Using Meals to Teach Geography

My daughter so far has only been a fan of a few of the recipes in Heroes' Feast, so we thought we'd create one of her favorites: noodles, from Kara-Tur to be precise.

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The Other Parts of Faerun​

It's perhaps not surprising that Heroes' Feast is largely focused on Euro-centric dishes. Kara-Tur Noodles are essentially stir fry, but it's a welcome change from all the meat with meat gravy with a side of meat.
Few nations on the planet Toril are as powerful or influential as the human empire of Shou Lung, found in the vast region of Kara-Tur. While this region boasts distinct religions and a proud culture, it also possesses an equally strong culinary tradition. Although there is sparse interaction or conflict between the city-states of the Sword Coast and Kara-Tur, many of its tea leaves, such as Pale Jade, Fin Fim, Dragon's Eye, and Long Jing, are imported in significant quantities by Faerunian traders, and certain dishes, including various noodles, have made the long migration west as well. WhIle you won't find this stir-fried entree on just any tavern menu, it has found its way into the more modern eateries of cultural epicenters such as Waterdeep. A heaping bowl of noodles flash-cooked in a deep, oil-drizzled skillet along with chunks of chicken, vegetables, and a salty soy sauce or garum (a fish-based sauce) has become a popular change of pace from the traditional roasts and soups of the Sword Coast.
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The Meal​

I'm allergic to peanuts, so we substituted vegetable oil for peanut oil. This meal doesn't take long, but the sauce requires gets complicated in how its applied. The bell pepper and onion were a treat and gave it some real heft, but the chicken to noodle ratio was woefully inadequate. This might have had something to do with the fact that during a pandemic we ended up with a delivery substitution of smaller pieces of chicken; even then, you could easily double the amount and still have enough noodles to go around.

The meal was surprisingly bland, despite the pepper and onion. My daughter thought the noodles were okay. I ended up eating the noodles for an entire week, with a variety of leftovers from other meals. Incidentally, I lost a few pounds too, which I chalk up to the fact that the noodles are quite filling but not heavy on the calories.

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Communicating Geography with Food​

One of the points made clear in the description of these noodles is how they're different from a typical meal. But it also is a narrative means of letting player characters know there's a larger world out there. Meals like this are an easy means of introducing a region the PCs might adventure to in the future.

Of course, constructing menus for a campaign world requires some forethought; you'll need to know where your territories are located in relation to each other and how they interact. Do they trade? Has one region conquered the other? Do people travel regularly between lands? All this tells a story without the PCs actually going anywhere.

These kinds of diverse menus lend themselves to coastal nations with thriving trade ports. My own world has the Atikoff, an ancient Greek-themed territory that conducts trade with the surrounding regions. With the Asian-themed Chapor to the east, these noodles wouldn't be out of place on the menu.

Your Turn: How do you incorporate your world's food into the local tavern menu?
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

MGibster

Legend
It isn't just geography you can consider it's also seasons. A lot of us here in the United States just take for granted that ingredients will be available throughout the year. Oranges are a good example. If you go back a few decades, most people in the US only had oranges in the winter months when they were harvested but now you can buy oranges pretty much year round. So you might find a favorite dish on the menu in Spring only to find it's not available in the Fall.
 

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Ixal

Hero
On that same note, I highly recommend looking into Robert Fortune. I learned about him on Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, and he was a 6' tall Scottish botanist who managed to impersonate a Chinese citizen long enough to smuggle tea out of China and into the West. He apparently had created portable greenhouses to smuggle the tea plants out and planted them in Darjeeling, India. (For reference - the Wardian Case Wardian case - Wikipedia )

I'm sure if some fantasy royal or noble decided to pay people to bring them super-rare ingredients, there could be use for a person like that.
Not food related, but you should also read how orthodox monks smuggled silkworm eggs out of china to establish a European silk industry in the 6th century.
 

wellis

Explorer
For the Forgotten Realms at least, how much does magic potentially play a role in providing say effective refrigeration to potentially allow for varieties in food closer to what we think of today?

I'm sure while spices and vegetables may have issues depending on where they're grown (and thus increasing their costs), perhaps magical refrigeration has allowed food to be preserved more or something here?
 

Ixal

Hero
For the Forgotten Realms at least, how much does magic potentially play a role in providing say effective refrigeration to potentially allow for varieties in food closer to what we think of today?

I'm sure while spices and vegetables may have issues depending on where they're grown (and thus increasing their costs), perhaps magical refrigeration has allowed food to be preserved more or something here?
For the rich maybe, but for most people magic would not be something they have access to. Especially as large scale refrigeration would require some rather strong magic, something usually only found in metropolises (which would require huge stores of food, so the cost of refrigeration would be equally large).
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Wellis has an interesting thoughts. What mundane spells could be use in food industry? Ceremony from a first level priest could preserve food for 7 days. OR make up some spells for the food industry.
 

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