I think my formal culinary training has caught up to whatever informal practice I had. My progress has slowed to a normal pace, but I don't mind--the initial burst of kitchen prowess had me as stunned as anyone else.
I asked Alphinaud to sketch my appearance from the Echo, and showed it to a few more members of the H clan in La Noscea, but....no luck. I have to assume my part of the clan is gone--either wiped out or farther than my travels have taken me.
As far as my own memories....what little has come back is hazy--mostly feelings. Even when I remember the man from my childhood, it's like talking with Hythlodaeus--no details I can investigate.
In other words, my memory loss is proving resilient.
Still, I've woken up something in my subconscious--I'll catch a familiar smell, or spot an ingredient I "know". The taste doesn't line up with how I expect, but...it's close. I'm close.
In the meantime, I've been gathering a list of the "almost"s and comparing my habits against my peers'.
The conclusion I've reached is that I'd learned without trained instruction--a lot of experience, but no technique. Using only the utility knife, for example, or holding it in a way that, as Diving Dove put it, "works despite common sense".
More noticeably, though, my garlic keeps getting stolen.
If I'm not following a set recipe, then between prepping the raw ingredients and cooking, someone will usually come up and take a generous handful of my garlic. None of them try to hide, and they'll often indicate that I should keep going as-is when they take it, so it's not some kind of group sabotage effort.
But I've remade the dishes how I wanted later, just to compare, and it doesn't make sense. Sure, the flavor is different, but it's no worse than the altered versions. I'd argue that it's better, actually.
Still, the altered dish is well-received every time, so I brought it up to the guildmaster Lyngsath.
Rather than answer directly, he gave me a challenge--make a roast. Any meat, any ingredients, any seasoning--just cook on instinct.
In retrospect, I should've explained my situation and asked for his analysis from the start.
Anyway, I did as instructed--cooked with muscle memory and ingredients that felt right, but I could only name half of--and finally presented him with a roast.
He took a few bites, nodded, reconfirmed my full name, and mulled over a few more bites. He indicated for me to eat as well, and then asked, "how much garlic do you think is too much garlic?"
Given my guildmates' interventions, I've obviously been trying to use "too much", but it still doesn't taste that way to me. He must've predicted that I was already aware of that, as he offered a spoonful of a puree to sample.
He watched my reaction--that I not only ate it, but licked a stray bit off the spoon after--and nodded knowingly before telling me exactly what the puree was. He then added that most people would've spat it out, or refused to try it on scent alone.
A pure garlic puree, for the record, is indeed "too much" garlic.
Finding it bearable, however, is apparently an unusual disposition--especially for a Miqo'te, fantasia or not.
According to Lyngsath, both sun and moon seekers are adverse to the whole allium family--their flavor is "overwhelming" and the plants rarely used outside of poultices. In food, it's an acquired taste that's tolerated rather than embraced.
The exception is Miqo'te that grew up with it. In other words, Miqo'te adopted and raised by other races. A usefully specific trait to go off of, but not a surprise with my surname.
And combined with the roast I presented, it's my best lead yet.
Most of my ingredients were common to rural Thanalan--foraged, rather than farmed--and some have since been usurped by imported ingredients that are easier to work with. The seasonings are similarly sourced, but both the way I used them and the cooking method are almost completely Ala Mhigan.
To summarize--an Ala Mhigan refugee, living off the land. Or rather, that's who my teacher would've been--I was already practiced at cooking in the Echo, but still too young to forage alone.
There's a catch, though--an exception. The garlic, which hasn't been used in Ala Mhigan cuisine since Theodoric's fall. It's evidence as potent as its flavor.
Another culture's influence in a refugee camp isn't strange, but that I'm so insistently heavy-handed with it--especially in otherwise Ala Mhigan cooking--is. The man in the Echo, who I probably shared food with the most, is the likely cause. His cooking is what I would've grown up with, his taste the one I inherited.
It's given me a theory, but I have several points to follow up on before I can confirm it. Namely, Little Ala Mhigo, the Rising Stones, and with any luck, a wild patch of "Thanalan" garlic as well.
In the meantime, as always, a travel picture.