Greetings my fellow explorers of this vast expedition into the greatest of all
Talislantan magicks: cuisine. Now that you are all familiar with the staples of
this great continent (see Chapter I) we can proceed to explore the various
national dishes of the many nations, a task which I undertook at great peril,
but would repeat if demanded due to great personal courage and the selfless
desire to further the knowledge of all sentients.
As the starting point of this culinary extravaganza, I have taken it upon
myself to detail the most common and exotic sustenance available in this grand
coalition known as the Seven Kingdoms.
Some of my vaunted colleagues may indeed be curious as to the truthful nature
of this title, but each member nations cuisine is indeed a wonder in its own
unique way. Vardune, Cymril and Astar are indeed wonderful places for the
discerning palette, and even Sindar turns up a few surprises, while I wonder
why the natives of Durne, and especially Taz and Kasmir have any desire to live
while their cuisine (and I use such a term with great reservation) leaves much
to be desired.
One might wonder that the wisp-like and flighty Muses eat at all, but I have
found their dishes to be surprisingly tasteful. If only they realised that two
mouthfuls of food, however succulent, do not a meal make.
Dishes are served on thin, light, and beautifully carved plates, and are often
garnished with a few attractive flowers, traditionally to be worn by the eater
in their hair after consuming the meal, as a small sign of gratitude to the
host. Unfortunately unaware of this fact, I ate several of these flowers, only
to be chased away by a temperamental Muse, and suffer from stomach cramps for
several hours afterwards.
It should be noted that Muses eat very little meat, and only white meats tend
to agree with their delicate stomachs at all. In addition, they are not overly
fond of cooking their dishes (except for the afore-mentioned occasional white
meat), and as such their dishes are generally cold fruit salads. Various fruits
are delicately sliced, often into fanciful shapes, and served in colourful and
beautiful arrangements. These are often sprinkled with a touch of powered candy
(an extremely popular import from Dracarta), and nibbled upon with glee. In
fact, the Muses have taken to candy with gusto, and many while away the hours
of the day, nibbling contentedly on a candy stick. I fear it may become an
addiction for this light-headed race, and it further disgusts me that no matter
how much candy they consume, they never seem to gain any weight! Utterly and
The one (and only) meat they eat with any regularity is the humming bird, and
several varieties of this colourful species are found throughout Astar. Even
bearing this factor in mind, they never eat more than one bird at any meal, and
never eat more than one a fortnight. The Muse method for catching these
lightning quick flyers is simple and ingenious, out of all character for these
They spin extremely fine nets, and place these over the flowers that such birds
commonly visit. The bird then flies around, tries to take a sip of nectar, and
becomes hopelessly entangled. These birds are then cooked, wrapped in the
leaves of herbs, by placing them under heated rocks. The bird is then served
with its beautiful plumage as decoration. I found the humming bird to be a
delicate morsel, but after my second, my Muse hosts began to regard me with
disgust and I was forced to ignore my still substantial hunger.
As one would expect, the beverages of Astar are as lightweight as their dishes,
and only two are to be found. Their primary beverage is both simple and
plentiful, consisting of the sweet fresh waters of their local lake Zephyr. The
water is cool, refreshing, and amazingly free of detritus and parasites, but
its merits end there for it possesses no alcoholic qualities and is therefore
only suitable for the occasional drink if nothing more relaxing is available.
Fortunately for my sanity during my stay in Astar there is a more appealing
alternative; Fermented Nectar. Nectar is a sweet, light, sugary and delicious
beverage, with an orange coloration and delicate aroma strongly reminiscent of
flowers. Drunk from small thimble-sized goblets, it is regarded by the Muses as
something to savour, and I would have to agree. However, they did take
exception when I savoured most of their small Nectar-skin and fell into a warm
and giddy stupor during which I am informed that I giggled incessantly. An
Although I have travelled far and wide across this continent, it is with great
pride that I note that few places are as sacred to the gastronaut as our home
nation of Cymril! As sophisticated and intelligent cosmopolitans, we eschew
much of the laborious farming that features in other areas, and import many of
our foodstuffs from outside and neighbouring nations. Of course, that does not
mean we relegate ourselves to eating the same dishes (if said dishes are
boring), but use the ingredients to create magnificent morsels such as the
other uneducated buffoons could not conceive of. In fact, it has become
something of a fashion among my fellow Cymrilians to eat out, and trying
foreign dishes is currently in vogue, albeit with a sorcerous twist.
We do however, have one notable local produce that bears mention here; that
nectar of the Creator: Aquavit. A truly wondrous drink, Aquavit is light,
bubbly, refreshing, and slightly sweet, with a vaguely phosphorescent green
coloration that brings a warm glow to the heart. Distilled from the fruit of
the Vidas tree, many of the orchards that travellers notice while approaching
our great capital are dedicated to producing the fruit. Indeed, such is our
great love of this fine drink that it is even used in many of our sauces, and
the fruit itself (a large, lime-green sphere) is often served in slices as an
We have applied our love of magic to every facet of our lives, and cuisine is
A recent hit among the youngsters of our populace is the alchemical Wizard-Fizz
(Wiz-Fizz), a sweet tasting powder that fizzes, crackles and pops in a most
pleasant way when placed on the tongue. Numerous street vendors now deal in
this marvel, selling small bags for only a few coppers each.
Magic is also a prime ingredient in making meal times something more than the
mere consumption of food. When eating out last night my roasted qwuk was
enchanted to perform a little dance for me before I ate it, with the vegetables
performing as backing dancers. My red hairy blum fruit sorbet floated over the
table-top without a glass, and my aquavit spurted like a fountain into my mouth
Unsophisticated savages visiting Cymril are often scared by these antics, but I
can safely assert that problems are extremely rare, and I have only heard of
one or two accounts where the meals attacked their eaters.
While I am especially fond of our child-like comrades, it pains me to speak of
what passes for food among their people. I freely admit that their mushrooms
are found in a number of varieties, and they have several fish to supplement
their diet, but ultimately a mushroom and fish platter becomes monotonous, and
the poor deluded children seem to find this acceptable as a bountiful gift from
Terra! Poor dear souls. My fellow colleagues, take pity on these, our misguided
friends, and introduce them to more interesting foods whenever you can. The
Creator knows, they arent worldly or mature enough to look after themselves.
The Durne eat their food raw (as Terra intended), but exported fungi are
usually lightly fried and seasoned with herbs, or used as ingredients in other
dishes, and exported dried Boro fish is only used in the most basic of meals.
As the staples of the Durne diet, their many varieties of fungus deserve the
Most common of all is the Whitecap mushroom, distinguished by its large size,
and bell-shaped cap. Farmed extensively by these industrious children it is
sadly quite bland, and used by those of more discerning taste (such as
ourselves) to bulk out less filling meals. In fact, such vast quantities are
produced that Whitecap is the major Durne export, and it is found in all the
Less common, but of greater quality are the rare Purple Puffballs (faintly
phosphorescent, small, round purple mushrooms, that grow in clusters) with
their faintly sweet flavour and moussy texture. Purple Puffballs are a delicacy
among the Durne and maintain their phosphorescence even after cooking.
Two other common Durne fungi are the Browncap and Crimson Inkwell. The Browncap
has a light, sharp flavour, and is recognisable for its small nut-brown cap,
and thin, six inch long white stem. The Crimson Inkwell on the other hand is
short, squat and thick, resembles a small red pot, and is chewy with a strong
and distinct flavour.
Supplementing their diet of fungi are Koriana tubers harvested from below the
ground, Zog (a subterranean shallow-water kelp), Boro fish (raised in pens in
the shallows), and the occasional carnivorous Render.
Zog is harvested in shallow pens at the edge of the great lake, and is deathly
white, with long thin tendrils. It is cut and dried, and has a taste like
strong spinach. It also forms an abundant export good, but in less quantities
than the ever-present Whitecap.
The ugly Boro fish is the only animal which the soft-hearted Durne farm, and
theyve created several fish-farms at the lakes edges to raise these fish. Of
course, such pens are often subject to attack by predators, so the fish-farmers
rely extensively on skilled Durne warriors to defend the livelihood of the
nation. The fish itself is small (merely six inches in length) and white, with
a disproportionately large head, no eyes, and numerous feelers surrounding the
mouth. Few animals this side of an Urthrax are so repugnant to behold. However,
when you can bring yourself to eat one youll find the flesh quite delicious. If
only the Durne would learn not to eat it raw, marinated in Mushroom ale or
The occasional Render is a delicacy among the Durne but obtaining it is a risky
and often lethal proposition. This large, vicious lungfish is quite capable of
attacking foes in the water and on land, and is armed with vicious dagger-like
teeth, and protected by hard metallic scales. It is considered something of a
test of bravery for the best hunters and warriors to track them down and
dispatch them. In addition this brings monetary rewards because the metallic
scales are favoured by Durne artificers in the crafting of armour. The Render
is often the focal-point of a celebratory banquet, and has a strong, meaty
flavour for a fish. I still assert that it would taste better cooked though.
While the Durne drink a substantial quantity of water (how primitive) they do
produce one alcoholic beverage of note. Mushroom Ale is a thick pungent
beverage with a pale murky brown coloration, thin head, and unsurprisingly
mushroom-like flavour. The poor misled Durne regard it as flavoursome, but I
found it utterly repulsive. If you personally like the idea of alcoholic,
smelly, murky, mushroom soup youll probably like it. If the thought makes your
stomach churn, the drink itself will make you decidedly ill. My advice? Carry a
bucket, or maintain your dignity by avoiding the drink altogether.
Kasmir. Kasmir... Kasmiran cuisine has one (and only one) great feature worthy
of mention; it is disgustingly cheap. The basic principle behind all Kasmiran
cuisine is waste-not, want-not, and believe this scribe when I tell you they
waste nothing. Kasmiran food is, in general, as bitter and disgusting as the
people themselves (my apologies to Adn Qbun, my financier and sponsor, who is
of course an exceptionally generous and charismatic member of his race).
Prime cuts of meat are regarded as something of a luxury good among these
misers, who consider offal to be the best bargain for their diet. Eyeballs are
especially highly regarded as a symbol of watchfulness, and for their high
water content. I myself found it quite disconcerting to see half a dozen
eyeballs glaring up at me from the plate, and must confess that my Kasmiran
hosts showed exceptional glee when I informed them I was no longer feeling
hungry. In keeping with their absolute hatred of waste, they make a point of
devouring nearly every possible part of a carcass, and think nothing of eating
the tough, tastless flesh of an aged aht-ra when it finally expires.
Loathe to spend money purchasing expensive imported foodstuffs, the Kasmir pay
a few desperate farmers to operate on their land producing crops of bitter
desert greens. These bitter-tasting plants have thick leaves that must be
boiled extensively before becoming edible, and are served in slices, with the
boiled water served in a mug after being allowed to cool. I found this to my
dismay after trying to wash away the bitter taste of the greens, only to find
that the water was equally bitter. To make matters worse, they pickle what they
dont eat immediately, and pickled bitter greens and sour enough to make a
Yassans face scew up into a wrinkled ball.
To bulk out their offal and bitter greens, the Kasmir use flatbread and
sourdough. Flatbread is unlevened (yeast is obviously a costly luxury), and
sourdough uses the cost-effective soured (gone-off) milk instead of precious
water. Flatbread is abysmally bland, while sourdough has all the flavour and
appeal of slightly rancid milk. Needless to say the Kasmir were extremely sorry
for the fact that my appetite had been shattered completely.
However, my dogged determination payed off when at last they came to presenting
the dessert. Presented with much show and expectation of gratitude was a small
(stingy) dish of dates and nuts, painstakingly picked from the nearby desert
sands. My hunger rekindled, I consumed the dates and nuts with aplomb, only to
find myself with a voracious appetite and gazing at an empty dish. I wish I
could say that this had extinguished my hunger, but I have yet to meet a
sentient who believes that two nuts and two dates makes for a fulfilling meal.
But the Kasmir do possess one comestible of true worth: Mochan. Brewed from
ground dark brown Mocha beans, Mochan is served hot and sweet, and, despite
being non-alcoholic, has remarkable qualities. Attempting to drown my hunger
with Mochan, I gazed up after my second cup into the scowling faces of my
hosts. Tossing a pentacle onto the tabletop, their disposition improved
greatly, and I was able to indulge myself in cupfuls of this fine liquid. Two
days of hyperactivity and edginess later and I still hadnt slept. With the
great wisdom of hindsight I strongly recommend moderation when drinking this
addictive and invigorating beverage. In fact, it was only after leaving my
Kasmiran hosts that I was informed it is somewhat common practice for the
Kasmir to ply some of their employees with the drink in order to garner more
working hours and increased productivity.
Our cerebral contemporaries the Sindarans face numerous hardships which force
them to import a full two thirds of their foodstuffs. Firstly, the land they
inhabit is rocky and barren, and secondly there is little space to grow crops
or raise livestock on the mesa-tops. However, being a folk of most singular
intellect, they have devised ways to overcome these problems to a degree.
With their great alchemical prowess (second only to the grand magicks that make
Cymril the premier nation) they have created artificial soils in which
vegetables and fruit can grow, and alchemical fertilisers to promote growth in
the absence of suitable weather and conditions. This has led to a surprising
diversity in what little food they do produce, and several varieties of Vardune
produce are commonly grown. In addition, they have set up several small
Whitecap farms in the tunnels that riddle the mesa, and these have proved quite
successful. However, livestock is not an option so the Sindarans lead largely
vegetarian diets, with the small quantities of dried imported meats only being
used to flavour stews and soups.
Unfortunately water is a rare commodity and is rationed tightly when drawn from
the wells deep within each settlement. Given its rarity, the Sindarans have
formulated numerous alchemical cleansing agents, both for personal use, and to
dispose of waste. But then again, who cares for water when you can drink
Skoryx is a delectable beverage distilled from the Rainbow Lotus, and should be
conserved for truly deserving and intelligent people (such as myself). Who but
a sophisticated mind could truly appreciate the constantly shifting flavour and
its many subtle nuances? Clear, iridescent and constantly changing from tangy
to sweet, and spicy to sour, I can truthfully state that Skoryx is the most
interesting and unique tipple on the continent. I can also account for its
potency after being left by chance to inspect a small barrel. I was found
several hours later, swinging merrily from a crane and chanting lewd limericks
the like of which I cannot write in this tome.
Utterly sick of the strong vegetarian bias of Astar and Sindar I had set out
for Taz in eager anticipation of a meat feat. Thralls, being a race engineered
for warfare, eat a diet consisting almost entirely of meat. I curse myself for
not finding out how they ate it.
To gain the best nutritional value, these colourful clones eat their meat raw,
and after eagerly expecting a roast I was presented with a quivering hunk of
bloody flesh. Turning a peculiar shade of yellow I spent the next ten minutes
leaning over a small bush examining the remains of my trail rations.
Not in the least perturbed my Thrall hosts gorged themselves messily on the
recently slain Spotted Erd, while I stole away with a chunk and roasted it
Several beast are commonly slain for food by the highly proficient Thrall
hunters, these being the Spotted Erd (a smaller, swamp-dwelling variety of the
Common Erd), as well as numerous varieties of swamp-dwelling rodent and serpis.
The blood of a fresh kill is favoured as a refreshing drink, and the bones are
cracked open in order to devour the marrow.
Having absolutely no interest or desire to farm or raise food, or prepare and
cook food, the Thralls looked with a mixture of curiosity and disgust at my
frazzled hunk of Erd. To quote Captain Karnn, 'How can you eat food that doesnt
taste of life?.
It was when they returned from a victorious hunt that I learnt of another,
albeit less common meat in the Tazian diet...
When presented with a bloodied lump of meat (this time thoughtfully roasted by
my hosts) I found it sweet-tasting, albeit with a slightly bitter tang (which I
was informed is the blood). After happily tucking into a second helping I
finally had the curiosity to ask what the peculiar meat was. Captain Karnn
calmly informed me it was his brother Kirnn. Bushes look slightly peculiar
after youve spent thirty minutes crouched over them.
Karnn later told me that Kirnn had been killed by a Skalanx while hunting and
had requested that he be consumed and thereby lend his strength to his
comrades. Thralls attach no stigma to this cannibalism and regard it as
preferable to simply rotting away. Dumbstruck, I crawled back to my now
familiar bush and spent the rest of the evening there. When in Taz, avoid
brightly coloured meat.
Queasy, unsteady and decidedly miserable I decided to drown my sorrow (and wash
away the after-taste) with the Thralls as they sat at the camp fire. Gratefully
taking an iron mug I thoughtlessly guzzled, only to howl as my mouth was singed
and magma surged down my throat. I awoke several hours later, sprawled on my
back with several concerned looking Thralls peering down at me. Tazian Fire-Ale
(for such was the nature of the magma) is brilliant crimson in colour and
ignited prior to drinking. It inflicts a powerful burning sensation when drunk
and is one of the most potent alcoholic beverages in Talislanta. Unless you
have the iron constitution and toughness of a Thrall you drink it at your own
Vardune is a culinary jewel if your tastes veer towards the vegetarian. The
extremely proficient Arduan Botanomancers and Horticulturalists have been able
to create numerous unique strains of plant, all carefully tailored to interact,
rather than alter, the local environment. All shapes, colours, sizes and
flavours of fruit, nut and vegetable can be found here, and several
enterprising Botanomancers even create custom fruit to order in any size, shape
or flavour the customer desires. Such one-off creations are made without the
ability to propagate however. The Ardua have even imparted certain special
qualities to some of their produce, an example of which is the Red Hairy Blum
Fruit with its reduced rate of spoilage. Every plant from every corner of
Talislanta can be found somewhere in Vardune, and if it is edible they eat it.
Primarily vegetarian, the Ardua eat most of their produce raw, their only meat
is the occasional boiled Giant Waterbug which is served as a delicacy and
centrepiece at feasts. Bright red when boiled, they have pulpy steaming
innards, and delicious white flesh. Quite why these avians do not eat them more
frequently is beyond me.
While it would be impossible to catalogue all the foodstuffs they produce, here
are some of their most notable and popular foodstuffs:
The Spicy Yim-Yam is an oblong fruit with a thick knobbly green rind. It has
pungent orange flesh which is used to create a delicious sweet and spicy
liqueur. Goa Nuts are plentiful pebble-sized nuts, with easily cracked shells,
that form the bulk rations of Arduan Scouts. The Pepper Melon is a distinctive
fruit with a thick black rind and distinctive dark-red flesh. Its outer flesh
is sweet but gets increasingly hot as it nears the seed-filled centre. The tiny
black seeds are often ground up for use in cooking. The extremely popular Red
Hairy Blum Fruit is a very common export, and is notable for its red felt-like
skin, conical shape, and sweet, sharp pulp. Leme with their long, thin,
tapering yellow appearance are rarely eaten as a stand alone dish, but their
extremely sharp juice is often mixed with pulped Spicy Yim-Yam to create a
delicious sweet and sour sauce popular in Cymril.
Ground fruit rinds are used in many recipes, and the spices produced in Vardune
are countless. Sadly, the same cannot be said of their beverages.
While the Ardua do drink fruit juices, their main two drinks are water (how
dull) and the peculiar Vinesap. Vinesap is the most popular Arduan drink and is
an acquired taste at best. Thick, syrupy and sweet, this milky-green drink is
fermented from the sap of the Viridia, and many Ardua are raised on it. This
increases the already belligerent behaviour of the Blue Ardua, so if you see
one over-indulging give her a wide berth.
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