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    Food of Cyrodiil

“Travelling throughout the provinces is all well and good, but I have started to miss home. The bounty of the Nibenay Basin, the riches and vineyards of the Gold Coast, the trade in and out of the City itself, where you can buy anything, if only you know the right people. We Cyrodiils are a people proud of our fertile land, and the cause it has in Tiber Septim’s royal breath. Our vast rolling farmlands and their produce make even the humblest of peasant dishes lofty as the highest lord’s. Good fresh ingredients, bold flavours from local herbs and imported spices, a touch of Imperial flair, all washed down with good wine — that’s the taste of home for me. The following are but a few of my memories of it.”

            — Tertius Epicurus

    ‘Spiced sausage and white beans, cooked in Gold Coast red with bay and Lady’s Mantle Leaf.’

“Let it never be said that the Gold Coast produces only seafood. Much of Cyrodiil is known for its cured meats, its seasoned sausages, and savoury dainties, and the Gold Coast is no different. I recall even now a stew I once had at a wayside inn there. Spicy red sausages, fried among onions and celery in their own juices, with Lady’s Mantle Leaf and Bay leaves and carrots, all from the gardens, with white beans stirred in and all doused with a good jug or so of the local red wine. Cooked together to a thick, delicious, pungent stew of creamy beans — once white now red — and tender sausage and sweet vegetables. A hit among travellers and passing soldiers alike.”

The idea for this came from a variety of peasant and old military dishes from Spain and Italy. The principle is the same as any Ragu alla Bolognaise worth its salt: slow-cooked meat and vegetables, plenty of black pepper, a little paprika, and a whole bottle of decent red wine. Some Shiraz or other, in this case. It cooks down to something fantastically rich and wonderfully comforting.

We imagined that Cyrodiil, like Italy and Spain, might have a strong tradition of charcuterie, which we decided to take advantage of by using four little sausages of cooking chorizo for their fragrant oil, rough texture, and red-tasting kick, together with Bay leaves and a bit of wild Thyme we managed to scrump up, to act as Lady’s Mantle Leaf — an Oblivion alchemy reagent that restores health and boosts carry weight: a real traveller’s tonic.

    ‘Layered lamb’s liver pâté with lemon butter, Colovian port, and honey-crisped barley.’

“Quite apart from such simple fare of simple folks are the fripperies of Colovian nobility. I remember their terrines and pâtés. Aerated lamb’s liver, fried with port from the cellars, and butter and plenty of peppercorns, down to a creamy rich consistency, and layered in jars and dishes with barley, honey-covered and baked to crispness, and fresh sharp butter, infused with lemon zest. Cooled over beds of frost salts and served, spread, over crispbreads.”

We made pâté from scratch. That’s an achievement I’d like to think speaks for itself…and the poor overworked cooks of the Colovian lords and ladies, of course!

This is a touch of Romanesque decadence we wanted to add to the rustic Italian and Spanish influence we had going on.

    ‘Tomato and toasted rye bread salad with lucky primrose leaves.’

“There is a dish they eat in the Blackwood and the Topal Bay that they eat not just for its taste but also for good chance. A salad of the season’s freshest ripest tomatoes, cut into eighths and scattered over rye bread, steeped in olive oil and toasted, with a dressing of olive oil — first pressing — and black vinegar and primrose leaf. The latter, I have it on good authority from some alchemist friends of mine, does in fact bring about fair luck.”

The concept is a Tuscan one, combined with a little alchemical know-how from Oblivion. Crisp, chewy rustic bread, oiled and toasted under the grill, offset by the fresh sweet taste of good tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Also a little wild oregano and some baby spinach.

    ‘Flash-fried okra with olive oil and mustard seeds. Flash-friend whole peppers with flaked sea salt.’

“One of the greatest services we do our produce in Cyrodiil is to let it govern itself, be itself. We only bring out its flavours, rather than masking them. Take for example the twin dishes of okra and little red peppers I once had, fried over a high heat with a few spices, a little salt, good oil, until coloured and flavoursome.”

    ‘Cheese: Heartlands smoked goat’s cheese, and Bravil Blue.’

“Our cheeses too are not to be missed, for you can learn as much about a locale by its cheese as you can by its cheesemakers: as much about the diversity of Cyrodiil as you can by studying the variations and local specialties of cheese through the region. Two favourites I shall always hold are a smoked goat’s cheese — tangy and hard — from Niben, and a particular strong creamy blue they make exclusively in Bravil. Served with dates from Elsweyr and crispbreads from Hammerfell and you could do far worse for dinner, and would be hard-pressed to find a better lunch.”

In actuality the two cheeses were a local market’s smoked goat’s cheese, and a little bit of mature Dolcelatte — for which I’ve always had a softspot.

    ‘West Weald Ariki Red.’

“Wine. Have you seen the vineyards of Cyrodiil’s Southern borders? Have you heard the wind sing through their branches, their leaves? What I mean is, have you tasted a Cyrodiilic red? If not, I cannot begin to explain.”

While it would have been nice to pour out a tempranillo or a chianti, we decided to go for something with  more of the character of Cyrodiil than of our already over-used cultural analogues in Spain and Italy. A Chilean Carmenere Cabernet Sauvignon blend: basically a mountainy-foresty-coastal wine with touches of the cherries and blackberries that West Weald is famous for, and a tiny note of vanilla and of chocolate.

    ‘Cornmeal hasty pudding with honey and West Weald blueberries.’

“Since the days of Alessia we have unabashedly enjoyed a single simple pudding, even while embracing fancy new cakes and pastries from the other provinces. But it is the hasty pudding that represents the hard history of Cyrodiil, and its staple ingredients better than most. Corn from the Nibenay Basin, honey  from the Heartlands, and fruit from the Weald and the Blackwood.”

This concept actually comes from eighteenth century America, though it technically has roots in Native American sofkey: a kind of thick sweet cornmeal porridge good enough that surviving songs and poems have been written about it. Cornmeal, simmered down with milk, honey, a pinch of salt, and then with a good dollop of fruit coulis plonked into the middle, then stirred in. Filling as hell, and surprisingly good.

    Influences

The main influences were Spanish and Italian peasant dishes, and touches of ancient Rome. Wine — yesyeyes. Strong agriculture and agrarian traditions with a focus on crops like corn and grains, but also elements of Native North American Three Sisters agriculture: corn and maize, beans, squash. We would’ve quite liked to incorporate some touches of South American cuisine — perhaps Brazilian — as a nod to Cyrodiil’s densely forested and tribal roots, but there was sadly only so much we could make…Either way we wanted to represent a cosmopolitan, varied melting pot of cuisines…and think we maybe did okay. The results, at least were homygod-good.

    We’ll be taking a break for a few days…partly to eat leftovers…
    But we’ll be back soon with food from Morrowind!

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