Today we welcome Destiny Romance author Bernadette Rowley to Cooking the Books. Bernadette lives in Townsville and writes fantasy romances jam-packed with lords and ladies, witches and all manner of supernatural beings. Today she’s talking about the food that features in her book, Princess Avenger. Welcome Bernadette!
I spend a good portion of each day living in a fantasy world whose culture is medieval in its level of sophistication. So along with that comes the inherent problems in a world which is technologically primitive. There is no refrigeration, cooking takes place over fires and much of the meat is salted. There was also a big difference in what was eaten by the masses and what was consumed by the wealthy. Added to that, the location of the city or town would dictated the types of protein consumed eg towns near the sea obviously consumed a lot of fish and crustaceans.
The Kingdom of Thorius is my fantasy world and in Princess Avenger, most of the action takes place in the castle or on the streets of Brightcastle which is both the name of the palace and the town. As with many stories, much of the interaction between characters occurs during meals though when an avenging princess is your heroine, there’s a fair bit of ‘street fighting’ as well. Here is an excerpt from the book:
Feeling his eyes upon her, Alecia looked at the seat to her father’s left and the breath caught in her throat. The piercing gaze of her dark rescuer trapped her. Why was he here, in her home, at her table, on the very day she had slipped his grasp and vowed to avoid him? This could be no coincidence. Her secret was out. The room lurched and Alecia staggered towards the nearest chair. The captain was on his feet and at her side as if by magic, his palm cupping her elbow and his other hand at her waist.
Twice in one day he had laid hands upon her and now his heat seared through the flimsy fabric of her gown. He was so hot! Alecia did not look at his face, desperate to delay the moment when her deception, her crime, would be exposed.
‘Vard Anton at your service, Your Highness,’ he said, his voice rumbling through her core. ‘Allow me.’ He pulled the nearest chair from the table and seated her.
This is the first meal Vard and Alecia share but not the last. They dine on warm crusty bread with spicy vegetable soup followed by roast pheasant and boiled potatoes. Desert was dried and honeyed fruit in thick custard and the wine would most likely have been red.
At Alecia’s table, the bread was made from milled wheat much as ours is today but the poorer folk ate darker coarse bread made from rye or barley. The bread might even have been baked without yeast and so these loaves were very flat. Vegetables usually consisted of rape, onion, garlic and leek and food was spiced with pepper, cloves, ginger, saffron or mustard.
The roast pheasant would have been killed fresh that day and other birds eaten were geese and chicken. Beef, bacon and lamb graced many royal tables as well as wild deer but hare and rabbit were mainly eaten by the poorer folk.
In the case of animals that were raised for food, many were slaughtered in autumn so they didn’t have to be fed over winter. The meat was preserved by burying in salt or soaking in brine. This meat had to be rinsed several times before adding to dishes. Spices and sauces were used to mask the salty taste.
Now for desert, likely fruits were apple, pear, quince and peach as well as oranges, lemons and berries. Apart from being candied, fruits were also dried. Any food that couldn’t be preserved was only eaten in season.
Imagine the amount of time each day that was devoted to preserving and preparing food and that’s after it was grown or caught. The water was often unclean and so most people drank wine or ale.
By our standards today, my fantasy characters had a limited diet and the recipes would have been much more basic than we’re used to. They were likely deficient in many vitamins and minerals and that would be true, to a certain extent, for royalty as well.
To create my fantasy world, I do a fair bit of research, usually on an ‘at need’ basis rather than having a perfectly laid out world before I start a story. It also helps that I’ve ‘lived’ in these types of high fantasy worlds since my early teens when I began reading Tolkien and Terry Brooks. Some of the world building is just there in my head and very familiar. I think that’s why I don’t have long world-building descriptive passages, just sketching enough of the world and allowing the reader to imagine the rest.
Passionate and headstrong, Alecia is no ordinary princess. Angered by the cold-blooded murder of her first love, she sets out to avenge his death.
Army Captain Vard Anton, the epitome of masculine strength and grace, is dealing with some dark secrets of his own. When he is appointed Alecia’s bodyguard, both find it hard to ignore the chemistry between them.
With assassination attempts and the threat of an arranged marriage looming over her, Alecia realises her time is running out. But Alecia’s biggest battle is the one within as she tries to suppress the raging desire she feels for the powerfully attractive Vard. Can Alecia resist Vard while trying to exact revenge and avoid the lecherous attentions of her husband-to-be? Will the power of love and desire be enough to unite Alecia and Vard forever?
You can find Princess Avenger here: http://www.destinyromance.com/products/9781742538013/princess-avenger-destiny-romance
and Bernadette here: http://bernadetterowley.com/