Monday, April 4, 2011
C is for Cuisine
Everyone has to eat, even in a fantasy world. From the abundant descriptions of feasting in Redwall Abbey to the simple coney stew that Sam made for Frodo on the road to Mordor, which types of food your characters eat can say a lot about the world in which they live. The food available to your characters depends on the climate and geography of your world as well as things like their social status.
The cuisine of Ancient Egypt was pretty limited by the dynastic period because of the changing climate. Much of the land's game had been hunted out by that time and the increasing dryness meant that there was less that could successfully be grown. Before the dynastic period, however, the land was much more lush and food more plentiful. For various reasons, I've decided to base my fantasy Egypt, Akhet, on a sort of mid-way point between the lush, predynastic Egypt and the dryer, desert Egypt most people are familiar with. This means that I'm not quite as limited when it comes to foodstuffs.
The main staples of the Egyptian diet were bread (made from emmer wheat) and beer. That's beer to eat (a thick, nutritious beer full of solids that was much like gruel) as well as beer to drink. Common vegetables included scallions, garlic, lettuce and celery, as well as various tubers and legumes. Common fruit included dates, figs, grapes, and palm nuts. Honey was the most commonly used sweetener, but was expensive. Carob was a cheaper alternative. Meat was obtained from various poultry such as partridge, quail, ducks and geese as well as domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep goats and pigs and also fish. Though beef was mostly only available to royalty, there is evidence that the workers who built the Giza pyramids were fed beef everyday. Spices used were dill, fenugreek, parsley, thyme and pepper. In addition to beer, water from wells or the river was a common drink and to a much lesser extent milk and wine from grapes, dates and figs were available.
This then is the list of food staples I will be drawing from for my world. My main characters are resident priests and priestesses of the most rich and powerful temple in the land so are not limited to the diet of the poor. In fact, since priests took their meals from the food that had been offered everyday to the gods of the temple, they would be eating the best that the land has to offer. (Maybe that's why there are stories of people killing for positions as a temple priest.)
Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we will journey together into the mystical landscape of Duat, the egyptian underworld and one of the main settings of my WIP.
P.S. C is also for Corwin! This is what my new baby boy thinks of the outside world: