A Gastronauts Guide to Talislanta (Travellers Edition)

Chapter II
- The Seven Ways of Wonder -

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.

On the Dainty Dishes of Astar
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 completely unfair.
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 simple-minded folk.
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 appalling thought.

The Enchanted Experience that is Cymril
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 appetiser.
We have applied our love of magic to every facet of our lives, and cuisine is no exception.
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 on command.
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.

The Deep Dishes of Durne
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 greatest mention.
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 neighbouring kingdoms.
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 dried.
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.

The Miserly Menu of the Kasmir
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.

The Savouries of Sindar
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?
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.

The Taste of Taz
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 myself.
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 peril.

The Varied Vittles of Vardune
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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