What exactly is gork? It is a mythical creature in my historical fantasy series, which resembles a woolly pig, and quite the delicacy. So, no, it’s not something you can try. Since the backdrop for the fantasy realm of Rinefield, is based on Scotland and Ireland, I went on a culinary journey into some of the classic fare.
One of the things I enjoy as a writer, is giving my characters memorable moments, many of which are centered around a meal, whether a romantic intimate setting, family gatherings, wedding feasts, or political matters. The food is not only reflective of the cultural background and settings but also the mood of the scene. Tolkien did this, throughout his epic saga. The meals often symbolizing the characters’ feelings, well being, and general mood, in which the setting placed them in. The thing I found the most interesting aspect was not only the vivid descriptions, be it feast of meager rations, it was always based on the classic food of the UK or Ireland.
I wanted to fully appreciate how my characters would feel when sitting down to a meal. The sexy Leprechaun (aka the hubby) and I, researched as many authentic recipes as we could find, and actually cooked or purchased what the characters would be eating. I am not a big meat eater, but I still found it very interesting as well as tasty, the dishes we decided to explore. The famous stout stew, which features Guinness cooked with cubed beef, potatoes, carrots, and we added mushrooms and turnips, was amazing. This inspired me to create for my books, the famous venison stew served at the Standing Bear Pub, highly favored by Fergus, the King of Heathwin.
My favorite dish was, the rich potatoes and cabbage combination of Colcannon. I could not get enough of it, and make at least once a week. The smoky, salty succulent Scottish style smoked salmon, has always been a treat. The hearty and satisfying bubble and squeak, as much fun to say as it is to eat. The lovely pasties, that I baked with or without meat. Of course, the soda bread, filled with sweet moist raisins, and let us not forget the shortbread. Even something as common as butter and cheese, took on a whole new perspective, as we tried Irish style butter and various cheeses from Ireland and Scotland. The beautiful but satisfying simplicity of boiled potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and kale, dressed in butter and a bit of salt. Beans on toast is now something we have with breakfast several times a week.
We also enjoyed having traditional tea time. Not always the dainty finger sandwich type tea. Though this was fun, we relished the idea of the more hearty fare, which I loved incorporating in my books. The smoked salmon, the oat scones with clotted cream or lemon curd. The rich flaky pasties, served with various pickled vegetables, sliced apples and cheese, were a delight. We tried and fell in love with Irish hard ciders, both apple and pear. All of these wonderful culinary experiences, made us respect and appreciate our Scottish and Irish heritages even more. It also helped me to create a more in depth and vivid world for my characters to dwell in. By using not only the rich and passionate history of our forebears, but exploring the ways they ate and showed hospitality, made me value so much more where we come from. It helped me to have a better understanding of how important sharing a meal was, either with family or associates. The warmth and heartiness of the meals served, the earthiness and comfort the food gave, added much to the history of these beautiful and majestic places. Experiencing the joy of cooking these meals, gave me a wonderful sense of family, of belonging. It was something I will always treasure, and was honored to implement in my books and will continue to.
Now what of Haggis? Well, I am not that brave. Though I did promise myself if I ever have the privilege to go to Scotland, I will try the “real” stuff. I do however make mention of it, with all due respect, in my books. Though for now, it will remain as fantastical and mystical as gork.