Jason Malone
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What Ardonn Eats

What Ardonn Eats

Feb 19, 2024

Originally published on August 10th, 2020 on talesfromardonn.com

A chapter on the Ardish diet and food culture, from ‘The Land & People of Ardonn’ by Martin Southborn.

Throughout my travels around the beautiful land of Ardonn, I have had the pleasure of sampling some of this kingdom’s finest dishes. One might even say I know more about the food and drink of Ardonn than the people of this country themselves.

In any case, Ardonn has a somewhat diverse food culture, divided by both region and caste. Of course, this diversity could be observed almost everywhere throughout the World, but in Ardonn the variety of climates and regional cultures make for a colourful array of cuisines.

Let us start, then, with the staples of Ardish diet. No matter where you wander in this land, you are certain to find vast rolling fields of wheat, barley, and oats. Wheat seems to be the most common crop, and it is often ground into flour and then baked into bread. Most Ardish bread is plain, though the nobility seem to enjoy their bread baked into pretty shapes, sometimes glazed with honey. The folk in the south-east of Ardonn where the orchards are most numerous tend to mix bits of fruit into their bread, giving it a somewhat sweeter taste.

Oats seem to be the most despised of the three staple grains of Ardonn. The nobility in particular seem to regard oats with disgust, preferring wheat or barley, and the peasantry eat them with reluctance. Only the Ardish horses seem to enjoy them. One exception to this is in Beglen, however – in the grape country, both the upper and lower castes love oatcakes baked with honey and the dried grapes that were deemed unfit to be made into wine. These cakes can be found everywhere in Beglen during the grape-harvest festivals.

One thing the Ardish love in particular is pie. A slave girl is considered a disgrace to her ancestors if she cannot cook a pie in the tradition of her particular region, and in some parts of Ardonn the noblemen are expected to personally acquire the filling for the pie consumed on the first day of each month. The filling varies from place to place, but those north of the Aed River tend to prefer meat pies, while those to the south prefer sweet fruit or berry fillings.

The consumption of meat takes on an almost sacred character to the Ardish. A noble feast will always contain meat, and even the peasants will consume as much fish, fowl, and small game as possible. A meatless diet is considered uncultured – even impious for women – and is seen as something for only the lowest of slaves. Meat is almost always roasted or baked into a pie, though the northern regions will sometimes fry it in butter.

Beef and pork are perhaps the most popular meat in Ardonn, though seaside folk mainly eat fish. Fowl and small game like rabbit are typically peasant meats while larger wild game is enjoyed by the nobility, along with horse meat on significant occasions. The one meat the Ardish have a dislike for is lamb and mutton, which they see as dirty. This is fed only to the dogs or to slaves. When slaughtering an animal, the Ardish ensure little goes to waste, and will even go so far as to consume the innards of the beast – the taste for which I have not yet acquired!

To flavour their food, the Ardish will often employ salt and a variety of native herbs. Wealthier folk will sometimes use imported spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon, though this is rare. Ardish women especially are experts at selecting the right herbs at the perfect quantities for each meal, often grown right outside their doorstep.

The result is a delicious meal that both soothes and excites the tongue, while not overpowering one’s senses to avoid either gluttony or disgust. Too much flavour offends them, thus the Ardish are revolted by garlic and even the scent is viewed as an insult. Those who consume garlic must undergo a ritual bathing in order to cleanse themselves, and to bring the plant into a temple is punishable by death.

When it comes to quenching their thirst, the Ardish love their drink and see no issue with intoxication. Beer and ale are popular all across the kingdom, made from their native barley, and are enjoyed by both peasant and nobleman alike.

Wine is also popular among the nobility, but it is expensive, as most wine is imported from afar. In Beglen, however, wine is cheaper as those folk have somehow managed to grow grapes in that cool climate. In the south-east cider is a staple drink (though the northerners believe it tastes like urine), and in the south-western regions mead seems to be most popular among the higher castes.

These are only a few insights into Ardish food culture, but if one wishes to know more, I recommend visiting this rich and vibrant country and witnessing its fine cuisine for yourself. And to you, I say – as they sometimes do in Ardonn – may your heart always be cheery, and your belly always full!

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