Food has been on the brains of many of us lately. Apparently that means writing has taken a back seat. So just to make sure the rest of you don’t get back to business before I do and jump ahead of me here is a post I wrote for Shelley Workinger’s blog (with minor edits). Drool on.
WHAT TO EAT IN BARGIA:
My trilogy, Earth’s Pendulum, takes place in an imaginary old world society. Think agrarian city state, on a large island isolated from other influences. The climate is temperate, akin to what Ireland might have, or England.
Now when I create my world, while it is not a real place, I still want my readers to be able to place themselves there, to see it in their minds, to hear the speech of the characters. Both the setting and the characters must be believable.
One device I use to help readers feel that my world is a possible place, one where they can feel at home, is to describe some of the more mundane, everyday parts of their lives. So, in Bargia, or Catania, Gharn or Lieth I add elements of daily life that include hints of what the citizens eat, drink and use for remedies and healing. But these must be plausible. Since we are in a temperate climate, isolated from other societies, real tea would not be available. But tisanes would. So my characters drink tisanes, though they call them teas; sage for strength, raspberry leaf for pregnancy, chamomile for its calming effect, and white pine needle both for its pleasant taste and because it contains vitamin C. Mint tea, too, is common. They do drink ale, wine, and mead as well, but these are less interesting to me because they are so common in many books.
Now what do we expect people in such a culture and environment to eat? Why wild meats such as venison, wild boar and rabbit, of course. As well they have domesticated some cattle, sheep and goats for milk, yogurt and cheeses, as well as for meat. Chickens, ducks and geese add eggs and fill out the meat menu. Meats may be roasted, stewed, smoked and potted in fat or stored in brine.
Platters of cheese, cold meats and fragrant, dark breads figure prominently in many of the ‘meetings’ that are held with the lord, his advisors, his lady and family. Dried legumes such as beans and peas fill out the menu.
The gardens on the One Isle are filled with beans, squashes, root vegetables and herbs. Grains such a maize, spelt and rye are grown. I leave out wheat as it is a more modern grain. Orchards provide apples and plums. Berries are picked in summer and preserved in honey. Mmmmm!
Breads are mostly dark and dense. Sweet buns may be filled with nuts and raisins, and baked with honey, which make them highly prized at festival times or other special occasions. Honey cakes are another popular treat. Yum! Is your mouth watering yet? Imagine walking about the market square, stopping by a local baker’s shop to sample his latest tarts, the new recipe with raisins, hazelnuts and honey. Now there is a treat fit for the lord’s table!
For their greens the people forage in the forests for cress, wild garlic, leeks, and onions, mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns. These are a spring delicacy, much looked forward to after a winter of mostly root vegetable stews.
Honey does not only sweeten things. Honey has natural antibiotic properties which, when mixed with goldenseal makes a wonderful healing salve for minor wounds. Oregano is great for digestion and also has healing properties.
And if you need to sleep, but can’t, try a tea laced with valerian. You’ll hate it, make a face, even, (holding your nose helps) but it works. Just make sure you chase it with mint tea to get rid of the foul taste. You’ll sleep like a baby.
Come visit the One Isle with me and enjoy the fare it offers. You will eat and drink well.
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[A version of this article first appeared at Shelley Workinger’s Bookfare Blog on 2/16/2012.]
Yvonne Hertzberger is a Contributing Author at Indies Unlimited and author of Back From Chaos and Through Kestrel’s Eyes, Books One and Two of Earth’s Pendulum, an Epic fantasy trilogy. For more information please see the IU Bio page and her blog at http:/yvonnehertzberger.com [subscribe2]