in a heartbeat, save for the girth. Two are plunged into each of two containers of batter, spun, and pulled out with a thick coating - and then, immersed in the bubbling oil. Let the Service begin.

As the coated sausages cook, Fred unlatches one panel of the cart, pulling out a pair of stools. One for himself, and one for his lone patron. "My ways are fickle, [madam], and I have other duties. Today was a diversion, and research as one. This service is two recipes - the 'American Dog' known to Japan's shores, and the 'Corn Dog' known in America." Anticipating a request, he starts preparing another quartet - again, two of each batter. "The concept is the same - only the batter differs between them, and I seek to learn which one this city prefers."

<Pose Tracker> Ruma Hino [None] has posed.

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister America: she and her daughters had excess of food, and did not aid the poor and needy.

Well unless it benefitted them. It was only a mystery if one knew nothing about Ruma Hino. The word 'homeless' tended to clear many things up to people. Which is why she didn't use it. She certainly didn't want 'pity', she wanted to be seen as 'strong' for her choices. And yet pity was what she thought most people felt. Except for one person that is..

As her money is shifted back at her, however, Ruma is genuinely startled. While she wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she also was no fool. Having her money repeatedly refused, made her wonder if his motivations went beyond simple word of mouth advertising. "You know I met someone in Hokkaido who said that you let a lot of your supplies go to waste.." It was an idle comment, she tried to make it sound as innocent as possible. "...how do you ever turn a profit like that?"

Ruma was not a food connoisseur, and she repeatedly told everyone that she preferred cheap junk food. Kanata and Moeru once experimented by using higher quality ingredients to see if she noticed the difference. She didn't. It all tasted the same to her. Thus she looks with yearning at the corndogs already as they're prepared. "Ah, so you're doing market research then. That makes more sense. What's the difference between each kind of batter recipe wise?" While she may not be educated, and acted impulsively, she was nevertheless pretty sharp.

<Pose Tracker> Fred Burgermeister [None] has posed.

The ever-devouring girl before him is a small mystery, but in the end the reason does not matter. To sate, to saturate the appetites of the world to the point that cuisine becomes meaningless... The skills Fred Burgermeister has attained are a portion of the answer, but there is ever more to be obtained. And before him is a useful subject - one willing to devour any attempt.

The appraising gaze falls upon him, and he takes a moment to pull at one end of his mustache. "Hokkaido? Now, which kitchen could you mean - I assisted in a few, there. Still, such is the curse of the short-order restaurant, of fast food. We who toil in the kitchen can never know for certain how many customers might come in the next minute, but there must be food for them when they come. There is waste, yes, when we guess wrong, and prepare too much..."

Fred's sense of time is better than any device he could use, and the smell of frying batter has shifted just so. The basket is withdrawn from the fryer, revealing a quartet of cylinders on sticks - each a perfect golden-brown. They must cool for a moment, and he continues to explain while rummaging for a paper plate. "Sadly, ingredients and meals cannot be held forever - these sausages and batters would spoil if left to morning. The profit is, ideally, made on those items sold during the day - this waste is simply the cost of business. With that said - there are restaurants, particularly those selling fast food, that might offer you a discount if you approach near closing time and are not choosy." He winks.

The food-on-sticks has cooled in the air just enough - Fred lays them on the plate, then puts a new quartet into the fryer. The breaded sausages are hot, and steam in the cool January air as they are served to Ruma. "The two on your left are the 'American Dogs' known in Japan - the batter is made from wheat flour, and is somewhat thinner as a result. The two on the right are proper 'corn dogs' - cornmeal used in the batter, grainier but thicker." He gestures to the condiments. "Ketchup or mustard are traditional."

<Pose Tracker> Ruma Hino [None] has posed.

It made perfect sense. The stand he'd brought into the crab buffet was quite mobile, and it isn't like he owned the business, right? He was a chef. Ruma nods at his logic, it was pretty sensible, it just meant someone with no head for business misjudged the winter crowd. "We were discussing the crab buffet at the ski lodge in particular, but it sounds like you go all over the place. You probably don't even remember it, Fred-san." Ruma hated wasted food, but she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially because he was feeding her, for free.

He can likely feel her eyes on the finished products as he withdraws them, and offers them to her. She hears the tip on approaching restaurants near closing, and considers this, "Really? You think so? Would small businesses be more likely to offer discounts than large chains you think?" This is potentially very valuable information to her.

As she looks upon the offered 'hotdogs', and listens to his explanation, Ruma does something unprecedented. She takes her time. Since he was offering the food for free, the least she could do is help him with his research. For the American dog, she takes a bite off of the end and chews slowly. This is rather difficult for her, given how hungry she is, but she does manage it, eventually swallowing it. She then balances it a little precariously as she picks up a corn dog, and squeezes a package of mustard over the end, then ketchup, and picks it up, doing the same. They both taste extraordinarily good to her, so she's trying her best to make an actual judgement for him. After trying a bite of both and swallowing, she states, "Well. The corndog is likely a little more filling for most customers, but not for me. I could eat these all day. The American dog is a bit lighter, and you could probably market it more towards.."

Ruma rolls her eyes, "...health conscious people even though it's fried and it's questionable whether the wheat flour is actually healthier than the corn meal. Most people just see that it's a 'healthier' option and don't look beyond that. Me? I don't care either way. Either way you'd attract people from all but the pickiest of the crowd. And once you've got them hooked on one? They won't care about counting calories anymore."

<Pose Tracker> Fred Burgermeister [None] has posed.

Interesting. Few enough were present behind the scenes of the crab cake endeavor - and fewer still actually paying attention to how things were being run. The Blue Ribbon, perhaps? "Ah, shortly after my arrival in Japan. Rumors came to me upon the wind of a buffet whose staff was sorely underprepared for the number of patrons they had received - I loaned some assistance, but things went perhaps a touch out of control." Or perhaps not. His goal there was accomplished, after all.

Fred strokes his chin. "The key is to consider the type of restaurant - one that aims to have product prepared for instant consumption is more likely to have leftovers that require disposal. Any place with fries, for instance. A small business might be more willing to offer a specific discount, though there exist chains that will give last-hour specials as a matter of policy." This last statement is not entirely true, but it can become true before the next dawn.

Fred watches Ruma dine, one eyebrow raised at the care she's taking. Helpful indeed. Whatever else can be said of the quality, the food is hot. The outer shell crispy with just enough oily taste, the inner meat just juicy enough to hint at being savory. A high-quality sausage would be far better, but given the circumstances - it works.

"Interesting. I have had little luck getting a comparison from any of today's customers - no one had the appetite to consume more than one, and most tended to simply randomly guess which to pick. Offering it as the 'healthy' choice, however..." Fred grins. "A simple statement to make. Sausages with a bit less fat, a touch shorter, a thinner batter - a clever idea, miss. Offer the customers a choice."

That is, really, the essence of his plan - offer people a 'choice' between near-identical fast food, and let other recipes be forgotten. The end of cuisine, buried in a marketing war between burger chains. Fred smiles broadly to Ruma, and prepares a plate with the next four sausages. "I like the way you think. The other factor here is cost - corn and wheat both tend to be imported, and the price will vary accordingly. However, it is marginal in either case - simple enough to keep a supply of both."

Fred checks the supply of ingredients before continuing. There is little point in defrosting another case of sausages, and so what remains will be all there is to offer. "Meat cannot be refrozen once thawed, and so I must cook or discard what remains - a little over a dozen sausages, at a glance." This in addition to Ruma's first plate, and the next four that just came out. "How many might you be able to take off my hands, miss - and which batter would you prefer?"

<Pose Tracker> Ruma Hino [None] has posed.

There's a certain sort of sense there, enough that Ruma buys his statements on the staff being underprepared completely. She nods at that, and then hangs onto his advice on last hour specials. Why didn't people tell her about this before!? Well, people didn't tend to talk to her, she tended towards being quite antisocial unless there was food right in front of her. She wanted to do everything herself. And she just didn't know how to act around kids her own age, she had to mature 'fast' to survive on the streets, even though in some ways she was still quite immature. "I'll start taking a look around closing time at some of the local fast food joints. Maybe I'll find something." Even if caused her to eat almost exclusively fried food, Ruma didn't really have to worry too much, she was absurdly active in her lifestyle.

After the initial opinions were given, Ruma started eating with her regular rapidity, and one of the corndogs is gone before he's even finished with his monologue about the 'average' customer being unable to stomach more than one. "Well I'm not a typical customer." She's already working on one of the half-eaten American dogs as she continues, speaking between bites, without even worrying about swallowing, "A lot of people? Most of them don't know real hunger. Someone who's ever been really and truly hungry, and I don't mean 'skip a single meal' hungry, but hasn't eaten for days doesn't care about nutritional information, or overeating anymore. Food is a release from hunger, that's all they see. And it doesn't matter what it is. The average customer thinks that they have the freedom of choice.." She rolls her eyes, "..someone who knows real hunger, that gnaws at your guts is smarter than that. If someone is hungry enough they'll cast aside that choice in a heartbeat." Her tone is exceptionally bitter as she discusses that.

"Charge more for the American dog." Ruma grins, "Think about it, people who want healthier options are willing to pay more. It's expected. And call the corndogs 'artisan'." She points towards the frier, "..it isn't really, but you're making it in front of them, so it'll fool them. Then you can attach a higher price tag to them too. Since it's not from Japan, people won't know better."

At this point, all of the initial dogs are gone, "Let's say... ten corndogs, two 'American' dogs should satisfy for now, and use up most of your product." She then peers at him, "When you're not doing market research, what do you do anyhow? What's your actual job?"

<Pose Tracker> Fred Burgermeister [None] has posed.

Lies are most effective when blended with the truth, are they not? Fred strokes his mustache a moment, considering - and offers a bit more advice. "It would help to ask a manager directly. Many of those employed there are simply cogs in the machine, following their instructions - they would waver in a decision over whether to allow it. If, instead, you make some arrangement with one or two specific restaurants." There's a glint in his eye. "Observe, if you can, which ones have the largest dumpsters in back. If they have wastage problems, that will be a clear sign."

Ruma's appetite is, truly, unstoppable. Should Fred Burgermeister ever need a day's entertainment, he might attempt to conquer it. But there is a reason it exists, and the chef nods gravely. "That is the truth that offends me. That so many take their satiation for granted, to the point of obsession over which one of a thousand meals to request - and selecting what they would have chosen had there been but three. Time and time again, taking that 'freedom of choice' for granted." There's a fire in Fred's eyes, even as he puts sticks in the remaining sausages. "Catering to such whims leaves such waste - leaves many hungry. So perhaps it is best trick them - give those masses choices between the same meal. Then, so much food would go unwasted - plenty remaining to feed all who come. There are days I dream of such a world."

Ruma's suggestions break Fred's simmering fury, and he roars with laughter. "I love it! Then, three options - the 'healthy' premium one, the 'artisan' dog, and the standard - which exists for those who cannot afford more, and is the same thing save for being prepared behind the scenes!" He grins as he starts fulfilling the order - there's just enough of the cornmeal batter for the ten, leaving just an excess of the wheat-based.

As half of the final set begins cooking, he puts his hands on his hips. "Aha. That, young miss, is a complicated question. There are businesses I manage, restaurants I oversee. Endeavors such as these - " He gestures to his cart. "-are one part market research, and two parts relaxation. Taking a personal hand in things, rather than sitting in some office full of paperwork."

Left unsaid is the time spent in recipe research - a great multi-story kitchen marking the centre of his schemes. "I have come to Japan to learn what foods are popular here - for the sake of menus back home, or for new ventures here. But when I can, I do enjoy this personal touch." Half a dozen corn dogs come out of the frier, to make room for the remainder of Ruma's order. "Sadly, I have other errands as well - meetings, or doing favors for associates of mine. Would that I could simply do this all the time..."

<Pose Tracker> Ruma Hino [None] has posed.

...*_* Good luck, Fred Burgermeister, should that day ever come that you try to conquer her appetite. Such an epic duel would be something that could never be shown on any television programs dedicated to the purpose of gluttony. Even the Food Network won't show that carnage.

Ruma voices her agreement with a small sound, before stating, "Not that I'm asking for a handout, that is, even if I like how you think about that sort of a world. I try to work for what I eat. I just hate to see food go to waste. A world in which no food went to waste would be ideal for me. Variety? Who cares about that, so long as everyone is well fed." And yet, she felt a little guilty about saying that. Hadn't Gordon and Kuniko taught her quite a bit about gourmet food? They certainly hadn't looked down upon her. Perhaps they had a different view on how the masses might be fed? Well whatever, they weren't here right /now/ feeding her.

Ruma shrugs her shoulders, "Hey, the way I see it, those who have more should be paying more anyhow. They can afford to. Idiots spending things on all sorts of luxuries then complaining that the stuff they 'need' costs so much. If you could get away with it, then I'd put an income based markup on all food. Me? I'd just buy the cheapest and a lot of it of course."

She watches his cooking with greedy starry eyes, but still listens to every part of it, "So you're really sort of like an upper management type yourself? You don't seem like it. You seem more down to earth than most of the salarymen in suits I see. They wouldn't be caught dead doing market research in a stand like this, but hey, I guess that makes you unique. I kind of like that."

As the first half finishes, she starts eating anew, now there's absolutely 'no' holding back, she's devouring each with a gusto which belies her frame, "You know, if you're doing market research in Japan..." Ruma grins, "...ever heard of the curse of the Colonel?" Ruma was a closet baseball fan, but she never talked about it, "Japanese are really superstitious. Stuff like that earns a lot of publicity. Just making it innocuous enough that it reaches the public eye without it looking like it'll actually hurt anyone, like.. harmless fun."

<Pose Tracker> Fred Burgermeister [None] has posed.

On that day, the world of cuisine shall tremble.

Fred nods at Ruma's assertions. "As I said, today's endeavor was to determine what Japan might think of the original American corn dog - and you have given more useful feedback than the entire day's efforts." A glint in his eye, the spark of amusement. "A few corn dogs that would have gone to waste anyway is a small price to pay for such assistance!"

Oh, Ruma's suggestion brings to mind some of Fred's more devious plans. "There are fools - fools I have met personally, even - who care less about the quality or taste of their meal, and more that it was expensive. To part them from their money is truly a joy." Fred's sense of time says that the last half dozen 'dogs' are done, and so they are removed - crisp and sizzling and golden. Straight onto the plate, still steaming in the evening air.

The comments of Fred's 'uniqueness' bring another bold laugh. "Ah, I fear my associates in Japan are less fond - but let them complain if they will! I am Fred Burgermeister - and that is all that needs to be said!" There's a trio of sausages left, and some of the wheat batter; Fred takes a moment to just bundle it all together into one lump and put it in the frier. A meal for himself, perhaps.

"Ah, Kentucky Fried Chicken. I am more familiar with the Christmas marketing, but I believe I have heard of this curse." He strokes his chin. "Ah, would that I could hire you for my businesses as an advisor, [young miss]. Perhaps in a few years?"

<Pose Tracker> Ruma Hino [None] has posed.

"Seriously? If that's the case, then you might as well fry a shitake mushroom dipped in chocolate and call it a truffle for Valentine's day." Ruma just shakes her head as she pops another solid half of a corndog in her mouth and chews, "How much you wanna bet that ninety nine out of a hundred couldn't tell the difference. I bet I couldn't. Then they'd pay a giant markup to give something expensive to the one they 'love'."

Ruma shrugs, "If so they're idiots. Personally I'd like someone in charge who knows what it's 'really' like out there. They should appreciate that sort of leadership rather than some guy who sits in a board room looking at numbers and the bottom line." Another corndog has vanished during her speech.

On the final comment, she grins a little, "Maybe we can work something out eventually, but I like staying where I am, around Nishitama. Don't be a stranger though, drop by any time."

<Pose Tracker> Fred Burgermeister [None] has posed.

...chocolate-dipped mushrooms as 'truffles'. Fred starts laughing, and doesn't stop until it's time to take his own meal out of the fryer. Still chuckling, he starts the procedure of closing down lids and turning off heating elements. "Well, then, young miss! Should you receive any such creation this year, you will know the truth of the matter. I may, in fact, try that little suggestion!"

As for the rest of Ruma's commentary...he takes a moment to slather his tri-sausage fried lump with ketchup and mustard both. "Who knows - there may be a restaurant in Nishitama someday in need of a cunning manager. Someone in charge who knows what hungry people of this area desire!" He grins broadly, and digs into his own meal. The day is done, the supplies have been spent well, and ideas are racing around Fred Burgermeister's mind.

What world does he dream of?