Endless Blue – Week 04 – Cooking without Fire   Leave a comment

Biology

Cooking Without Fire

Most animals of the world can eat their meals raw, be it chewing up plant matter or gulping down other animals in parts or in whole. Humans are different, however. While we can eat many things raw – such as salads and sushi – we actually thrive better on cooked foods – like potatoes or roasts. Cooked meat is easier for the body to process the vital proteins and vitamins necessary in the large dietary intake required for development of the brain. But in a world where water surrounds you everywhere, you cannot light a match and set the campfire necessary to cook a pot of stew or roast a coney. Further, our smaller jaws, mix of teeth, and narrow larynges make swallowing things whole difficult at best and dangerous at worst. And even if such harder foods could be swallowed, our dedicated digestive system is ill prepared to efficiently break these hardy products down into usable bits we can easily assimilate.

Where as we cultivated fire, the civilizations of Elqua instead developed a method of food preparation based more directly on chemistry than as a result of physics. Cooking produces an irreversible change in food with the intention of making it both easier to digest and more palatable to the consumer. Raw meat changes from red to brown when baked, and the transparent whites of an egg turn opaque after it is cooked. It was discovered that foods immersed in citric acids become denatured in much the same manner as normal cooking – essentially becoming pickled in a cooking process independent of heat. This way the foods are sterilized from bacterial infection and also preserved for storage (an essential need for civilization to flourish) just as their temperature-processed parallels become with normal cooking. With high-calorie food transformed into a state that is easier to masticate, we spend less calories chewing cooked food rather than raw. Spending less energy collecting energy means more can be spent else were, giving us a surplus of caloric energy to devote to cultural growth.

One of the drawbacks of chemical cooking is one of time – it takes hours for a meal to finish “cooking” before it reaches its most edible state. In our own world, cuisine such as ceviche is prepared via citric fruits like lime, but require significant lengths of time for the food to marinate – from a little as four hours to as long as overnight – to allow the chemical process the opportunity to permeate the meal. As a result, mealtime has become an event that must be planned around to such a degree that it is intimately ingrained into society. So much so, that cooking has become the basis of time measurement in zones of Elqua’s ocean depths where light cannot penetrate.

Another drawback to cooking is again the medium in which it is prepared. Water currents are constantly moving, be they gentle trickles or dangerous torrents. Biting into a plant or animal breaks the outer skin and allows its inner fluids to escape, bleeding into the surrounding water that is dragged along with the flow. The very act of eating leaves traces of food in the currents that can be carried for long distance and still be picked up by predators and prey with tracescent. With an animal’s attention piqued, it will not be long before the individuals that just recently fed may themselves become a meal for something else.

In terms of the D20 rules set, Alchemy replaces Craft (cooking) as the skill to denature food. Advances in alchemy led to the development of consumable catalysts that aid and speed up this process, called kelaguen, and is a vital portion of the culinist character class’ abilities.

Acari
      One of the rare contributions to modern society by the undeveloped races (the northern Locanth and Kouto), the acari is an aquatic vine that produces a grayish fruit with a translucent, rubbery skin and gelatinous insides. While the melon fruit possesses a poor, gruel-like taste, the plant’s benefit stems from an innate ability to absorb nutrients that will affect the pulp of the fruit. It’s this ability that makes the acari fruit indispensable to culinists. Through alchemical and agricultural means, nutrients can be mixed into the fruit pulp, providing a storage medium for later consumption.
A mer trader is given credit for its discovery, but the truth is he procured it by trading with the primitive races, which had used it for millennia as a luxury indulgence. It flourishes best in the shore due to the unfiltered sunlight, but can also grow (albeit, with tougher consistency fruit) around sources of heat such as the thermal vents of the Lumulus Basin.


Ricelqua

     The food staple of the world, ricelqua is a hardy, short plant that produces a grain full of vital nutrients. However, the plant can only grow in shore areas, where sunlight can shine down almost directly on the broad, lily-like leaves that float just beneath the surface of the water. With its root system deeply entrenched in the shallows’ soil, it’s supple stalk uncoils upward and spreads it’s broad leaves just below breaking the surface. The crop will sway in a mesmerizing pattern as the gentle action of the tides sweep the plants back and forth.

Ricelqua requires little in the way of active cultivation other than protection of incursive fauna until harvest time a scant three to four months after planting or ratooning. This makes ricelqua farming a dangerous endeavor, as predation by surface abominations becomes a significant threat. So shallow are the waters in a ricelqua field that there is barely enough room for a mer to swim, with is belly along the fertile loam and his back skimming the water’s edge, that they are vulnerable to any passing land-based predator that turns it’s attention to the paddy.

Refinement of ricelqua produces a mash with alcoholic properties. It can be chewed raw for a slight inebriation (though this is considered extremely crude in many elitist circles), or further refined and used as a base ingredient for various intoxicating acari-based concoctions. Subsequent aging of these alcoholic fruit can bring out exotic flavors, but storage and protection of these luxuries is the province of the affluent.

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