Food and Drink and Dogsland Part 1: a brief introduction to the idea.

With this humble blog entry, I will describe, as I am able, the food economy of my invented city, and propose a couple recipes.
What do people eat in your fantasy world? What do they drink? In our society, we have really lost touch with the seasons, and with availability of different crops in different regions. In pre-industrial societies, this was one of the most important questions, if not the driving thing that drives everything. Civilization, as we know it, is built upon a single thing: Agricultural Surplus. Everything in economics, everything in culture and society, is a direct product of the excess produce sold by farmers.

In pre-industrial societies, clean water wasn’t just difficult, it could be nearly impossible. Think of it like this: Boiling water could purify your water, but how much fuel does it take to boil that water? Where did the fuel come from? How long did it take to acquire that fuel?

Ergo, the most important question is food and drink.

Ergo, and with a fantasy world demarcated deeply by the drugs and drinks and cheap eats of a very dirty, semi-pre-industrial landscape, in Dogsland, I thought I would talk a little bit about climate and food, and propose a couple recipes to get started living in the city, as it is, so to speak.

Dogsland is rice country, with a bay and a swamp ringed with hills and low mountains. It is a swampy landscape, with monsoon-like rains. It is hot and wet and sticky. It is where cattle sink into the swamps. Apple trees would likely die, here. Cherries wouldn’t exist. Plums would be a challenge. Pears would succumb to fireblight and mold. Grapes, as we think of them, would likely die. Muscadines are more likely, or something like a muscadine.  Possumhaws, Mayhaws, and things like that are more likely.

Acorns are in the hills, and that’s an excellent food crop that we’ve mostly forgotten as a society, to our great detriment. Figs would probably like it. Citrus would do all right, maybe, but the heavy winter rains would make sure varieties that ripen in the winter would struggle. Valencias would probably be okay, so let’s stick with those. The heat also means that many conventional brewer’s yeasts wouldn’t work. We’d need something that can thrive in the heat to brew. Lagers are out of the question – with one exception that I will mention below – and even most ales can’t take the heat, and with a high water table, cellars are mostly out of the question.

Peppers can take it, too. Lotus greens, and okra would probably be all right. Beans, definitely, because beans are everywhere, all over the world, and an important food crop it is indeed.

Sheep would be present, as fullers are present, but these sheep were imported, and are kept north of the city where, presumably, the hills lift the delicate herd animals up above the worst of the sea level heat. They are also often shipped in from noble lands around the city. There’s enough trade going on that the wool could be shipped in to the fuller’s little district.

In the books, there is mention of meat and rice dishes, and many descriptions of meated breads. There’s “piss gin” which is rocket fuel, and little else, likely made with imported, dried juniper berries from the docks and local spices. There’s brandy, and I presume it is imported. There is sugar, because rice country also produces sugar cane and sorghum.

Right, so let’s do something with this knowledge. I homebrew. I have made homebrew with Dogsland in mind…

Let’s put together some recipes, shall we?

One recipe for each book, with the unique vision and perspective of each Dogsland book in mind.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Food and Drink and Dogsland Part 1: a brief introduction to the idea.

  1. Good piece. I'll admit I didn't get a “rice country” impression reading Dogsland in the first two books. Rice societies, if I recall correctly, tend to get some social dynamics that are quite different from wheat and maize societies.

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  2. It depends on how they get the floods, though. The rice societies of North America were mostly slave operations, by one name or another, until such a time as machines replaced meat for power.

    The rice societies of Bangladesh and Italy were not quite like the stereotypical rice society notion in China.

    As far as the city, itself, inside the sweltering port, the canals carried that idea around, and the maintenance of them, and how the people in power handled the floods was very important to the person on the street who knew only cheap grunt work in late medieval proto-factories.

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