Food culture of Aligare (Part 1: History)

When I was designing the Aligare society, I had to involve food. Because I’m a chef-trained foodie who finds it interesting? Well, yes. But food is also an important part of life as we know it — not just on a basic survival level, but as a huge component of culture and development.

Take humans, for example. We’ve changed a lot over the eons and a lot of it is directly related to our food. First, we gathered whatever we could cram into our mouths. Hunting developed, and so did customs of who ate meat when. We learned to use fire for cooking and preservation. We refined methods like fermenting and pickling, and took up agriculture, both of which made it possible to stay in one settlement instead of wandering to find more food. Every province and region produced its own style variations of those basic food methods. Now, in our modern era, there are long-standing food cultures developed by our ancestors,  as well as a rapid new encroachment of processed convenience food brought on by technology. And all of our products and methods are trades around to places they didn’t originate from. Our food is actually kind of crazy complicated if you think about it.

The Aligare land doesn’t have as much cuisine complexity as our Earth. Mostly because it’s a relatively small region: the entire habitable land is the size of a small-ish Earth country. There isn’t wide enough distribution to cause a lot of variation in the races’ views. There simply aren’t enough aemet settlements, for example, for there to be hundreds of aemet subcultures and accompanying styles of cooking. But I still felt it was important to figure out each race’s ancestral eating habits and development.

Aemets: As pacifists with plant elemental magic, the first aemets found their food through large-scale foraging. Aemet groups would graze their way through forests, using a light touch of plantcasting to ensure that the harvested plants lived to grow more food. They eventually learned to use their plantcasting for agriculture, allowing them to settle and form towns. Now, aemets produce a wide variety of vegetable and grain crops, providing the majority of Aligare food. Foraging is still a common trade, to harvest wild-grown foods and lessen the burden on aemets’ magical skills. Most aemets aren’t strictly vegetarian, but meat is not considered a requirement for a meal.
Korvi: With their fiesty nature, sharp claws and ability to fly over distances, the first korvi were primarily carnivores. They dropped onto their prey from the sky — everything from small snakes to full-grown deer. Korvi also ate small amounts of fruit and green vegetables, developing these into condiments to season their meat. Aemets were mostly responsible for introducing grains, roots, and other carbohydrate-heavy foods to the korvi diet. Since its predatory origins, the korvi diet has changed radically. Most korvi now eat a chiefly plant-based diet, especially if they live in an aemet-majority community. Hunting large game is a niche profession, often considered brutal and frightening despite the resources it provides. But the korvi knack for boldness has found plenty of other uses, including slaughtering livestock and beekeeping.
Ferrin: Wild ferrin have changed their ways very little since ancient times. They’re omnivores, searching the forest floor as well as the treetops. Nuts, fruit, eggs and insects are preferred — especially nuts, which ferrin can easily crack with their powerful mustelid jaws. When those preferred foods aren’t available, green vegetables or carrion will do. All of it is eaten raw; other races’ cooked foods are a valuable trade commodity.

Town-dwelling ferrin adopt the eating habits of the aemets and/or korvi they live with. Because of their small size and high metabolism, they prefer snack-like foods and frequent meals. It’s customary to offer food to a ferrin guest more often than an aemet or korvi guest.

As I discussed in a previous post, none of the Aligare races have a good reason to consume other animals’ milk. There’s no cheese or butter in this society’s meals. But other than that, the cuisine in mixed-race towns has a lot in common with familiar human foods. Grain flour for breads and crackers. Fruit preserved into condiments and alcoholic beverages. Root vegetables stewed into a hearty dinner. I imagine that if our hundreds of human cultures have commonalities (like how nearly every cuisine has some sort of dumpling), surely a three-species compromise would come up with many of the same ideas we did.

Okay! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hungry after all this talk of food! Let’s break for lunch. Next post, I’ll get into a bit more detail about how a typical Aligare character eats day-to-day.

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