Kitchens Rule   20 comments

Sept 6, 2021

Does food play an important part in your writing? How about sharing a favorite recipe of one of your characters, or maybe one of yours?

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Food in My Fictional Worlds

Food plays different roles in my fictional worlds, depending on the situation.

Daermad Cycle

I pay attention to details in Daermad Cycle (The Willow Branch and Mirklin Wood, Fount of Wraiths coming this year) as part of the world-building process of a Celtic fantasy world. The characters live in a feudal society where the farmers pay taxes in crops and merchants pay taxes in goods. Coin exists but it’s mainly used by people who sell services — innkeepers, for examples. This dictates the sort of food my characters have access to. The poor rarely eat beef because milk is a renewable protein resource. They know the nobility enjoy beef, so they pay their taxes on the hoof should a male calf be born to their milk cow. Pigs eat ANYTHING and their meat is tasty so poor people are more likely to raise them for meat. Sheep give you great cloth and can be eaten when they get old. Chickens give you eggs (another renewable protein source) and you can eat the extra males. The poor eat a simple diet of meat (often pork, mutton, and poultry) and vegetables (turnips and parsnips since potatoes don’t exist in their world), with barley bread. Barley porridge and bread for breakfast. The reason barley is so common is a function of taxes. The nobility demand a certain amount of wheat but they don’t require barley, so most wheat goes to the nobility in taxes while barley is sold for profit. What wheat is left over is sold to wealthier merchants at a higher profit margin. There are guilds that control the price of wheat to assure the poor can’t really afford it.

There’s also some geographic variation. People who live in the north rarely eat fish because they’re too busy growing food to spend them putting a line and hook in a stream. People who live in the south, along Celdrya’s coast, eat a lot of fish because there are fishermen catching and selling fish. Both the nobility and the commoners eat fish, but they tend to prepare it differently.

In Celdryan society everybody drinks ale because some Celdryans haven’t figured out not to put their midden heaps and outhouses next to the well and the alcohol in ale kills those nasty bugs. Even children drink watered ale. The nobility and wealthy merchants also drink mead and wine, but the wine is imported from Hanalan (a more southerly country), so only the wealthy can afford it. Only very well-healed taverns sell it, but ale comes in two varieties–light and dark. The dark has more alcohol and thus costs more.

The Celdryans eat what might be termed a Euro-medieval diet, but the neighboring Kin eat a more plant-based diet often with wild game meat and rye grain because they live in the mountains. They tend not to keep cattle, preferring goats for their milk and general hardiness. They also keep sheep and tend to eat mutton for special occasions. Drinking spirits is not as common as in Celdrya. Because they live in the mountains, they don’t have worry about human sewage and they actually do know that your outhouse and midden heaps should be far away from the cisterns.

My characters are both nobility and commoners, Celdryan and Kin. Padraig — the part-elven son of a Celdryan nobleman who chose to become a commoner — walks in both worlds, but I try to pay careful attention to what he eats when he’s with one group or the other. It matters. It’s a subtle backdrop to the stratification of society. I don’t draw attention to it, but it’s there for Daermad Cycle readers to notice if they care to.

Transformation Project

In Transformation Project, my characters are starving. It’s the apocalypse after all and food is running out. In the beginning of the series (Life As We Knew It), I spent a lot of effort to concentrate on what they were eating because I knew they’d soon be starving. I described the food Shane, Mike and Alicia ate at a Mediterranean restaurant. I identified the coffee Shane likes to drink. I described breakfast at the Lufgren Farm. I wanted to show that life was normal, even abundant in the life they knew. Even in Objects in View (Book 2), I did a little bit of food (and booze) focus because I knew where I was headed in coming books. Now, in Worm Moon (draft) there’s discussions of cannibalism. I imagine the Delaney family ate pretty much what my family eats, just swap out an occasional caribou roast with deer. And now, they down to “licking postage stamps for the calories” as the always-up-for-a-quip Stan Osimowitzc said in A Threatening Fragility.

Recipes

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with Bacon and Pimiento - Taste and Tell

It’s fall here in Alaska and we’re trying to get our tomatoes to ripen before it becomes too cold for them. They’re all wearing plastic bags right now, but they might have another week. But if they don’t ripen before nature closes down the growing season, I will definitely make fried green tomatoes. So, here’s my recipe.

Ingredients (feeds four)

4 medium to large green tomatoes

2 eggs

1 cup AP flour

1/2 cup corn meal

Kosher salt to taste

Ground pepper to taste

Bacon

Frying oil – I prefer about a half-inch of oil in a cast iron skillet, but the lady who developed this recipe with me (a true Southerner transplanted to Alaska) likes to use a quart of oil (that’s too much for me. Opinions very.)

Preparation

Fry the bacon.

Remove bacon to draining plate.

Add frying oil to bacon grease. Heat pan to medium.

Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick

Dust with AP flour

Beat eggs with a splash of milk.

Dredge flour-dusted tomatoes in egg-mixture.

Dredge in corn meal. (If you like really crunchy tomatoes, dredge in eggs again and then toss in bread crumbs. I prefer Italian style when I do it. My son finds them overdone, so I tend to go with the simpler recipe).

Place the tomatoes 4-5 at a time in the hot oil and grease mixture. Flip when golden brown. When second side is golden brown, remove to a drain plate. Serve with bacon or as a Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato sandwich. (Even better with cheese).

BONUS

Add sliced potatoes and onions to the still hot pan and fry until done. Serve as a side with the bacon and tomatoes for a more dinner-like presentation. Add some bread to round it all out.

Quite tasty!

I wonder what my fellow blog-hoppers are cooking up.

Posted September 6, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

Tagged with , , , ,

20 responses to “Kitchens Rule

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  1. That’s some fantastic world-building. I love a rounded and logical setting for a story, with all the loose ends accounted for. And I’m a huge fan of fried tomatoes, of any colour.

    Like

    • I’m not really a fan of fried red tomatoes. For one, a red tomato from our garden is precious. It has flavor (which store bought tomatoes here don’t because they’re shipped green and cryogenically cooled so they’ll be ripe when they get here — rendering them tasteless). So I can’t talk myself into coating a red garden tomato in flour and frying it in grease. Fried green tomatoes are what you do when your spouse hates bugs in the house, so you can’t vine ripen.

      Like

  2. I’ve often read that people in Samuel Pepys’ time mostly drank ale because of the risk of cholera/typhoid from polluted water. They must have been a happy crowd, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a big fan of the Jack in the Box app!

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  4. LOL – In Celdryan society everybody drinks ale because some Celdryans haven’t figured out not to put their midden heaps and outhouses next to the well.
    I read a book where the priest was trying to convince people not to drink the water from the well in the middle of the grave yard.

    Tweeted.

    Like

  5. I have a few more weeks for my tomatoes, but not many left to pick. It wasn’t a bumper crop.,

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    • Too hot or too cold?

      Here it’s timing. We had a late spring and then we are having an early autumn, so the tomatoes just haven’t had enough time to ripen. Then summer itself was plenty warm and sunny, though.

      Like

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