Chapter 0:

A Certain Culinary Tome

Ars Magica Culinaria: The Art of Magical Cooking

It was a cozy autumn Sunday when Anmarie decided to go for a walk. She needed some groceries anyway and she wanted to peruse the book store to see what kind of interesting books they had in. So, she left her apartment. The warm glow of the sun fell on her skin as she took in a deep breath of the fresh fall air. Amber leaves fell gently from the trees as she walked down the sidewalk, tote bag in hand.

"What a beautiful day!" she exclaimed to herself, giggling at her outburst. People were out walking their dogs and jogging, children were riding along on their bikes on some grand adventure, and birds and squirrels were frolicking in the trees and bushes. She soon came upon the small, local bookstore she frequented. It was run by a slightly eccentric old man, and was filled to the brim with all kinds of books, new and used. There were so many books the old man barely bothered to sort them, so you never knew what you would get. He also had a free book cart out front for all the particularly strange books he didn't think anyone would pay for, but was sure someone would find interesting. It was after Anmarie browsed the bookstore for a while, buying a few pulpy fantasy novels, that she spotted a truly unusual book on the giveaway cart. Large, embossed letters in a medieval style spelled out its title: Testamentum Cocinae Pythonicum. Below the title was a picture of a mortar and pestle inside what appeared to be some kind of magical circle. Anmarie picked it up, and flipped it over, feeling its leather binding and vellum pages. "How old is this thing?" she asked, opening it up. Inside, there were various recipes and diagrams, all written in a very old-fashioned English. "Well, at least it's not Latin," Anmarie said. She thought for a few seconds. "I could use a new cookbook," she muttered, putting it into her book bag. She then bought her groceries, a skip in her step at the joy of a strange new book.

When Anmarie returned home from her errands, she'd decided to make something out of the Testamentum. She flipped through, looking for a simple recipe and found one for "Gingerbread Homunculus" which looked pretty straightforward despite its strange name. She mixed up the gingerbread dough and formed it into a gingerbread man. Following the recipe, she then read the provided incantation: "Ye gustatory materials, rise ye to meet these desires mine. Volu! Volu! Coquendum! I entrust ye to this chamber of baking!" She then placed the baking sheet with the gingerbread man into her pre-heated oven and set a timer. She scraped some of the left-over dough off of her mixing bowl and tasted it. "That's a nice gingerbread they put in there," she remarked, glancing at the book.

Once the timer went off, Anmarie checked the status of her large cookie in its "chamber of baking." Seeing that it was nicely browned and didn't squish when she poked it, Anmarie set it out to cool. "Now, how long... ?" She browsed through the recipe with her finger until she saw how long it said to let the gingerbread cool. "Overnight!" she exclaimed. "Oh, well, I guess I can wait until tomorrow." With that, she left the kitchen, excited to taste the outcome of her effort.

She could never have predicted what would greet her when she hungrily pounced into her kitchen the next morning.