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

talien

Community Supporter
speaking of dwaves & others eating posibly poisonous things other races might have varying degrees of trouble with , here are a couple of the many fun blurbs like this about cuisine from writeups on some of the different regions/groups in eberron

Those are PERFECT examples of what I'm talking about! I notice there's no game rules about it though, and thus the confusion.
 
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tetrasodium

Legend
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Epic
Those are PERFECT examples of what I'm talking about! I notice there's no game rules about it though, and thus the confusion.
In some ways that is probably intentional to fit potential for puply flavor & exotic highlights into a tavern or meeting over food types of scenes without having flavor bogged down in the minutia of pointless mechanics. EE has a ton of near worldbuilding stuff in it. There are mechanics to things where mechanics enhance stuff or are required like a bit on harpy songbirds in droaam new races & so on. It's kind of a continuation of stuff that wouldn't be able to fit in Rising from the Last War
 

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.
So,over time dwarven cooking has become more and more toxic... ;)
4e Dwarves get a +5 IIRC to saves against poison. That won't help them take less damage of the poison type, but since many poisons inflict ongoing effects/damage it does let them shed those effects a lot quicker. I'm pretty sure they also have ready access to some feats that will further enhance that trait.
 

So,over time dwarven cooking has become more and more toxic... ;)
I don't know if it ever came from any official, canonical D&D source, but I've widely seen it played over the years that high-quality Dwarven liquor exceeds 200 proof.

Yes, that's physically impossible.

Any race that has alchemically-enhanced alcohol as a normal part of their diet is going to get some pretty good poison tolerance (or die trying).

3e games, for rules purposes we require ranks at least one rank in Craft (Alchemy) in addition to Craft (Brewing) to make it on the idea that it exceeds the normally physically possible without being outright magical, and is at least thus technically an alchemical item. (Oh, and the DC to produce it by non-Dwarves is +10 compared to the base DC, for some reason, Dwarves just do it better)

Since Craft (Alchemy) requires spellcasting, we came up with a feat to explain why a typical Dwarven brewer isn't a normal caster, as basically a combination of the Magical Training feat and the various +2/+2 skill feats, fortunately Regional Feats are meant to be a little stronger than typical feats.

Dwarven Brewer [Regional]
You are trained in the ancient arts of Dwarven brewing, a strange mixture of alchemy and brewing that confounds outsiders.
Prerequisite: Dwarf, INT 10+ or CHA 10+
Region: Dwarven (Any)
Benefit: You may cast the a 0th level spell once per day either a sorcerer or wizard (your choice, so long as you have a score of at least 10 in the ability that controls the spellcasting for that class). You must make this decision when you first take the feat. Thereafter, you have an arcane spell failure chance if you wear armor and are treated as a sorcerer or wizard of your arcane spellcaster level (minimum 1st) for the purpose of determining level-based variables of the spells you cast.
If you choose to cast spells as a sorcerer, the DC for saves against your spells is 10 + your Cha modifier. You know one 0-level spell of your choice from the sorcerer/wizard list.
If you choose to cast spells as a wizard, the DC for saves against your spells is 10 + your Int modifier. You have a spellbook with two 0-level spells of your choice from the sorcerer/wizard list. You prepare your spells exactly as a wizard does.
As this feat grants you the ability to cast spells, you may use the Craft (Alchemy) skill. When you use the Craft (Alchemy) skill to produce items that are consumed orally, you may use brewers or distillers equipment instead of alchemical equipment to make those items.
You also gain a +2 bonus on Craft (Alchemy) and Craft (Brewing) skill checks.
Special: If you already have levels in sorcerer or wizard, increase the number of 0-level spells you can cast per day by one. You may select this feat only as a 1st-level character. You may have only one regional feat.
 

I've said it before, I'll say it again. The idea that beef is a staple for a race that lives underground is a travesty. Rats, mice, voles, bats, gophers, groundhogs, snakes; sure. Even the occasional pork or goat dish as a rarity but mostly because pigs could root out mushrooms (which would be more valuable) and goats for their milk and milk products (like sour cream and cheese.) Cows underground is just...dumb.
 

I've said it before, I'll say it again. The idea that beef is a staple for a race that lives underground is a travesty. Rats, mice, voles, bats, gophers, groundhogs, snakes; sure. Even the occasional pork or goat dish as a rarity but mostly because pigs could root out mushrooms (which would be more valuable) and goats for their milk and milk products (like sour cream and cheese.) Cows underground is just...dumb.
I'm just sayin'... ;)
 


I think it makes sense for dwarves to eat salted beef for special occasions, since they'd have to trade for it and it would be packed in salt. No need to assume they raised the cows themselves.
This idea of salted beef for transport makes me think of Port. i.e. how the Portuguese wine traders fortified their cheap wine for export/transport to England. What other foods might be a result of 'special' needs such as transport or other possibilities?
I've said it before, I'll say it again. The idea that beef is a staple for a race that lives underground is a travesty. Rats, mice, voles, bats, gophers, groundhogs, snakes; sure. Even the occasional pork or goat dish as a rarity but mostly because pigs could root out mushrooms (which would be more valuable) and goats for their milk and milk products (like sour cream and cheese.) Cows underground is just...dumb.
Who says beef is a staple? Just because a culture has a recipe for something, does not mean it is a staple of what they eat. Look at all the special occasion recipes that your own culture has. Perhaps based on a religious holiday or a national one. Fruit Cake is one that comes to mind for me. Eggnog as well. I'm sure you can think of your own.
 

<SNIP>
Who says beef is a staple? Just because a culture has a recipe for something, does not mean it is a staple of what they eat. <SNIP>
Oh I concur, but most Dwarven (classical) tropes are beef haunch and a mug of beer. Beef and beer both are foods that are composed of components that need wide open space above ground to be made.

My point is every day feasts for Dwarves would be more vegetarian or even 'exotic' (meat wise) and their adult beverages distilled rather than brewed. Dwarven Vodka or Mead vice Ale or Beer. Dwarven whiskey made from mushrooms and algae, that sort of thing.

I have always been big on how the races should interact with their ecosystems. Humans (as a generality) are agrarian because we tend to live on or near farm lands, but human cultures like the Polynesians were much more fishing/foraging, which shaped their language, their dress, their weapon choices, and even their tools.

I understand most folks don't give a crap about this stuff, but when used as subtle background for your races and cultures, they stand-out more. I believe 'fluff' trumps 'crunch' only because crunch is just rules, fluff is the stuff of stories. 🙂
 

Oh I concur, but most Dwarven (classical) tropes are beef haunch and a mug of beer. Beef and beer both are foods that are composed of components that need wide open space above ground to be made.
Agreed. I suspect most of the beef/beer thought is because of the stereotyping of dwarves as Scottish. Not actually by considering what might be likely for the culture.
 

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