A record of Razenovan Heartland culture, circa 1140.
In the ocean north of Atrovia, around the black corals that make up Vanma reef, live vast numbers of Eitadorian shipworm. These worms are sometimes referred to as ‘termites of the sea’ or ‘termite worms’ because they bore into the wood of ships and docks. The Eitadorian variety is quite a problem for traders, but also has a place as a very beloved delicacy!
The worms tend to be around three feet long and can grow to be perhaps two or three times that big in extreme circumstances. They are normally a pale orange color and have a smooth and slimy texture. A pair of small shells protrude from one end of their bodies and are presumably what they use to dig into the wood.
Along the coast of the Atrovian bay, peasants float logs into the water in the hopes of attracting lots of delicious shipworm. They pull these logs ashore for the Midwinter festival and sell the worms they find there all throughout the northern heartlands. Every town and village in the region will cook lots of them as part of the local celebrations.
The floatwood is burned after it is pulled in, and it produces a very yellow flame. People cannot quite explain why the flames burn so brightly, but they have always been interpreted as a thing of great positive significance. The fires of the floatwood are instrumental in keeping away evil spirits who might be looking for a place to shelter from the cold.
Strangers to Atrovia are often shocked and disgusted when they first see a shipworm, but those brave enough to dig into them will quickly work out what all of the fuss is about! A great introduction to them is to eat a shipworm ring after it has been steeped in boiling oil until it has taken on a golden hue and springy texture. They can also be sliced lengthways into very thin strips and cooked with Karforian spices, sliced into chunks and thrown into a seafood broth, or even just eaten raw. It is harder to suggest that you try them raw, however, as the texture can be incredibly off-putting if it is your first experience with this strange ingredient.
Shipworm is often paired with ekalkh, a round and firm purple vegetable that forms a staple in most heartland cooking. It provides a contrasting texture and crunch that can greatly enhance the meal for some people. After shipworm, you should eat dates to cleanse your palette. In Eitador that is likely to mean the heavenly date, deglet noor, which came to the continent from North Africa. This particular combination is said to bring out the shipworm’s aphrodisiac properties.
This author strongly recommends that you give shipworm a try! Even if you end up not liking it very much, you can at least immerse yourself in a cultural tradition and expand your knowledge of what Atrovia has to offer. And if you do like it, you’ll know to pay the region another visit next time Midwinter rolls around.