Interviewing a Vampire Chef (#2 of Worldly Cooking)
There are countless different types of cuisines throughout Loria. Some are as familiar as your grandfather’s kitchen or as otherworldly as roasting sardines on a heat vent under the sea, but all people in all places share a love of cooking that is as universal as hunger itself.
My name is Dagor Seyra and I have been writing for The Culinary Monthly for over a decade now. My passion for food and the people who prepare it started with my grandmother, and even after she passed on to Above, this desire to get to know the people behind what we eat never left me.
So this year, I decided to indulge this fascination and hit the road (or the boat) and experience the cuisines of world-class chefs from around the world.
In each upcoming issue of The Culinary Monthly, I will interview one chef that embodies and/or revolutionizes their people’s cuisine. I’ll be trying to find out what drives them, how they reached their success, and of course, taste fabulous food.
(Last month, I explored Indolanan cuisine with Anthon Calussi. This month, I’m staying in Indolana to meet a different chef, but you could not exactly call her cuisine Indolanan. Indolana may be a human nation, but that does not mean a few Counts can’t be…well, vampires. I am traveling to the grand and secluded home of Count Rubien, head of an old and respected clan whose personal chef, Alina Trethel, has single-handedly revolutionized the way vampires approach food. Last time, I interviewed Anthon Calussi on his restaurant’s patio, beneath the light of the setting sun.
Alina of course is different. We sat in her immaculate office, every candle in its rightful place, and by that candlelight, we began.)
This will be strange for me. Usually, I can give my point of view on someone’s food, but for you… I mean, I can’t even eat what you cook!
Unless you turn into a vampire (laughs). You do bring up an interesting point. Although you can exclude blood from my recipes, what I am known for is how I incorporate that all-important ingredient into my dishes.
Not long ago, or at least not long ago for me, vampires drank blood, and food was just that. This, this separate thing. When you turn, your taste buds change. It’s not that ordinary food becomes unappetizing, it just…doesn’t feel filling anymore. So we didn’t focus on it.
I find that so… small-minded. We have this unique ingredient that no one else can utilize, and not taking advantage of that opportunity, closes off a world of possibilities.
But infusing blood into the meal… elevates it. It is an ingredient that allows for so much creativity.
Because, if I understand this correctly, every single person’s blood is unique.
Oh, absolutely. One’s origin affects it the most. You can immediately tell the difference between naiad and dwarf blood for example. But everyone’s blood has character, personality even. Using the right blood for the right dish is essential. Sometimes, it comes down to the qualities of a specific person.
You are infamous for being picky. You have a dish that you will only use one person’s blood.
Her name is Sara and the dish is Red Cream Pie. She’s starting to get into her elderly years. I’ll be lost when she passes. I have never managed to find anyone with that flavor of sweetness, even fruitiness. Her son doesn’t have it. No one has it. It will be a culinary tragedy, like a delicious herb going extinct. I’ll of course retire the dish after she goes. I could not possibly make it without her.
Are there certain dishes that you need only Avynar blood or Giant blood to get right?
Absolutely. They all have distinct attributes. It’s fun to explore what one can do with all these different flavors, especially since cooking with it all is relatively uncharted ground.
Have you ever worked with faerie blood?
That’s addictive. I think that would be immoral unless I was very upfront about it. Even then, I taste all my sources; I think a chef who doesn’t taste their food is no chef. If I worked with faerie blood, I would feel obliged to check the flavor and I don’t want to go through that withdrawal.
And this is all completely consensual?
Absolutely. We have a form. We have benefits. It is completely transparent. To do otherwise would be barbaric.
And get the Bloodslayer at your door.
Speaking of him, have you ever worked with or even tasted his blood?
Bottles of his blood are floating around, much to his displeasure. It’s also a constantly shrinking supply because he confiscates any he finds.
Using it is like roasting an endangered animal. There is—ah, that is to say, there would be this terror of screwing it up and wasting such a priceless ingredient.
What makes his blood special?
Several things. Half-elf blood is always valuable. A dash of humanity can strengthen elven blood’s normally fragile flavor. His blood isn’t normal elven blood though.
Because his grandfather was one of the elves who turned to Nullari in their darkest hour.
Indeed. Blood that carries the blessing of our goddess is a religious experience to drink. But there are other Dusk Elves, and there are other half-elves. What sets the Bloodslayer apart is that he is a telepath of unsurpassed power.
What is the value of that?
Our senses are temporarily enhanced by the senses of what we drink and that includes the rarer senses. Drink from a seer and you’ll temporarily see the future. Drink from a telepath and you can find out who is betraying you. If you taste a strong enough one, you could even mind-control someone. And with the Bloodslayer… well. You briefly have the powers of the most dangerous mortal alive.
So, what you’re saying is his blood is liquid power.
That is exactly what I am saying. Blood lords have built empires off his blood. I have no doubt there is something addicting about having that kind of power, even so briefly.
Ah. That…explains a lot.
Well, my blood will not build you any empires, but while I’m here, I have a challenge for you. Could you make a dish with my blood?
I certainly could, but I would need your written permission to use it.
Just tell me where to sign. I want to taste your food but my blood is the only blood I’ll feel comfortable consuming.
I understand. Just be aware that you will not get the full impact because the true flavor is lost on your palate. It will just taste coppery to you.
A tragedy I am sure, but an unavoidable one.
(I cannot overstate how serious Alina is about safety. Throughout preparations to just nick my arm for an understanding of flavor, she gave me rules; she gave me disinfectant; she gave me detailed instructions and warnings on anything that could happen. She did it with such practiced ease, I felt no pain at the small puncture. Eventually, though, she did lick her needle)
Hmm, interesting. You speak like a Tenadari, yet you taste almost Kuzarran.
My Father’s mother hailed from Kuzarra. You can tell different origins in humans?
Oh yes. Kuzarrans tend toward more earthy, even hearty flavor.
Is the saying that Per’iians are more hotblooded true?
Not really. However, I will say serving their blood hot tends to enhance the flavor more than other humans. Your blood should not be hot, but it should be served warm.
Hmm, it’s hard to explain to someone who has never tasted the true flavor of blood. I guess the simplest, but incomplete, answer is that it makes it taste fresh.
What else you would do?
(Alina is a woman of precision. You can only admire her focus as she went step by step through the motions to teach me how using blood in food works, and what she’d use my blood for.
The irony was throughout the majority of the session, the actual cooking was shockingly…normal. Mushrooms, potatoes, pork. All in the end mixed and slow cooked.
A pretty normal recipe.
Then came the interesting part, the uniquely vampire part.
Upon her request, I gave her my blood. With it, she made a sauce which she drizzled over the pork the moment it came out.
It looked…it smelled wonderful.
But how did it taste?
I naturally would taste it myself, but also needed a more…qualified test taster.
Loyal subscribers of course will be familiar with my colleague Liam Gorrath, a long-time contributor for The Culinary Monthly.
Long-time readers will also know that due to personal life troubles, he unexpectedly turned into a vampire a couple of months ago. He is now well known for the popular series “Altered Palate” where he offers a strikingly candid view into his experiences with food since the transformation. It is groundbreaking in how raw and open he is about his struggles and I urge you to check it out.
I invited him on this pilgrimage to Count Rubien’s home because he has been a long-time admirer of her philosophy and no matter what comes out of my interview, he would benefit from the experience more than I.
He joined us in the kitchen, made the obvious joke about being eager to finally taste my blood, and then asked what we had made out of it.
Alina’s response came with the rehearsed ease of someone who has had to describe her food many, many times before.)
We have diced roasted mushrooms, boiled and mashed potatoes, covered in a thin layer of pork, slow-cooked, glazed with blood sauce. I made the sauce with 3/8th cup of steamy water mixed well with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/8th cup of your colleague’s blood. Serves 2-4
(It tasted delicious. The pork…the potatoes…the mushrooms, all perfectly cooked. The texture was simple, juicy, and tender, like how a good slow-roasted pork should be—without too much of the salty tang of the meat as each ingredient mellowed each other out in a delicate balance.
To me, the actual blood sauce kind of tasted like coppery butter.
But my colleague…
I won’t quote him. He will clarify his thoughts in “Altered Palate” and I do not want to steal his thunder here, but I will report that he found it mild and rich and deep without being overwhelming.
He cried, thanked her profusely for the privilege, and raved about how the taste felt how it should be, which if you have read any of his entries in “Altered Palate” is a common complaint with food he has these days.
He displayed mock outrage at me for keeping my blood from him if this is what I’m capable of. I laughed; he laughed, but in reality, I can’t take credit. I could have asked her to do that challenge with anyone’s blood and I think Liam’s reaction would have been the same.
Because Alina is a visionary; she’s doing something not only important but necessary. Eating food is a primal thing and the hunger, the need to experience cooking and eating doesn’t go away when you become a vampire. With her techniques and methodology, Alina is allowing people like Liam to experience food the way a human would. And that is a wonderful thing.)
That’s it for my foray into vampiric cooking. I hope all our loyal readers enjoyed it. I leave Indolana altogether to go someplace that was in a war with them in their very recent history. Have a guess where I’m going? Find out in next month’s entry to my “Wordly Cooking” series!
(Taken from the #169 issue of The Culinary Monthly)