Corned Beef & Cabbage: A Dwarven Feast?

With St. Patrick's Day nigh, we decided to cook a dwarven repast from Heroes' Feast: Corned Beef & Cabbage. It's also an opportunity to spotlight how different cultures express their identity through food in fantasy campaigns.

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Corned Beef & Culture​

It's worth pointing out that corned beef and cabbage is associated with St. Patrick's Day in the United States, but that's not necessarily the case everywhere. Cows weren't commonly bred for their meat in Ireland; that came later thanks to expanding British influence. In fact, the term "corned beef" is British:
The British invented the term “corned beef” in the 17th century to describe the size of the salt crystals used to cure the meat, the size of corn kernels. After the Cattle Acts, salt was the main reason Ireland became the hub for corned beef. Ireland’s salt tax was almost 1/10 that of England’s and could import the highest quality at an inexpensive price. With the large quantities of cattle and high quality of salt, Irish corned beef was the best on the market. It didn’t take long for Ireland to be supplying Europe and the Americas with its wares.
As you might imagine, tastes have changed considerably since then. Corned beef in the U.S. is actually made from brisket, a kosher cut of meat from the front of the cow. Because brisket is a tougher cut, the cooking process changes the flavor of the meat considerably to something much more tender than its predecessor. Heroes' Feast specifically recommends brisket for its recipe.

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Fantasy Beef & Culture​

Heroes' Feast doesn't have much to say about the recipe other than it's associated with dwarves:
From the mines of the Ironroot Mountains to the halls of the Iron Hills, this savory winter repast is a favorite of dwarves everywhere. Hungry miners will blush pinker than the beef itself when their noses catch the distinct scent of coriander, allspice, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and red pepper flakes wafting from a full-to-the-brim cauldron. Served in a light, tangy broth with generous helpings of boiled cabbage and doused in vinegar, this dish is sure to satisfy the sale cravings of even the saltiest dwarves (just as long as you don't forget the ale).
The recipe calls for pickled spice, which were weren't able to procure in pandemic conditions, so we instead made our own. I also overdid it on the celery (as a new chef, I'm still learning measurements). This meal takes over four hours, so it's not something you're going to whip up for your players just before they arrive to game.

For all the references to salt, the recipe does its best to minimize your sodium intake. The butter is unsalted and the chicken broth is low-sodium, presumably because you'll add the salt yourself.

Overall, the meal was surprisingly tasty. It was spicier than I might have expected, but then we created our own pickled spice so that surely had something to do with it. Some kind of bread would go well with it (Heroes' Feast rarely mentions any sides to go with the recipes). All that said, there's a lot of meat and mostly vegetables so I'll be eating this all week for sure.

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Where Do Dwarves Live, Anyway?​

There's a reference to Ironroot Mountains in the recipe's introduction, which is in Eberron in eastern Khorvaire:
The Ironroot Mountains are a stretch of mountains in eastern Khorvaire, lying parallel to the Hoarfrost Mountains and along the western border of the Mror Holds. It is believed that the Ironroot Mountains have some of the richest mineral deposits in Khorvaire. The dwarves of the Mror Holds trade and mine in these mountains, but their operations tend to come under attack by the Jhorash'tar orc clans. Many clans of Jhorash'tar orcs live on the mountains, making it incredibly dangerous for wandering travelers and even more so for any dwarves.
Heroes' Feast also mentions the Iron Hills, eastward of the City of Irongate in Greyhawk:
The Iron Hills are a massive series of highlands extending eastward of the City of Irongate and surrounded by the United Kingdom of Ahlissa to the north and the Principality of Naerie to the south. The Iron Hills are the home of the Kingdom of the Iron Hills Dwur, ruled by King Holgi Hirsute (ml dwf LG Ftr15), who is firmly allied with Irongate. The hills produce very high grade iron ore, and several kinds of precious metals. Gnomes and humans do some of the mining in the area, but the largest and most productive mines are dwarven-run.
There's nothing in either of the above wikis that explains the history of how dwarves came to create such a dish. Given the winding history of how corned beef and cabbage has come to be associated with St. Patrick's Day, a meal like this is an opportunity to tell their story, particularly of a well-traveled people who have faced a lot of hardship.

Your Turn: Is dwarven cuisine different from other meals in your campaign?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca



embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
There are three good methods to make a corned beef:

1) For the time-pressed, use an Instant Pot. Instant Pots are great for this. I use mine once a week in the winter to make a Yankee pot roast. It cooks in less an 90 minutes.

2) For those with day jobs, use a Crock Pot. Crock Pots are designed for all day braising. Prep your stuff the night before, put it in a Ziploc bag, and dump it into the Crock Pot. Turn it on and go to work. Your dinner will be waiting for you when you get home.

3) For the traditionalist, use a Dutch oven. The only difference between a Dutch oven and a Crock Pot is that it is much safer to leave your Crock Pot unattended all day long than to leave your oven unattended all day long.

If you don't care about your fat intake, take care to cook your corned beef with the fat side up. This way, as the fat cooks, it will melt through the meat, imparting flavor. If you do care about your fat intake, don't make a corned beef. It's loaded with dietary fat. That's why it tastes good.

Add your cabbage and potatoes toward the end so they don't get too soggy. And get a good, solid, whole-grain mustard to serve alongside. If you can't find soda bread, either a hearty rye (preferably seeded) or pumpernickel is an excellent pairing. For beers, you're going to want a Kolsch, not a stout or porter. The salt will make you thirsty, and the Kolsch will take care of that and also cut through the fat. Plus, the fruitiness of the Kolsch will accentuate the subtler notes from the bay, peppercorns, and fennel. For a wine, again, choose a fruity red like a Beaujolais or Grenache. On the white wine side, you wouldn't be wrong in selecting a dry Riesling.

Finally, if you have a Penzey's near you, I recommend them. Their spices are far superior than the McCormick you'll find in your local grocery. The herbs and spices are fresher and of better quality. You can seriously taste the difference.
 

face it. Hero's feast is just another cook book with a little bit of the Realms icing to make fans buy the book.
I was curious as to how good any of these recipes are. Honestly between my shelf of cookbooks, the internet and just my decent knowledge of cooking in general this book was a hard pass for me from the start.
Finally, if you have a Penzey's near you, I recommend them. Their spices are far superior than the McCormick you'll find in your local grocery. The herbs and spices are fresher and of better quality. You can seriously taste the difference.
I can attest, there is a Penzeys near me. They also have a webstore too. Their selection and quality of spices is far and above any you'll find in a chain grocery store. Admittedly though their prices can be a little high but compared to McCormick's Gourmet line, they are well worth it. Actually reminds me I need to stock up for the coming BBQ season soon.
 



embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
I most have missed the extensive pasture level in the mines of Moria needed to raise cattle.
Agreed.

Meatwise, dwarves would likely eat mutton, elk, deer, moose, llama, alpaca, goat, or bear, or game fowl like grouse, partridge, quail, or dove. Not to mention eel or freshwater fish from any mountain or cave streams. If anything, they'd eat a lot of mushrooms and lichens, not to mention root vegetables such as cabbages and potatoes.

If they were to eat beef, though, it would be corned beef as the beef would be salted to keep longer during transit.
 



talien

Community Supporter
I was curious as to how good any of these recipes are. Honestly between my shelf of cookbooks, the internet and just my decent knowledge of cooking in general this book was a hard pass for me from the start.
I'm not an experienced cook by any means. The meals are often impractical and don't always match what they purport to represent in-game (hand pies being one example that weren't hand-sized or suitable for traveling). But so far they've all been quite tasty.

These are all gimmicky cookbooks, but I recently got Düngeonmeister: 75 Epic RPG Cocktail Recipes to Shake Up Your Campaign (The Ultimate RPG Guide Series): Aldrich, Jef, Taylor, Jon: 9781507214657: Amazon.com: Books and from what I can tell it's just reskinned drinks with funny names, so I appreciate the presentation and effort that went into this book. It's also caused me as a DM to seriously think about how the fantasy cultures in my campaign eat (by sampling what WOTC thinks they might eat), and I think that's a good thing!
 

I'm not an experienced cook by any means. The meals are often impractical and don't always match what they purport to represent in-game (hand pies being one example that weren't hand-sized or suitable for traveling). But so far they've all been quite tasty.

These are all gimmicky cookbooks, but I recently got Düngeonmeister: 75 Epic RPG Cocktail Recipes to Shake Up Your Campaign (The Ultimate RPG Guide Series): Aldrich, Jef, Taylor, Jon: 9781507214657: Amazon.com: Books and from what I can tell it's just reskinned drinks with funny names, so I appreciate the presentation and effort that went into this book. It's also caused me as a DM to seriously think about how the fantasy cultures in my campaign eat (by sampling what WOTC thinks they might eat), and I think that's a good thing!
If you are enjoying cooking and everyone is enjoying the food, that's all that counts. I don't have the inclination to cook a meal for my gaming group, but I certainly wouldn't turn down the invitation if someone else did. Suppose it could add to the immersion of the campaign for everyone to sit down and eat a meal before or during the game.
 

I remember eating so many of those candy bars when I went to Switzerland.

Milka cows

I passed on that as well, for the same reason. "Oh look, they just slapped a geeky name on a Boulevardier recipe." As an amateur cocktail enthusiast, that doesn't cut it. I keep idly thinking about putting together an eBook of some of the fantasy-themed cocktails I've created. For example:

The Dwarven Forge:
2 oz whiskey
.5 oz amaretto
.25 oz goldschlagger
Dash smoked bitters
Serve over a large ice cube and garnish with half a cinnamon stick

Some years ago I went to a seminar by Daniel Myers (writer of the excellent A Dwarven Cookbook) on developing fantasy culture cuisines, and it was a real eye-opener.

These are all gimmicky cookbooks, but I recently got Düngeonmeister: 75 Epic RPG Cocktail Recipes to Shake Up Your Campaign (The Ultimate RPG Guide Series): Aldrich, Jef, Taylor, Jon: 9781507214657: Amazon.com: Books and from what I can tell it's just reskinned drinks with funny names, so I appreciate the presentation and effort that went into this book. It's also caused me as a DM to seriously think about how the fantasy cultures in my campaign eat (by sampling what WOTC thinks they might eat), and I think that's a good thing!
 

Laurefindel

Legend
With St. Patrick's Day nigh, we decided to cook a dwarven repast from Heroes' Feast: Corned Beef & Cabbage. It's also an opportunity to spotlight how different cultures express their identity through food in fantasy campaigns.

Corned Beef & Culture​

It's worth pointing out that corned beef and cabbage is associated with St. Patrick's Day in the United States, but that's not necessarily the case everywhere. Cows weren't commonly bred for their meat in Ireland; that came later thanks to expanding British influence. In fact, the term "corned beef" is British:

As you might imagine, tastes have changed considerably since then. Corned beef in the U.S. is actually made from brisket, a kosher cut of meat from the front of the cow. Because brisket is a tougher cut, the cooking process changes the flavor of the meat considerably to something much more tender than its predecessor. Heroes' Feast specifically recommends brisket for its recipe.

Fantasy Beef & Culture​

Heroes' Feast doesn't have much to say about the recipe other than it's associated with dwarves:

The recipe calls for pickled spice, which were weren't able to procure in pandemic conditions, so we instead made our own. I also overdid it on the celery (as a new chef, I'm still learning measurements). This meal takes over four hours, so it's not something you're going to whip up for your players just before they arrive to game.

For all the references to salt, the recipe does its best to minimize your sodium intake. The butter is unsalted and the chicken broth is low-sodium, presumably because you'll add the salt yourself.

Overall, the meal was surprisingly tasty. It was spicier than I might have expected, but then we created our own pickled spice so that surely had something to do with it. Some kind of bread would go well with it (Heroes' Feast rarely mentions any sides to go with the recipes). All that said, there's a lot of meat and mostly vegetables so I'll be eating this all week for sure.

Where Do Dwarves Live, Anyway?​

There's a reference to Ironroot Mountains in the recipe's introduction, which is in Eberron in eastern Khorvaire:

Heroes' Feast also mentions the Iron Hills, eastward of the City of Irongate in Greyhawk:

There's nothing in either of the above wikis that explains the history of how dwarves came to create such a dish. Given the winding history of how corned beef and cabbage has come to be associated with St. Patrick's Day, a meal like this is an opportunity to tell their story, particularly of a well-traveled people who have faced a lot of hardship.

Your Turn: Is dwarven cuisine different from other meals in your campaign?
I usually try to include biomes and commercial accords when I take the time to think about (fantasy) cuisine. Not that fantasy agriculture needs to make perfect sense, but I try not to handwave it completely.

About dwarves specifically, I tend to describe a diet that doesn't rely as much on wheat, poultry and beef (not that beef consumption makes that much sense in a medieval setting to start with). Instead, Dwarves cultivate smaller patches of resilient cereals such as barley and rye, but get most of their starch and flour from varieties of mushrooms, lichens, and fungi. As noted before, meat would be closer to llama, mutton, and goat, in addition to whatever underground cattle or critter in the setting. River fish and cave eels would probably be present in their diet too, with the occasional owlbear roast and giant elk for festivals.

I like to think they would eat a variety of berries and root vegetables, some of which may not be edible for humans. In human lands, the label on dwarven bread says "caution, may cause indigestion" and "may contain traces of poison-berry". Cabbage and similar varieties (such as Brussels sprouts) actually grow well in cold climates, so I can see those being planted as well.
 
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It's my understanding that, while corned beef and cabbage isn't particularly Irish, because of the cost of beef in Ireland traditionally, it is very Irish-American.

First generation Irish immigrants to the US apparently made the dish pretty often, as it would be a somewhat expensive luxury item back in Ireland, but was much more affordable in the US. This meant that it was a fairly common dish in first-generation Irish-American homes. . .and as their children grew up, they came to associate that dish with their parents, and by extension, Ireland.

As St. Patrick's Day became a day celebrating Irish-American heritage in the US, that association transferred over, turning it into the dish that became synonymous in America with celebrating Irish heritage.
 

talien

Community Supporter
I passed on that as well, for the same reason. "Oh look, they just slapped a geeky name on a Boulevardier recipe." As an amateur cocktail enthusiast, that doesn't cut it. I keep idly thinking about putting together an eBook of some of the fantasy-themed cocktails I've created. For example:
These types of books run a fine line between trying to provide a live-action role-playing experience, creating stats for your game (in this case, menu items and their costs), and just cheeky fun as a coffee table book.

Many of the recipe books I've seen fall into the third category, with goofy names, reskinned titles, and not much else to add. I appreciate books that actually create new recipes, which I imagine is no easy feat.

Given the amount of pandemic imbibing we're all doing these days, I encourage you to publish your book!
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
The Dwarven Forge:
2 oz whiskey
.5 oz amaretto

.25 oz goldschlagger
Dash smoked bitters
Serve over a large ice cube and garnish with half a cinnamon stick

Some years ago I went to a seminar by Daniel Myers (writer of the excellent A Dwarven Cookbook) on developing fantasy culture cuisines, and it was a real eye-opener.
I would think that a vodka distilled from potatoes would be more appropriate than a spirit distilled from grain. Similarly, where are the dwarves getting the apricots and the cinnamon?

Instead, 2 oz. horseradish-infused vodka, .5 oz. vermouth, Stir vigorously with ice until well-chilled. Strain and garnish with a pickled gherkin.
 

talien

Community Supporter
I usually try to include biomes and commercial accords when I take the time to think about (fantasy) cuisine. Not that fantasy agriculture needs to make perfect sense, but I try not to handwave it completely.

About dwarves specifically, I tend to describe a diet that doesn't rely as much on wheat, poultry and beef (not that beef consumption makes that much sense in a medieval setting to start with). Instead, Dwarves cultivate smaller patches of resilient cereals such as barley and rye, but get most of their starch and flour from varieties of mushrooms, lichens, and fungi. As noted before, meat would be closer to llama, mutton, and goat, in addition to whatever underground cattle or critter in the setting. River fish and cave eels would probably be present in their diet too, with the occasional owlbear roast and giant elk for festivals.

I like to think they would eat a variety of berries and root vegetables, some of which may not be edible for humans. In human lands, the label on dwarven bread says "caution, may cause indigestion" and "may contain traces of poison-berry".
See this makes a lot of sense to me. 5th Edition made it a formal point of indicating that dwarves are resistant to poison, which implies they eat and drink poisonous things that would be harmful to others. Given that there are no official alcohol rules (I think we have to go all the way back to 2nd Edition for that), it could be drinking a LOT and not getting alcohol poisoning, or it could be the food they eat, or both.

End result being that if we made "authentic" dwarven dishes, humans couldn't/shouldn't eat them, which would defeat the purpose of a book like this. But it's fun to speculate, and I think your ideas are excellent. I'm fond of "Doppelbock" which is essentially beer that can substitute for a meal: Bock
 


talien

Community Supporter
Thought thats been the case for a very long time, at least as I can remember?
You're right! D&D 3.5 had a bonus to poison saves, whereas 5th has actual resistance to both the condition and the damage type. I didn't play a 4th edition dwarf so unfortunately I'm out of the loop on where they were resistance-wise.
 

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