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Elminster Speaks - Part 40
By Ed Greenwood
Delzemaeran Delicacies, Part 2
A few more notes, before we travel on, about what fills platters (ornate, oval, punched-metal affairs or smooth-carved, wooden ones that are cleaned by tong-held plunges into flaming oil and then into quenching water) and bellies in Delzimmer.
Fruit Jellies: The hot, damp climate of this corner of Faerûn (aided by stinging flies and midges) causes rapid rotting of food that's not guarded against spoilage. One of the popular local ways of preserving grapes, dewblood berries (ye might call them "currants," which they much resemble), and other small fruit is to boil them and then strain them out of the hot water straightaway into molds of just-beginning-to-cool jelly. Many local creatures have fatty flesh that can yield the necessary "squirmhard" (the substance used to gel the jellies), but unless ye happen to like a warring taste of sweet fruit and savory beast, fruit jellies are best made with the squirmhard of the glael, a repulsive-looking green-to-brown ground slug. Glael can get as long as a human forearm, but are usually half that length, and the halflings of Luiren have harvested them almost to extinction in some parts of that land. (Ghey are still plentiful in the hills near Delzimmer.)
Glael flesh tastes horrible and has the consistency of glue, but when just the right-hued flesh is harvested and simmered to separate out the fibrous innards, the result is a bland, almost clear (translucent and tinged with air bubbles and a faint greenish hue) jelly that readily takes on the taste of any fruit stirred into it. Glael jelly hardens swiftly when allowed to cool, suspending fruit therein. (Hin often cool the stuff by pouring it into covered jars in their cellars.) When sold in rough earthenware jugs, such concoctions are inevitably known as jugged fruit jellies, and a good-sized jug of the stuff can be had for 5 copper coins.
Scaletail: Skewers of fried snake and lizard are a local dietary staple. These are fried in hot spiced oils for immediate dining or smoked and sold as kitchen crock snacks or trail food. In either case, heads, limbs, and innards are removed, and the remainder is cut into long, thin lengthwise strips (rather as ye might expect a butcher to render pork into strips of bacon).
Two harmless, edible, insect-eating local rock lizards are plentiful: the hand-sized, dusty brown and slow-moving klonthaer and the reddish, dartingly swift, smaller bharang. Most scaletail is scraps of these two sorts of lizards that are augmented by the large, dark brown, beetle-devouring mushroom snake (named for the fungi it most often hides among, perfectly disguised by the matching hue of its mottled body).
Occasionally more exotic snakes and other reptiles are slain and made into special scaletail that may be sold for thrice the price of the daily, ordinary sort. Usually scaletail goes for a silver coin per well-laden platter, or three coppers for a heavy (loaded) skewer.
Scaletail has its local variants and equivalents all along the Great Sea coast, but it doesn't travel well. I seldom find folk who like it farther north than, say, the Calim Desert. Fruit jellies from Delzimmer and Luiren, on the other hand, have made their way onto glittering tables in Sembia and even Waterdeep and are increasingly plentiful in Calimshan, Tethyr, and Amn.
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