It was not long after its discovery that the commercial implications of the bastrom became apparent. Here we are not referring to the discovery of its existence but of its culinary potential, which was established by an amateur biologist named Alexander Beltley—a man who occupies a strange place in scientific history due to the fact that he was never able to explain how or why his specimen dish made its way into his mouth on that fateful day of August 17th, 1966. Whatever Beltley's motivations were in consuming a tablespoon of live, agitated bastrom, one can be certain that his actions have left an indelible mark on the world. In short, the bastrom is delicious. To this day, in addition to the salt and pepper shakers on our kitchen tables, there is a third shaker. As children you were no doubt taught two holes for pepper, three for salt, and four for bastrom. The discrepancy in the number of holes at the mouth of the shaker has always been a useful precaution in the telling apart of salt and pepper, but in the case of bastrom it is for the most part unnecessary. In order to determine which is filled with bastrom, one only has to look for the shaker that incessantly trembles and hops about the table, the shaker with a distinctly wider base meant to prevent it from toppling itself, the shaker that is fastened to the table by means of a short, beaded chain like a pen at a bank counter. Though small, bastrom are capable of communal spasms which are a fear-response to their being kept in such a confined space. It is a peculiarity of this creature that the more frightened or in pain it is, the better it tastes. That is why, when a shaker of bastrom whips itself around wildly, chipping plates and making a racket, this nuisance is not only tolerated but encouraged.
When frightened, the bastrom releases a chemical compound called diebulkide, a mildly acidic substance which is meant to irritate the eyes of the klempate, the bastrom's chief predator prior to 1966. This compound reacts pleasantly on the human tongue, and so this adaptation, which was meant to protect the bastrom from one predator, has in turn made it vulnerable to another.
The bastrom can only be eaten alive, as, logically, a dead creature cannot be frightened. Knowledgeable eaters will place a small cube of potato in their bastrom shakers, as providing the creatures with sustenance will allow them to survive far longer than without. A true gourmand might also keep a small box of matches next to the shaker, the idea being to wave a lit match over the bodies of the bastrom once they have been shaken out onto a particular dish, so that the pain and resulting anxiety created by the flame will increase the amount of diebulkide that those bastrom release.
Though being crammed into the confines of a shaker will cause enough discomfort to make bastrom flavorful, many prefer this tactic of deliberately increasing the level of anxiety in their bastrom in order to achieve the most flavor possible. In addition to the flame technique, some prefer to use a pair of cymbals while they eat, stopping every so often to make huge, crashing sounds over their plates, thus terrifying the bastrom. Others simply prefer to lean in close, and speak to their plates in a deliberately cruel tone of voice.
But what has been learned over time is that the acidic properties of diebulkide will inevitably wear out a person's taste buds. So these individuals who go to extra lengths to enjoy the taste of the bastrom's fear are also the quickest to render themselves insensitive to it. These people are forced to crash the cymbals over their plates with such force that the noise is unbearable even to themselves. Rather than waving the lit match lightly over their food, these people press the flame down into it until it turns black, until whatever hint of diebulkide that registers on their tongues is overwhelmed by the taste of ash. Instead of only speaking cruelly to their food, they scream. They pound on the table with their fists. They adopt an attitude of genuine hatred toward the bastrom. When they are alone, they attempt to dream up new acts of violence which they hope will help bring back some sensation to that one part of themselves that has grown so hard of feeling.