Swords of Lastwall
Eating in Lastwall
The fare in most upcountry inns, of course, differs little from what can be had in nearby farmhouse kitchens. Stew dominated by rabbit, groundfowl, and the berries and herbs, and greens that can be picked locally is common. Such meals are usually augmented by a small beer, crusty sourdough loaves, and when local hunting or trapping is good, a joint of boar or bear (or several fowl or rabbits) doused in its own gravy. Winter, of course, causes fare to be scarce for all. Fresh fruit and fieldings can be had only by those with much coin and access to an open port.
But what of the other seasons? What of the market stalls in many towns and crossroad hamlets, or the shops in “way towns” and all larger cities?
Provender that travels and is sold in the open must be kept from spoilage. Only fruit and fieldings can be sold loose or in punnets. Game and fish are often smoked and sold whole, usually dressed (skinned, plucked, and beheaded), or salted away in hand-kegs of brine. Joints are treated much the same way or are made into sausages. Other foods are usually sold by the stonebolt.
Some stonebolts hold about as much as a clenched fist, but more often are about the size of a man’s head. They are popular with merchants for the transport, sale, and storage of gravies, cooking fat (usually goose, boar, or goat), cheese, pickles (including pickled eggs, fieldings, and offal, olives stews and sauces.
The selection on offer is also influenced by local staples that always sell reliably. In the case of a stall near Vellumis, the local staples are rabbit, venison steaks, and smoked partridge.
- Hanging whole: rabbits, pheasant, ducks, quail, bustards, and partridge.
- Sold from the slab (cut to order) or from under the hoods on the stall counter: venison, goat meat, rabbit pie, pheasant pie, smoked slake, elk, lamb quarters, lambs’ kidneys, boar tails and trotters (the rest had become sausages), duck-liver sausages, and upcountry dark sausages (highly spiced red-meat sausages of whatever game choppings could be had, minced into a base of boar). Groundsnake (chopped and fried chunks of edible snake); darkback skewers (diced, fried rodents consisting mainly of rats and voles, but also of mice and sometimes weasels, mink, and similar hunters that are run onto a skewer with onion), half a dozen cheeses, and the eggs of ducks, geese, hens, and pheasant (these last have olive green shells and a slightly stronger flavor than hens’ eggs). Hand-tarts are also available.
- Hand-tarts, named purely for their fit-in-the-hand size, are always savory meat-and-pastry tarts, usually of[bustard and game cooked with gooseberries and strips of boar-fat (salt pork bacon).
- In punnets are dried apricots, sweet dried mulberries, leeks, garlic, river clams, crayfish, and blynndurs.
- In stonebolts: fiery pickled “emerald eyes” – a mixture of diced squid, snails, mussels, and a grunion; local “flame in the belly” or red-pepper jelly, a sweet peach conserve made hot with a dash of zzar and powdered spices; thargur (a dessert syrup of walnuts and diced apples embedded in molasses); and a variety of sauces imported from afar that consist of both mustard-dominated soured wine ladlings and “manyfruit” jellies.
- From the open barrel: dried marrado beans from the south, dried peas, and dates.
- Fieldings are largely absent from these types of stalls because such can be bought more cheaply and in bulk from nearby farmers.
Often stall keepers keep a sling and stones close at hand, not only to discourage would-be thieves but also to down birds seeking to scavenge from their takings. Felled birds end up in the “simmer pot” hooked over a fire behind the stall in all but the hottest weather, which attracts customers with its aroma. The stallkeeper will sell ladlefuls of his herb-rich ster – customers return the wooden dipper as soon as they’ve consumed its contents – for a copper each. Most such stalls keep two such pots on the go, periodically switching the one over the flames with one cooling on a side-trivet from which customers are served, so as to keep scaldings to a minimum.