Food culture of Aligare (Part 2: Daily meals)

In Part 1, I talked about the eating habits of the Aligare races in their ancient history. But in the timeframe of Remedy and Ravel, what would mealtime be like?

Family meals are a valued time for Aligare folk — especially since they might define “family” as everyone they care about. Most folk have at least one hot meal a day together, sitting together by the hearth fire on a designated meal blanket. But there are also vendors selling street food and snacks —

It had turned out to be a plain stretch of town street, with milling people of all kinds, with vendors sitting behind rainbow blankets.

Yes, here, Zitan had said. The vendor to their left was selling cider; Zitan heard liquid splashing and Peregrine had mentioned something about wetting his throat, hadn’t he?

Remedy, a story of Aligare, Chapter 2

— and ultimately, Aligare folk don’t wait for a particular time to eat food or share it.

Aemetkind prefers stewed meals — finished with wholesome greens and seasoned with chutney, accompanied by pan bread. Korvikind tend more toward roasted and fried meals, cooking up items that can be carried in the hand, making hash out of the leftovers. Folk influence each other, though, and it’s not unusual for aemets to roast corn or for korvi to stew up some thornwood root.

What are these meals made of? Because of the heavy aemet influence on food production, most meals are plant-based. It only makes sense when a third of the population is very good with plants!

Grain: Corn is common, mostly dried and ground into corn flour or cornmeal. Legends say that corn grew up from the ground as a response to Maize, an aemet woman who asked plantkind for a gift of aid. Barley is used to thicken stews and make barley crackers. Wheat is present but it’s not seen as a very nutritious food, and it’s certainly not the civilization-builder it was for Western humans. In Aligare, wheat is pretty much a niche crop used by artisan bakers and brewers.

Instead of one grain being the overall favourite (like how some countries on Earth rely heavily on wheat, or rice), variety is preferred. Each village and town tends to have a majority grain, and they might trade with neighbouring communities for a different type.

Vegetables and legumes: Along with a majority grain, villages have a few preferred crops that add bulk to the diet. Usually one root (like potato, turnip or the roots of thornwood shrubs), and one green vegetable (spinach or peas). White beans are also grown, so that a handful can go into every stewpot. But major crops grown in fields don’t provide a lot of variety. So some folk work as foragers and spend their days searching out wild nuts, shoots and mushrooms. Folk of all kinds might keep a small garden of vegetables and herbs — because even if you’re a korvi or a ferrin with no plantcasting magic, growing a bit of mint and onions is manageable. This bounty is improved further by travelling merchants who carry food crops around. Aligare folk eat what we would consider a varied, healthy, organic diet.

Fruit: In the Aligare land, fruit is mostly used the way we’d expect. Much of the fruit harvest is eaten fresh. There are honeyed fruit treats, and fruit biscuits baked in small tin ovens, and stewed condiments like jam and chutney. But a notable Aligare custom is the sharing of mull.

Mull is a boiled (or, um, mulled) drink. It consists of water, fruit/berries, and sometimes herbs or spices. The end result is sort of like tea, but with more pulp and body to it. Mull is a common hospitality drink — mages in busy towns often keep a pot of mull brewing at all times, to be offered to anyone who drops by.

And there are bird cherries, which make aemets and ferrin sick. Bird-like korvi have no trouble digesting them, so korvi-majority communities might quietly make birdcherry wine or other specialty treats.

Meat: With aemets providing an abundance of vegetable foods, meat is quite optional in the Aligare diet. Pigeons are the most common livestock. They’re kept in cages, raised for their eggs and for occasional stewing birds. Wild animals like rabbits, partridge, deer and nurls (a breed of giant, herbivorous weasels) are sometimes hunted. Folk also raise horses, which aren’t thought of as primarily food animals but when one goes lame and needs to be put down, its meat doesn’t go to waste.

Because of their carnivorous origins, korvi don’t require large amounts of meat but they’re usually happy to have it. If a korvi has performed a valuable service, a big piece of roast meat would be an ideal payment. Aemets, on the other hand, are often uneasy at the thought of eating a big chunk of animal. Aemet villages that go through a lot of meat are usually feeding it to others — korvi allies, or sometimes service animals like dogs or chakdaw birds.

Since salt is a relatively expensive commodity for Aligare folk, salt-preserved meats aren’t common. It’s more typical to dry meat over the hearth fire.

Fish: The Aligare world doesn’t have any oceans or similarly huge bodies of water. Aquatic foods are usually crusteceans — little crawfish-type things that make great soup. A handful of lakes are large enough to harvest finned fish from, and towns near these lakes are renowned for their fried and stewed fish.

Eggs: Pigeons produce a steady supply of eggs, and foragers occasionally find wild bird nests. But most eggs go into baked goods and products like glue. Eating a boiled or fried egg is a very special treat for Aligare folk.

So if a human fell through a portal and landed in the Aligare world, they’d have a hard time finding a steak or a piece of wheat bread. But they could still eat a delicious meal. And the Aligare peoplekinds would be glad to share.



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