Alison Alexandra does open the door. She is met with a barrage of deep and alluring odours. They are rich and fresh and smooth and piquant, and every one of them inviting.
“Take these.” Emma Alice hands her a small metal ladle and a pottery cup.
‘What do I do with these?”
“Yes.” Emma Alice laughs. “Though I mix metaphors – go hog wild.”
Emma Alice removes the lid from the first ceramic urn. It is full of rich white cream. Alison Alexandra dips the ladle, and pours a small portion into her mug.
“Oh, that’s rich.” Alison Alexandra takes a final sip. “Rich and mellow.”
“Creamy?” Emma Alice laughs.
“Yes – exactly.”
“Cream from Jersey cows,” says Emma Alice. “It is always smooth.”
“Will you be selling it?” asks Alison Alexandra.
“We use a lot of it here. It’s a favourite” Emma Alice puts the lid of the urn back in place. “But we will sell the rest. Or trade.”
“Yes. It’s much easier and more fulfilling.” Emma Alice starts toward another urn. “You have what they want, and they have what you want.”
“So you don’t have to produce what they already can provide.”
“Exactly.” Emma Alice lifts another lid. “Nor they for what we make. Time and expense saved on both sides.” She points into the urn. “Now for something different.”
Alison Alexandra dutifully puts the ladle in and takes a small portion of liquid. She pours it into her mug and puts it to her lips.
“What a word.” Emma Alice giggles.
“What a taste,” says Alison Alexandra. “What a difference.” She puckers her lips. “It’s not poison, is it?”
“It serves its purpose.” Emma Alice replaces the lid. “It’s whey – the liquid remaining when you make cheese from milk. It is used in baking, to temper other tastes.”
“But still.” Alison Alexandra gives a discreet cough. “You are pulling a prank.”
“A bit” Emma Alice takes off the lid of an urn from a higher shelf. “It will make this buttermilk seem palatable.”
“Oh, I’ve actually had buttermilk,” says Alison Alexandra.
“I think it was touted as being good for digestion.” Alison Alexandra stretches to put the ladle into the container. “I did not take it for very long.”
She pours an amount into her mug. She takes a sniff before she takes a sip.
“I’d make the same decision today.”
“The whey didn’t wet your taste buds?
“Not by a drop.”
“Well,” Emma Alice taps the lid back into place. “Enough of the bitter, now for the sweet.”
“I’m going to get a treat?”
“Fine Holstein milk.” Emma Alice paces across the floor. “Straight out of the cow.”
“I like the bulk of a Holstein,” says Alison Alexandra. “They seem more solid with their black and white markings. ‘Moo! Moo! Get outta the way!’”
“The train engine among cattle,” suggests Emma Alice.
“They emote more purpose,” says Alison Alexandra.
“See what you think.” Emma Alice lifts the cover off a large urn.
Alison Alexandra can tell from the rich, warm smell of the milk that a treat is in store. She puts her ladle more deeply than usual, and brings it back as full as full can be. She pours it into her mug without a drop sliding down the side. She sips in the same careful manner. She looks directly at Emma Alice and grins.
“Taste buds calmed?”
“Little Miss Muffet trauma removed?”
“Yes.” Alison Alexandra exaggerates a startled look. “Why – were there spiders?”
“There are always spiders,” says Emma Alice. “They foil the insects. But I think none will dangle by your tuffet.”
“Oh, that would be all right.” Alison Alexandra scoots out the last drops of milk with her little finger. “I actually like spiders.”