(PLEASE NOTE: Elturian civilized creatures have specialized dietary systems, which allow them to eat food that would typically be unhealthy or even deadly to their mundane counterparts. Never, ever feed an animal any food that is not approved by a certified veterinarian. This is a work of fiction, after all.)
This is by far Ireen’s favorite subject. Can you smell the fresh-baked bread and bubbling sauces from here?
Cuisine and Community
Themble is a highly agriculturally-based society, and because of this, food plays an important part in daily life. Socialization often takes part around a meal, where friends and family gossip about the latest happenings over a cup of pinot grigio. For most households, the kitchen table is the hub for all family life.
Members of the court are often judged on the meals they serve and the reputation of their chefs, even the size of their kitchens. Themblise cuisine is wide and varied, due to both the fertile landscape and the creatures that live in it. Making meals that satisfy both herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores can be a challenge, let alone the meal sizes needed for everything from a field mouse to a dragon.
Most families will have a compost bucket where they collect scraps to donate to the Raviekan priests for the community gardens. These gardens grow fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as feed mundane chickens, for meals given to the impoverished.
Themblise do not have utensils beyond those made specifically for cooking. Since so much of the population only has paws or hooves or claws, spoons, forks, and knives are not used for eating. Mugs do not have handles, but are made out of a thicker ceramic than a cup. Glasses meant for wine do not have stems. In the case of humans and therios, everything is eaten with the fingers while soup is raised to the lips in a bowl and sipped. Every creature eats their food from a properly sized container. In Themblise culture, it is polite to belch after eating, as a sign of good food. Not talking during mealtime is considered rude, unless there is a pleasant smile of contentment.
Recipes in Themble are designed to have a high degree of flavor while still maintaining a degree of simplicity. Olives, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and fruits such as lemons, oranges, and apples play a large role in most dishes. Herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, and peppercorns are the go-to seasoning. Omnivores and carnivores have a large variety of seafood to choose from, the most popular being tuna for its low price, as well as beef, pork, chicken, and (in the north) venison. As per moral and legal laws in all Themblise monarchies across the ages, only mundanes can be eaten. This is strictly enforced. There are enough different kinds of cheese, wine, bread, and pastries in Themble to fill multiple books.
Below are different meals that might be eaten at different times of the day. These are just examples, as Themblise eat a much larger variety of food. At the end of this article are some of the references that I have drawn inspiration from over the years, even if I have not actually attempted the all of the recipes myself (or completed them successfully).
Typically eaten after the most basic morning chores are finished (such as waking up the fire, feeding the mundane animals, ect.) – Usually eaten around 6:00am-7:00am.
~ Flatbread or a soft bread with oil and balsamic vinegar, or with honey, or jam
~ Dark bread with butter
~ Warm raisin buns with butter
~ Oatmeal with spices
~ Eggs with mushrooms, spinach, cheese, and any other desired seasonings
~ Flavorful sausage, sometimes with eggs and flatbread on the side
~ Various pastries with berries (for the wealthy)
Drinks: Water, fruit juice if affordable, warmed milk with spices or honey, hot tea
A meal designed to get a hard worker through the day – Typically eaten around 11:00am to noon.
~ Marinated fennel, with pickling onions and garlic
~ Mussel and potato salad with green onions, and a vinaigrette made from finely chopped olives, capers, and olive oil
~ Vegetable and basil soup
~ Mixed salad of young dandelion leaves, arugula, and a mixture of available lettuce, with hints of chervil, watercress, purslane, and chicory
~ Cold tomato soup (gazpacho), often served with bread
~ Squid salad with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper
~ Lamb seasoned with salt, pepper, and sprigs of rosemary
~ Sardines with a carrot, onion, garlic marinade
~ Fish soup (with the day’s catch!), or alternatively, mussel or crab soup
~ Anchovy and onion tart
~ Grilled shrimp with butter and a spicy pepper sauce
~ Raw sea urchins with a few drops of lemon juice
~ Tuna salad with bread and radishes
~ Deviled lamb kidneys with crusty bread
~ Summer tomatoes with burrata, served with grilled bread
~ Pork sweetbreads
~ Chick pea salad
~ Stuffed tomatoes and zucchini
~ Crawfish with court bouillon
~ Tuna with artichokes
~ Grilled fish of the day, often with roasted vegetables on the side
~ Country sausage with lentils and wilted greens
~ Grilled beef and/or chicken with pepper seasoning
Drinks: Wine, beer, chilled tea, fruit juice, milk, water
Themblise highly value hospitality. When a visitor arrives, it is polite to offer one’s guest a plate of nibbles. These may include:
~ Oysters, either raw or with lemon and sauces
~ Stuffed clams with cheese, garlic, and parsley
~ Fried, stuffed zucchini flowers
~ Fresh fruit or vegetables
~ Small slices of bread
~ Dried fruits, especially raisins
~ Slices of dried meat
~ A variety of hard and soft cheeses.
~ Dips, such as jams, preserves, mustard, pesto, and hummus.
Drinks: Tea, watered down wine, a light beer, juice, water. Whatever is on hand.
The heaviest meal of the day – Usually eaten around 5:00pm, although can be eaten anytime around 4:00pm-6:00pm. Wealthy households may have three or more courses.
~ Beef, fish, chicken, vegetable stews (if you’ve got it, throw it in the pot.)
~ Stuffed onions with veal
~ Poached bass with white butter sauce
~ Braised beef
~ Chicken with lemon sauce
~ Seared tuna with arugula salad
~ Potato and zucchini soup with mint
~ Roasted sea bass with rosemary, pine nuts, and raisins
~ Porcini mushrooms in cream
~ Sauteed steak with red wine sauce
~ Smoked salmon pâté on grilled bread, topped with pickled onions
~ Baked quails in bread parsels
~ Vinegar-poached sturgeon with thyme-butter sauce
~ Braised veal chops with ham and parsley dressing
~ Stuffed chicken with cheese and breadcrumbs
~ Anchovy cake
~ Sauteed chicken with shallots and artichoke hearts
~ Scallops with mushrooms in a white wine sauce
~ Baked fish with spinach stuffing.
~ Lettuce leaves stuffed with cheese and vegetables in a bean sauce
~ Duck sauteed with onion, carrot, and celery
~ Field greens with balsamic vinegar
~ Lobster simmered with wine, tomatoes, and herbs
~ Rabbit in tomato and wine sauce
~ Sauteed turnip tops
~ Sea bass with basil butter
~ Octopus with garlic sauce
~ Stuffed mussels
~ Celery and black truffle salad
~ Salt cod with chickpeas
~ Shallot and pancetta-stuffed beef in red wine-lavender sauce
~ Oysters with lemon, dark bread, cold butter, and shallot pepper sauce.
Drinks: Wine is the most popular choice. Beer, however, is acceptable with the commonfolk, but frowned upon for dinner by the courts. Whiskey is permissible, if sipped. Juice and water are uncommon.
– A light, sweet snack eaten about an hour after dinner, while relaxing from a hard day at work
~ Berries and cream
~ Raisin bread with butter, cream cheese, or frosting
~ Apple galettes (check out Sonoma in the References section to learn how to make these yourself! It’s Katie-proof)
~ Orange, almond, and olive oil cake
~ Peach and blackberry crisp
~ Honeyed peel and nut cake
~ Rice pudding with lemon and cinnamon
~ Fig cobbler
~ Toasted almond biscuits
~ Goat cheese crème brûlée
~ Bread pudding with mascarpone and almond sauce
~ Spiced pears baked in red wine, sugar, and cloves
~ Figs and gorgonzola with honey
~ Goat cheese with lavender honey
~ Almond cake
~ Fig tarts with lavender honey
~ Grilled peaches or pears
Drinks: Wine, milk, or fruit juice. Sometimes a harder alcohol like whiskey, if someone is daring.
– Something to ward off the stomach grumbles in between meals. Nibbles might be carried in a little ceramic dish with lid, or carefully tied into a piece of fabric for carrying around. When there are guests, it is rude not to offer them refreshments and a snack.
~ Olives, of a great variety
~ Cheese slices, of a great variety
~ Apple or orange slices
~ Grapes, raisins, and other berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries
~ Almonds and other nuts
~ Sliced meats, most often preserved, such as sliced dry sausage
~ Slices of bread
~ Pickled or raw vegetables, especially carrots
~ Cooked asparagus with prosciutto
Drinks: Water or a water-down wine is most often paired with a snack, although fruit juice, chilled tea, or beer is common too.
Cuisine in Themble is primarily inspired and based off of Italian (especially Tuscan), French Provencal, and coastal Spanish cuisine. However, inspiration has also been pulled from Sicily, coastal Portugal, Napa and Sonoma California, and experience I gained living in the agricultural (and heavily almond/olive based) Chico, California. Below are a number of references I used when creating Themblise cuisine and its aesthetic.
If you want to taste what Themblise cuisine tastes like, check your local library! Most of these books were picked up used at local bookstores or at thrift stores, none of the cookbooks besides Provence The Beautiful Cookbook and Anthony Bourdian’s books I found on purpose! Some of the references, such as Anthony Boudain’s incredible books, gave me inspiration for the inside of the kitchens, while others, such as Disney’s Ratatouille were the inspirations to make Ireen a chef in the first place. My childhood friend, a cook, gave me possibly the best advice towards writing a chef, which was: “All chefs have egos.”
I myself am no cook like Ireen. When I decided to have Ireen become a chef, I knew I needed to step up my own game. Before Ireen, I primarily ate nothing but Rice Krispies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and grilled cheese. I firmly go by the saying write what you want to know, so I began to teach myself how to cook. I cannot say that it has always been a smooth process by any stretch of the imagination, but I am skilled at a number of dishes nowadays! While I doubt that I will be able to make anyone ever feel like they are at home with my cooking like Ireen, at least I don’t have to worry about giving someone food poisoning with undercooked chicken anymore!
Alvaro’s Mamma Toscana: The Authentic Tuscan Cookbook by Alvaro Maccioni. ISBN: 1862052581
Italian Intermezzo: Recipes by Celebrated Italian Chefs by Sharon O’Connor. A part of the Menus and Music series. ISBN: 1883914221
Mediterraneo: Delicious Recipes from the Mediterranean by Clare Ferguson. ISBN: 9781841725703
Oysters: A Celebration in the Raw by Jeremy Sewall and Marion Lear Swaybill. ISBN: 9780789212498
Perfect Greek from Parragon Books. ISBN: 9781405488587
Provence The Beautiful Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from the Regions of Provence by Richard Olney. A part of the Beautiful Cookbook series. ISBN: 00002551543
Savoring the Wine Country by Meesha Halm and Dayna Macy. ISBN: 0006382878
Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes. ISBN: 1580084745 The apple galettes are to die for.
The Cooking of Provincial France by M.F.K. Fisher. ISBN: 0316262501
The Row 34 Cookbook: Stories and Recipes from a Neighborhood Oyster Bar by Jeremy Sewall with Erin Byers Murray. ISBN: 9780847869831
The Tra Vigne Cookbook: Seasons in the California Wine Country by Michael Chiarello. ISBN: 0811819868
The World Encyclopedia of Wine by Stuart Walton. ISBN: 0754824403
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. ISBN: 0060934913 This was the first Anthony Boudain book I had ever read. I had watched his television series since I was young, and I didn’t begin reading his books until a few months before he died. There are few books I have plowed through faster.
Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain. ISBN: 9780061718953
A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain. ISBN: 0060012781
The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin. ISBN: 0618444114
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson, illustrated by Annabel Lee. ISBN: 046502176X
The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. ISBN: 1439165645
The Hundred Foot Journey (film, 2014) by Dreamworks Studios. I watched the movie long before the book. While they are vastly different, they both have a heart to them I cannot help but enjoy.
Chef (film, 2014) written, co-produced, and directed by Jon Favreau.
Ratatouille (film, 2007) by Disney Pixar.
~Pinterest! My board Elturian Cooking provides lots of inspiration via photography, even if many of the recipes are not a good basis for Themblise food. Still, there is an aesthetic that I enjoy.