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In spite of the primitive looking conditions, any meal you buy on Kassidor is more likely to be safe than in Kex. If you find yourself on Kassidor and don't know the language, point at the picture on the menu at a swanky place and you will not go hungry, or have an unpleasant intestinal reaction.
So what is it that makes Kassidorian cuisine the most sought-after in human space? First and foremost, just about everything is fresh. Most basins of Kassidor do not have refrigeration of any kind. In the Highlands there is, but it is used almost exclusively for beer. Secondly, everything is hand-made. There have been three auto-chefs imported to Kassidor and all three are in the Centorin consulate which stands right outside the Kassikan grounds on Second Canalwalk. Third, the flavors are more pronounced and exotic than any in Earth's evolution. This is probably because the organisms are so biochemically different. The flavors can be simulated, but the total package is not the same. Fourth, the food is usually cooked with real fire. In the Highlands cooking gas is readily available and used in utilitarian cooking, but most fine dining is done via fires of specially selected woods. Fifth, fine cuisine is an art, and because only the well-to-do can afford interstellar travel, tourists generally sample only the best. Great food in Kassidor City is offered at prices comparable to the roughest bean-slop in a Marsallis knock-down and less than a small glass of water in Kex.
When discussing the food of Centorin, Novo Grosso or many nations of Earth, it is customary to provide a few 'traditional' recipes or the names of a few 'can't miss' hostelries. Such lists would be entirely misleading in the case of Kassidor or even Kassidor City. There are over a million sit-down places to dine within an hour of the gatehead, many have never been visited by any tourist as of yet, much less a professional reviewer. You will probably not see the same recipe twice unless you make a point of it, and if you do, you've just missed another unique experience. While many visit Kassidor just for the sex, the dining is another aspect of the culture not to be missed.
As mentioned in agriculture, on Kassidor one must eat from both major evolutions to get all the necessary nutrients. This truth is practiced at nearly every meal. It is so ingrained that it is automatic and people would feel lopsided if they ate a meal that was unbalanced. The only place you could possibly buy an unbalanced meal is at a buffet, and pick any native and eat what they eat and you're good.
Sweets and fats are not craved as much by Kassidorians as they are by humans who live on more seasonal planets. For twenty five thousand years, there has been no need to store fat for the winter. There is no custom of 'dessert' in most meals but there is often a drink afterward. The intoxicant called 'yaag' is usually the sweetest thing in the diet and it is not anywhere near as sweet as Earth or Centorin soft drinks, but noticeably sweeter than unsweetened tea.
Another fact particular to Kassidor is that more than a third of all meals are consumed in the garden as the food is picked with 'remove from stem' being the entire food preparation experience. For the people of the land this is the standard lunch, even the lunch when it is dark. 85% of all meals are home cooked and just about all of those are made with ingredients that were picked from the household garden that day, often only minutes before they went to the stove or table. The garden, even for eighty million urban people in the Yakhan, serves the purpose that the refrigerator does in a Centorin household.
In some basins, such as Zhindu, the recipes used at home and by professionals are the same. In the Highlands that is often not the case and home cooking is much plainer and less labor intensive than what is bought, even from street vendors. Few make diddle sauce at home, but fill jars of it from the bigger cooks who make a sauce they like. However, when it is a social occasion, most Highland Elves can put out quite a nice spread and most have the facilities to do so.
All basins have some form and frequency of enclosed, sit-down dining establishments that Centorins can recognize as a restaurant and the Highlands is rich in them. They come in all styles, are reasonably priced and offer many forms of entertainment along with fine food. In the neighborhood close to the gatehead and the Kassikan, there are even a few today with some menus printed in Centish. Athough it is unlikely anyone on the staff will speak it, one can point to the selection and get by. Of course the Centish will say 'Purpletail-Crossed Kalic Stew' or some such, and won't help as much as a picture. In the Highlands the best menus are those that show the meal (on a table in some canopy penthouse you won't see from the street) as a photo on each page. Those establishments will be found ten to twenty stories above the water of any of the main canals from the Kassikan on south for the next six miles or so. There are indoor commercial streets in the buildings that line the canals at those levels. Walk any one and follow your nose is all the guidebook you'll ever need. Even though you can't speak a word of their language, they will serve you if you point to a menu item and show them the money. You are not expected to give them the money until you are served, but you are expected to pay then, not when you get up and leave. If you do not, the waitress will take it back with her.
Over most of the planet, the Highlands included, a star denotes an item on the menu that is spicy. If you know only that, you're halfway there with reading the menu. However, only one cook in ten has a printed menu, most have what you see on the grill or in the cauldron. Most cooks set up in an area where some form of seating is available, at least a low stone wall or a patch of ribbonleaves. Most are in some form of 'food court' at a crossroads that will have a few tables, a few cooks to choose from, and a keg or two of yaag and/or beer. There are millions of them in the Highlands, several in any city big enough to have coach service. There are three levels of streets with them in the central Yakhan. There are millions more in other basins. In the Highlands only the sit down restaurants have waitresses, on the street you'll come up to the cook who'll say 'LrassimanfooA?' which any guidebook app will translate as 'What'll ya have?' Point, give him a small ball bearing in exchange, and he'll be a happy man.
The distinctive meal of the Highlands is 'diddle'. It is not considered high cuisine but fuel for the common folk, almost 'fast food'. It is chopped vegetables in a white sauce, often garnished with strips of toasted garden pest. On every street corner one can pick up a bowl of it for a Kassidorian penny, at the current exchange rates that is about .05 credits, but the exchange rate is dropping rapidly. The guy or girl making it has a pot of sauce, some bowls of chopped vegetables and maybe a grill of toppings. Often two girls will team up for diddle and grill. Think of the toasted garden pests as bacon and they will be much easier to eat the first time. In the Highlands, few leave the heads and claws on when serving them. There are hundreds of styles of diddle, mainly differing by spices in the sauce, and most are a superior dining experience to anything a common auto-chef can provide. A penny bowl of diddle will be quite surprising to the unprepared.
In the Highlands the standards of cleanliness in dining are up to that of reputable establishments on Centorin, and the better parts of Earth, Rendellyn or Naiho. The Highlands also have a tradition of dinnerware provided by the establishment, though it is not unusual for patrons to bring their own drinking cup. If you bring your own, bring a fine stein.
The most common urban occupation on Kassidor is 'cook'. This is true of most cities in most basins. Most cooks, even in the Yakhan, are street vendors with a portable grill and/or cauldron. Half of the residents of some cities do not have a kitchen in their home and must 'eat out' for every meal. This means that a lot more commercially prepared meals are utilitarian than entertainment. However, what counts as utilitarian fill-er-up from a street vendor in an industrial level of Kassidor Yakhan is a gustatory experience not available in any part of New Heartland outside Marsallis at any price. In Kassidor Yakhan almost everyone has a kitchen, but the twenty million or so who don't have a garden, eat most of their meals out. That means there are a million people cooking commercially in that city, each and every meal.
Cooking is an art, a service, and a business for the people who do it. They buy the ingredients, they sell the meals. The coarseness of the denominations of money on Kassidor limits what they can charge. A penny is about 1/36th of a day's unskilled piecework. Lots of cooks charge an extra penny for a clean bowl, and their regulars bring their own. A two penny meal has to be more like a dinner. A ten penny (6) meal is a fine dinner in a place with some form of entertainment.
In some cases a cook will have people working with him to do the shopping, prep work or manage the business affairs. There are hundreds of millions of ways the business may be structured and that applies to the Highlands as well as the remainder of the planet.
There is no hard and fast line between a cook who's been set up here for quite awhile, and a permanent restaurant, not even in the Yakhan. There are roving cooks in most Kassidorian cities. Some have kettle, wood fire and supplies on wheels and trundle thru industrial neighborhoods at lunch time, often pulled by an unusual draft animal. In the Yakhan, as on the planet as a whole, cooking on boats reaches from a guy with little grill on a canoe who cooks for the guys who work on the back docks, to fine dining cruises on lavish ships.
In the Highlands, cuisine in the styles of distant basins is available, and reviewers claim that it is usually of as good a quality as that found in it's native basin. The photo on this page is a representative darkmeal from the Zhlindu basin. Also popular in the Highlands are Yondurian, Megnish, Old Elvish, Dwarf and Prvest ethnic cuisines.
When the tubes are extended farther, or if one has the time to travel to more distant regions by spending a couple years using native transportation, one should beware that in many regions the establishment does NOT provide the dinnerware. In the Zhlindu basin a street cook provides nothing but the food, one must bring plate, fork and cup, but most food is finger-food. You are not handed a roll wrapped in a napkin, you pick it off a pile with your fingers or tongs if you got 'em, and the first one you touch is yours. The stick in the teriyaki stick is the backbone of the animal you pick the meat off with your teeth. The cook does not remove the skeleton like in the Highlands. There are no house cups anywhere and one's cup is the closest thing to a status symbol you'll find in that basin.
In the Korst basin, utensils may be provided, but the custom is, the patron cleans them and it is a status symbol to leave the cleanest place setting at the table and cooks may publically rank their regulars by their dishwashing skills. The cuisine of the Korst basin is as Centorin as that of the Navorken basin in spite of the fact that no ingredients are the same. Thick steaks, mashed kalics, a side salad and a cooked vegetable of some kind is a standard dinner in that basin. There will be dressing on the salad and a glaze on the vegetable and the wood that grilled the steak will be selected in a fancy place. The Korst basin is a local year beyond the current end of the tubes.
In the Borlunth basin meals are served in/on edible bread bowls or bigleaves. In many basins, Borlunth for example, the standards of cleanliness are NOT up to what people from planets with Earth-native pathogens would consider acceptable, as in, you must scare the bugs off the teriyaki sticks, while watching those who value the bugs those teriyaki sticks have attracted as part of the meal. In Borlunth, kvarit (shitslug) is high-end dining. Borlunth is an Earth year from the gatehead on commercial transportation.
In the one of the Megnor traditions, meals are brought to tables on a schedule and one chooses a seat at the table with the meal one wants. Tables are communal and conversation is expected. The actions of the waitresses has been mentioned earlier, but in the basin itself, that tradition holds in only a few restaurants and they will feature breasts in the pictures on the sign.
In the Trenst basin the buffet is extremely common. There are so many fruits from all evolutions native to that basin that one need eat nothing else. There is a big cattle industry also and boats crowded with livestock are seen on the rivers. There is often a haunch and carver at more stylish buffets. Trenst is the city where your table is most likely to be on a balcony with a breathtaking view. There are many floaters in the basin and there are fashionable restaurants on the tops of many towers. The view is a hundred miles across harbor, river, city and swamp. Unfortunately, at this time it is not possible to reach Trenst in under three local years, and well over an Earth year if using commercial transportation.
In the castles of Yondure, dinners are a formal religious ceremony, and many commercial dining rooms mimic that atmosphere, though the pre-prandial lecture may be more humor than sermon. The dress around the table makes the ancient American Oscar ceremonies seem like a wait-staff gab session. The food is rich in heavily marinated meats eaten with chopstick-like tongs and thick, spicy, vegetable stews much like chili. The conversation is intellectual. Currently one must allow an Earth year to reach the city of Yondure using commercial transportation.
Prvest is the center of what's known as 'Dwarven' cuisine. They are known for stews and beer but Prvest is also known for the very non-Dwarven flip flats. Flip flats are two layers of fried thesh with some filling between, usually with lon or rinko for soom. There are sausages in more styles than we've seen before, often big enough to roast and slice for a family, others the size of a newborn's fingers. Sausage stews are common. Prvest looks like a 19th century European city or 29th century Navorkensville. It is full of little sidewalk cafe's and high enough in the atmosphere to have cold beer. There are beautiful brick promenades for cooks to set up on in most neighborhoods and the yaag in Prvest is every bit as good as the beer. Prvest is the only basin where yaag is commonly served cold. Prvest is more than half an Earth year beyond the end of the tube.
Every basin deserves a dining page, not paragraph, and the list of unexpected customs and foods is too long to read thru. These were just the famous ones everyone's heard of that are represented in the Yakhan. Some that aren't heard from, like Knidola, Bordzvek and Platicivetrie, actually have better fare than the one's known for it.