Food, Famine & Sacrifice

From: John Hughes (
Date: Sun 05 Mar 2000 - 17:01:56 EET

The irrepressible! Gary Switzer:

(aussies will get the reference, and know exactly what sort of accent to
say it in. Don't worry Gary, its complimentary.)


>More on Famine: For the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass there is
>Food and there is food. Food being mainly the 3 "B's" of
>Beer, Bread and Beef, with a grudging nod to Mutton.
>.... if a man can't serve his family a proper
>meal of Dark Beer, Brown Bread and Boiled Beef he can
>hardly look them, or the neighbors, in the eye and clearly
>starvation is in the offing.

Beef, in my ever so 'umble opinion, is a bit of a luxury for most
Heortlings. Cattle are far too valuable to eat as a staple, (KODP players
will know exactly what I mean), and beef is usually reserved for
(political) inter-clan feasts and other special occasions. *Perhaps*, like

the greeks and most other ancient civilisations, the Heortlings have also
pulled a swifty on the gods regarding sacrifice, so that Orlanth gets the
smell and we get the yums yums. (Still thinking that one through). In which
case, beef gets served up at sacrifices as well. (Barbara Enhrenreich has a
fascinating chapter on sacrifice in *blood rites*, her examination of the
whys and wherefores of warfare).

Bread is most certainly a staple, along with grain porridge ('frumenty' or
'pottage'). Beer (it's technically ale) as well.

Rather than rattle on, here's an excerpt from a much longer piece I once
posted on food, drink, animals and plants of the Far Place. It is
Tovataros-centric, but most would be applicable to the other tribes of
Sartar and the Far Place.



Their food is simple, wild fruits, fresh game and curdled milk.
Jaxarte Whyded.

Hunting, fishing and gathering are as important as farming as a source of
daily food. There is little trade in foodstuffs; most steads are isolated
and self-contained.


Small game, fish and grain porridge (frumenty or pottage) are the staple
foods. Tubers, gourds, apples, plums, cherries, berries and nuts are
plentiful. Cabbage and turnips are the staple potherbs; other staple
vegetables include peas, beans, leeks, onions, garlic and chebny, a wild
mountain lettuce.

The most common food is a variation on 'pottage'; a soup or stew made from
barley, linseed, knotweed and other plants, grains and vegetables,
thickened till it is almost solid. Meat or fish might be added, or sheep's
milk and honey to sweeten it.

'Frumenty' is grain porridge. Grind some wheat, fan it out and wash it
clean. Then boil until tender and brown.

'Green porray' is a mash of green vegetables flavoured with herbs. 'Peas
pottage' is made exclusively from mashed peas and salt.

'White porray' is a pottage made from leeks, and is a common winter food.

Mutton stew is a common favourite, flavoured with wine, vinegar, or ale and

'Collop' is bacon or pork strips with an egg batter.

White bread is rare; brown rye bread is most common. Mixed grain breads are
called 'maislin'. Beans, peas and even (in times of famine) acorns are used
to make bread.

'Rockwrong' or 'Lunar biscuit' is baked and dried until it is rock-hard. It
is rumoured to keep for up to fifty years.

Cheese is consumed in great amounts. It is hard, strongly flavoured, and
often full of hair and maggots.

In the warmer months, pike of up to 20 kg are caught regularly. Roaches
average 2 kg, dace 1 kg, perch 3 kg and chub 4 kg. The entire clan takes to
the mountain streams when the salmon run begins in Sea Season.

'Stockfish' is salted air-dried fish. Stockfish will keep for years, but it
needs to be beaten with a hammer, soaked for hours and then boiled before
it can be eaten. It is only seen at the end of winter when food is becoming

In winter, pickled pork, bacon and other salted meats are often the only
meat available.

Salads are made of parsley, chebny (wild lettuce), sage, garlic, spring
onions, leeks, bouage, mint, fennel, cresses, rue, purslane and rosemary.

Vegetable oils are produced from linseed and false flax.


Water is sometimes too dirty and dangerous to drink; buttermilk, milk,
cider, beer or wine are the staple drinks.

Beer is brewed with barley and spiced with herbs. The use of hops is still
unknown. Beer (beor) is sweet, low-alcohol, and with a *very* solid
texture. (Most adults possess a drinking seive-spoon worn around the neck:
they can be highly ornate.) Because of the lack of refrigeration, it is
drunk very fresh. (Technically, its not beer, but ale, as it is
top-fermented and not lagered - thanks Martin!).

Powerful berry wines and mead are produced at most steads, as is pear and
apple cider. Some wine is imported from the south.

'Crimpy' and 'scrumpy' are sweet honeyed meads.

'Almond milk' is a Lunar drink that is gaining in popularity; a mixture of
wine, ground almonds and honey.

'Cammy' is fermented mare's milk served with lumps of butter. It is
strongly associated with Elmali ceremonial.

'Hippocras' is mulled spiced wine.

Several clans forbid the consumption or importation of foreign wines,
believing that they sap stamina and endurance. It is not a northern custom
to water wine.

Never whistle while drinking cider; you may summon up a frivolous wind.


Favourite foods include beef (which is usually reserved for ceremonial
consumption or as a sign of special honour), roast game and venison, game
birds, giant snails, wine with honey, honeybread, rivershell, roll mops,
giant insects, river oysters, (imported) peaches, eggs, truffles,
mushrooms, fungi, black bread, ginger and cinnamon bread, lizardfish served
with roe, sticklepick, skewered locusts, cheese and curd, apple fritters,
and corncake.

Spit roast joints of beef are a special treat. Mutton and pork are more
common, but not highly thought of. (There is considerably less saturated
fat in these free range meats than in modern cuts. The animals are lean and
rangey, so the proportion of protein to fat is three to one.)

Certain meat joints are reserved as the thanes portion to be consumed by
leaders and warriors. Bone marrow is very popular and prestigious, as it
contains the spiritual essence of an animal.

Poultry is also a luxury food, often reserved for the old or those
recuperating from wounds or disease.

Several Tarshite Solar foods have limited acceptance. 'Giant' snails (about
15 cm long) are fattened on milk. Dabray Doormice are force-fed on nuts in
specially made clay pots with holes.

Sticklepick or blackburn is a chunky fish sauce made from the gills, blood
and intestines of fish, whole small fish, salt, herbs and vinegar. It is
left to liquefy for two or three months. Sticklepick is one of Far Point's
most renowned exports.

Strawberries and bilberries are a summer treat.

'Parfort' consists of nuts and dried fruit pressed into a round flat cake.
It is popular amongst travellers.


Food is usually served on a trencher; a round flat piece of bread that
serves as a plate. On formal occasions, one should not eat one's trencher.

Spoons, like most domestic utensils, are carved at the steads from beech wood.

To up-end one's trencher is a bad omen. To deliberately do this to a fellow
is a deadly insult that immediately initiates a bareblade fight.

You must never cook or eat a crop in view of a field. The plant spirits
must not know their coming fate.



>Everyone *knows* that children
>up in Far Point slump hollow-eyed beside the roads begging
>passing travellers for a crust of honest rye bread or a bowl
>of thin gruel, while wicked Lunars weaken their Moral Fiber
>tempting them with Foreign Vittles, etc, etc...

If its roads that means the lowland Sharl Plains, and that means Solars. :)
A cruel and nasty bunch, those Princeros: no wonder their children are
forced to beg by the roadside. I've personally never seen a vittle, but my
grandfather netted one once in the Great Hunt.

>I'm not sure why the Culbrea need to live one
>bad harvest from Famine. Now certainly an individual stead
>or tula can be cursed for proper mythic reasons (and provide
>scenario hooks as a result) so that the crops don't come in,
>but I think the baseline for Dragon Pass food production is,
>due to the availability of magical assistance, significantly
>higher than a RW equivalent.

Given all the 'Bless Crop' magical assistance, there's certainly a case for
bountiful food production, even given the added power of malign forces
acting against your fields (Ice, Drought, Blight, Still Air, Chaos,
Disease, King Rabbit's Nibble Quest, Giant Grasssssshoppers out of Dagori
etc. etc.). It's one of those aspects of a magical world that you could
easily argue either way. However both the Genertela book amd KODP focus on
the reality of food shortages among the Heortlings.

In my own campaign, famine is significant because the winds have ceased to
blow and the rains have gone funny: it's an aspect of the alleged
'imprisonment' of Orlanth.

It's also a historic reality. Dipping into the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle -

975 Came a very great famine...

976 Here in this year was a very great famine in the English race...

986 Here the great pestilence among cattle first came to England.

"What makes the bitter sweet?", asks Alcuin. The answer to his riddle,
"Hunger". In one Anglo-Saxon law code, in times of famine a father could
sell children under seven into tralldom, and infanticide was not held a
crime. Bede descibes mass suicide pacts and even reports cannibalism.

The rhythmn of feasting and fasting (which made a virtue of necessity) was
common till very recent times.


Let me recommend a wonderful little source book I've discovered (at the
front of the bookstore for once, shock horror, it's actually a best
seller). For the price of a couple of Macca meals you can pick up "The Year
1000" by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger. It focusses on daily life in
Anglo Saxon England in the 10th and early 11th century, and its chatty, a
joy to read and full of insights just perfect for the heortlanders among
us. A good index and bibliography add to the value.



>Innana/Ishtar is not a complex goddess. She's very
>straightforward and simple.

I know what you mean in context Andrew, but in these circles a statement
like that might be considered a troll. :)

The reason for Innana's spontaneous abandonment of the Great Above to
descend to the Great Below, stripping away all her powers, all the 'me'
hard-won from Enki, to surrender to her dark sister Erishkegal (who hung
her like a piece of meat from a hook) is one that puzzled and eluded me for
years, till I connected her with Sedenya.

Last time Greg was in Oztralia, Innana was very much on his mind, as he had
just used the myth as the model for his 'Descent of the Red Goddess'. On
one of our quieter evenings we played him and some of the Seattle folk
(heys Neil, Pam!) our tape of Diane Wolstein performing the Innana cycle.

In itself and as the model for the descent of the red moon, its as complex
as they come.

Sunday Mornings. Coffee, scones, Digest.


___________________________________________________________ John Hughes

 ... a flying arrow, a crashing wave, night old ice,
a coiled snake, a bride's bed talk, a broken sword,
the play of bears, a king's son.

                                           Havamal 86.


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