Gimli is fond of cooking. He is not perfect at it, and there might be better cooks out there among his own people, but the dishes that he knows how to prepare are always met with groans of approval as his kin and family tuck in with gusto.
There were few chances for Legolas, or any of Gimli's companions, to discover his skill during their travels, as Sam had usually commandeered the cook-pot before the breaking of their Fellowship at the falls of Rauros. After that it had been a mad dash across the plains of Rohan as the three hunters chased after their stolen hobbit companions and they had sustained themselves on bits of Lembas for there was no time for more. Then there had been Edoras with the threat of the enemy hanging over everything and the seemingly endless days of riding which followed, as well as the Battle of Helms Deep. It is not until after the Battle of the Pelennor fields, and the final battle beyond the Black Gate, and the days of peace that follow after, that Gimli gets a chance to court his Elf with food as a part of a proper dwarven courting.
Dwarven courtship is complicated. Some say that it is as complicated as the courting braids that a couple must weave into each other's hair, and preparing food for your intended is an integral part of the process of convincing one's intended that you can provide for them. There is some leeway if one is completely helpless in the kitchen, for a proper courtship does not entail making the one you are courting sick to their stomach with improperly prepared food. Dwarves have iron stomachs, for sure, but that does not imply that they would happily ingest a bad tasting under- or overcooked meal. Even if it was prepared by someone they loved.
So, Gimli makes his way into the kitchen near the quest quarters of Minas Tirhth where he has been given a very nice suit of rooms to share with Legolas. The kitchen are a set of rooms, actually, with stonewalls and brass pots and pans hung on hooks and a big hearth, and they are loud and warm as the staff works to put food on the table for the King's quests, who are numerous. (Gimli hears two passing skullery maids gossiping how much the periannath can eat. 'They eat seven meals a day in their homeland, Bergil told me!') Gimli bosses and charms his way to a stove, explaining to the head cook, a rather intimidating matron of middling years, how he intends to prepare food for his intended as part of the courting rituals of his kind. The whole city has heard of the fabled friendship between Dwarf and Elf and there have been whispers over the rusty red locks interwoven into the intricate set of braids that are woven into the Elf's fair hair and what they might signify. After Gimli's visit the whole town soon knows of his courtship.
Gimli is granted access and goes about his task with a purpose.
The rich spicy scents of Dwarven cooking overwhelm and fill the kitchen, and Gimli is made to promise to come back and have a chat with the head cook, Rosamunda, who had taken quite a liking to his cooking when Gimli had let her taste the flavours for herself. The Dwarf is pleased to have gotten most of the ingredients that he needed for the food he was preparing, even when he was a bit hesitant how his intended would take it's heaviness, given the differences of their people's tastes. But he also bakes something which he thinks that his Elf will like, if nothing else.
“What is this?” Legolas asks as Gimli comes back to their quarters, hefting a big heavy tray in his arms, filled to toppling over with food.
The Elf makes to help his Dwarf but is shooed away.
“Sit, sit! This is dwarrow courting at it's tastiest,” Gimli winks at him and sets the tray down.
The sun is setting and can be seen from the window beside which a table is set for them to sit at. Legolas has been idling in one of the chairs, lost in thought, waiting for his Dwarf, who had gone off on a mysterious errand hours before. Yet he had not been truly idle, fingers busy on something he would later on gift his star with. He had been anxious, as well, for he knew full well now what a horrible thing time was and did not want to lose a minute of the time he could have with his Dwarf.
“Ah, so it has been the kitchen's which have had you in their klutches today, meleth-nin.”
His pale eyes skim curiously over the tray that his intended has set upon the table. Gimli has yet to sit down, he is standing beside the table and seems to be waiting for something. That something seems to be for Legolas to fully appreciate and inspect the items of food set upon the tray. There are a pair of bowls stacked over one another, a pitcher of wine but no glasses for there are goblets in their room, a pot of stew, bread, and a covered dish that remains a mystery for the moment.
Only after Legolas has looked up at Gimli does his Dwarf speak. “I have prepared this food with my own hands and I hope they speak of my regard and that you will know that I can provide you with a full belly and not offend your tastes too horribly.”
The words seem to be a mix of a traditional courting speech, which Legolas has experienced before, and words that are pure Gimli, a bit cheeky and intended to lighten the mood.
“I thank you, Gimli, son of Glòin,” Legolas nods, as he has been instructed is the proper way. Despite his disregard for traditional dwarven secrecy over their language and culture, Gimli has been rather traditional over their courtship despite the fact that there isn't any other Dwarves around. Legolas rather suspects it is something that is just who Gimli is.
“Right” Gimli's cheeks flush a little, “you just continue sitting there while I set this up.” And so the goblets are collected and the food arranged onto the table with two settings; ceramic bowls with wooden spoons, and glass goblets for the wine, and even a pair of napkins made of linen settled beside the bowls.
Legolas watches on, delighted at the company and touched by the care that Gimli puts into everything that he does.
Finally, he is presented with a bowl full of rich smelling stew and a piece of still-warm bread spread with seasoned butter that melts over it. Gimli looks at him with expectant eyes, watching his every move. Legolas gives in to impulse and brings the bread to his nose to breath it in, it smells delicious and he takes a bite. It is as good as it smells and he is filled with the urge to tear into it and finish it in a few bites. There is more so he could do it but he thinks that it would be unseemly. The herbs in the butter are a new flavour to him and he finds that he is rather fond of it, even if he cannot tell what herb it is.
“This is very good,” he tells Gimli, meeting his eyes.
Gimli's shoulders lose some of their tension. “I'm glad,” Gimli replies.
Legolas tries the stew next. It does smell like something that he would not normally eat, for sure, but that does not mean that he will not try it and eat it all even if he should not like it. For Gimli. Because the ability to bake well is something else than cooking well, even Legolas knows this from his limited experience, for he himself is not a really good cook as his past travelling companions have oft told him when there had been a shortage of waybread and making a stew has been a necessity. (His stew is usually very chunky and mostly burned, if anything.)
The spices exploded on his tongue with his first spoonful, accentuating the rich meat and vegetables. It is unlike anything that Legolas has ever tasted and he finds himself quite enjoying the taste, letting loose a noise of appreciation. His love truly knew how to surprise him!
“It is delicious, mêleth-nin.” He spoke the truth and not a half-truth concocted to spare his Dwarf's finer feelings.
Said Dwarf turned his head to the side but there was a smile on his lips. An even bigger smile, a real wide grin graced his whiskered face as Legolas soon presented him with his bowl for another portion, even before Gimli had finished his own serving.
“I was not sure how it would taste for you, as your people tend to, ahem, not prepare such rich foods.”
Legolas hid a tiny smile behind his hand. He had heard enough tales of the Quest for Erebor to know what sort of fare Gimli's kin and the rest had been offered at Imladris, mostly as a joke. That his own father seemed rather intent of only offering rather bland vegetable dishes whenever anyone from Erebor visited Eryn Lasgalen, as a slight against the dwarves whom Thranduil knew did not care much for such fare, had not helped matters. The end result was that most Dwarves of Erebor genuinely believed that Elves preferred bland food with little to no seasoning to it and abhorred meat. And all because of a joke and a long-held grudge.
As Gimli is his intended Legolas cannot let him continue thinking such things. He reaches over the expanse of the tablecloth to grasp Gimli's hand in his own. Hid Dwarf looks up. “What you think you know about Elven tastes is mostly due to lord Elrond having a rather odd sense of humour and because of the continued animosity my father still harbours against your kin even after all these years. We may not season our food as much as you do, but we do eat hearty meaty things in my home.”
Gimli gapes. “I knew it!”
“I think, rather, that you really honestly did not. I am sorry you fretted over me not liking this feast you have made for me.” Legolas smiles at his love with his whole soul shining in his bright eyes.
“Aye, that is true, ghîvashel. But I am well pleased that you seem to enjoy it enough to ask for seconds.”
Legolas has to kiss him.
After they tuck into the apple cobbler that Gimli has prepared as a dessert, Legolas is swift to tell his Dwarf that he has succeeded in preparing this meal to the utmost degree. Gimli blushes and blusters but Legolas can tell how pleased he really is. And that is good.
They might use some of the custard reserved for the cobbler later for reasons that have nothing to do with eating…. food.