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Elminster Speaks - Part 39
By Ed Greenwood
Delzemaeran Delicacies, Part 1
'Tis a failing of my kind -- the long-lived, poke-our-noses-in-everything know-it-alls some refer to as sages, and many call by far less pleasant names -- to blithely mention this or that interesting observation and pass on, secure in our knowledge (or conversely, far less than secure, but desiring others not to know it -- hence the armored rush of our confidence). Cloaked in my own serene wisdom, I sailed right through some mentions of viands in my previous discourse that deserve further elucidation -- and of course thinking of them occasioned other culinary notes. Let us then tarry over that most important daily detail for most humans: "What shall I eat? That? Well, what is it, and be it a safe reponse to my raging hunger?"
Quace: I spoke of Delzmaer dining on "quace," without precisely identifying what that is. So picture a roundish, slightly segmented fruit the size of a large human male's palm or up to the size of his head. It looks rather like a trodden-on pumpkin: round, but seldom more than six inches high or thick at most. A quace is rose-pink when immature and veined with lime green, and as it ripens becomes entirely green (like unto what some of ye call a "honeydew melon"), but with its veins darkening just enough to remain distinct from the rest of the rind.
Quace grow plentifully on ground-clinging, crawling vines that like to shroud and bury everything within reach (though they're easily snapped off by humans), and are shaded by numerous clusters of broad, ragged-shaped sprouting leaves. In the full heat of the day, these growths shade the fruit. If water fails, they curl up and turn yellow, and the fruit shrivels to a plum or brown hue. If water returns, they revive swiftly, where most other parched fruit remain ruined.
Quace have a tough, waxy, thick rind enclosing a soft, jellylike green flesh that resists bruising. This flesh can be fried on a piece of rind (the rind then being discarded), eaten raw, or pickled to keep it from spoilage. It has a curiously sharp, cheesy flavor with a sweet aftertaste and quenches the thirst. When crushed, quace usually yields abundant syrup (sugary water). Fried quace takes on the flavor of whatever spiced oils it's fried in and can thus be made very savory.
In a similar manner, pickled quace can be made to taste like almost anything, from smoked eels to a minty sweet dessert. Every third or fourth elderly Delzmaer of either gender takes pride in concocting their own specialties or secret seasonings and selling the result from their awning-shaded, shuttered windows or to street vendors.
Quace grows wherever there's sun, water, and slopes (including in ruins and wild over the roofs of some buildings in Delzimmer), but it is plentiful in the nearby hills -- so much so that children and poor folk take handcarts out of the city at dawn and bring them back in an hour or so laden with fresh-picked quace for citizens to buy. (A copper coin typically buys a "qrey," which is the Delzmaer name for a group of sixteen; a '"qro" is eight.)
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