Barley is the staple crop in the Western Peaks and included in most dishes for every meal. The main diet eaten within the Western Peaks consists of barley breads coated in yak butter or butter tea; barley soups with added vegetables and meats; cabbage, celery, carrots, potatoes, a sweet-potato like small brown root, and other roots; thick yogurts, cottage cheese, curd cheese, and sweet cheeses from goat and yak milk; and snow pheasants and yaks for meat, usually eaten within the soups or dried. Various teas are drunk, especially butter teas consisting of tea leaves, yak butter, water, and salt, as well as pine teas from conifer needles. Goat milk may be added to make sweet milk teas, or drunk separately fresh. A white colored barley wine is the most common alcoholic beverage, and is drunk more often than water; barley beer is also brewed.
One of the staples of agriculture and cooking is barley, a widely adaptable, quickly growing grain which can grow during the short cool summers in the Western Peaks. It is relatively drought tolerant, allowing it to grow in the valleys between the mountains.
Crops are grown between mountains in valleys and meadows, circling around smaller villages, and ringing the landscape around larger cities. The people use basic tools like plough shares, hoes, sickles, and rakes for their work. Irrigation is critical for crops; water is channeled from the two main rivers in the Western Peaks. Most field work is done with the assistance of the yaks or by hand. The people do not weed the fields; harvesting is done by carrying it on yak yokes or on top of their own backs; threshing is done on the ground by beating the grain with poles or having it trampled by the yaks; and winnowing is done by tossing the grain in the air and letting the chaff blow away in the wind.
Barley is then used in a variety of foods, especially bread and soups. The bread is of a thick, earthy texture, and like all foods, is made in the home.
Villagers work together in communal land areas; the land, farming tools, and crop are shared between residents. Because of the need to survive for the winter, cooperation is key and generally not a difficulty within the community. Villagers cannot be petty and political about crops because everyone needs to grow the food to survive. Surplus crops are sold to larger cities or exported to other countries, especially Shenvah and the people of High Central; food is not sold within the local markets unless it is an import from elsewhere – for instance, the east’s lentils and winterwheat.
Domesticated animals and livestock Edit
Villagers own their own yaks and use them for clothing, candle making, milk, butter, cheese, and meat. Goats are also owned and provide milk and cheese. While the people own these animals, they allow the creatures to wander freely throughout the village without consequence.
Other domesticated or semi-domesticated animals - particularly, the snow pheasant – are also allowed to wander. The pheasant is somewhat wild but stays close to the village, and the birds are not considered under the ownership of any one individual. They are allowed to wander about the village, and might sometimes be fed, then slaughtered for dinners as needed.
Traditionally, the people eat two to three meals a day, roughly corresponding to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Lunch is the largest and most elaborate meal of the day.
Breakfasts tend to be simple, usually a barley soup accompanied by milk or tea to drink. Lunches and dinners will offer multiple dishes to eat, especially multiple types of soups. Multiple large, lidded pots filled will soup will be set in the center of a circular mat, around which the diners will gather. They will ladle small amounts of soup into their own personal bowl and drink it, then refill the bowl with another soup. Other dishes might rest on platters, including baked potatoes stuffed with vegetables and meats; barley bread spread with salted butter tea; milk curd pastries; curd cheese; cream cheese; and yogurt. Yogurt is made by heating up milk, cooling it down, adding yogurt culture, and then letting it sit for a few hours. Yogurt can be eaten plain or with other foods, such as combining it with the sweet potato root or the barley bread.
Sweet cheeses may be included for occasional deserts after lunch times, while fresh cooked meat outside of pheasant is reserved for special occasions like religious holidays.
Dining etiquette Edit
Food is placed on a central, circular hide spread mat around which diners gather. Typically, multiple bowls of soups will be placed on stands in the center of the dining mat. The stands hold up the soup off from the ground and have candles beneath them to keep the soup warm. Other plates of food, such as breads and yoghurts, may be placed on platters around the central soup bowls.
Diners will sit on the floor on their own cushions or mats, circled around the food. Poorer houses will typically contain only thin mats for diners to sit upon during the meal. Each diner will have a smaller bowl into which they ladle small portions of soup at a time. It is not polite to fill the entire bowl with soup, but to only take a little food at a time, and to keep refilling from different soups throughout the meal until one is full.
Cutlery involves one prong and one spoon. The prong is held with the left hand and the spoon with the right, though the prong can be lowered and set on the edge of the dining hide to drink soup. It is not considered impolite to hold a bowl of soup up to the mouth and directly drink the broth.
Taran cuisine Edit
The staple of almost any Taran meal is soup.
The traditional drink of the Western Peaks is yak butter tea, considered to be an addictive essential for natives but acquired taste for visitors.