The Doom That Came to Sarnath
Sarnath was for centuries a remote mountain valley, and for countless generations, the people lived primarily off of the fruits of the rich tropical greenery of the area. Fruit is still a staple of the diet and the most common forms of sweets in the Republic, including lychee, mango, and watermelon. The primary grain of the city has always been rice, and the hills of the Nattutara Mountains have been terraced since time out of mind for rice-growing. The Sarnathi diet was primarily vegetarian for most of its history, supplemented with tropical nuts and goat cheese – goat still being the dominant form of livestock, although these days they are much more often raised for their meat. Meat, in general but especially among the upper classes, is becoming much more common, and a bit of a status symbol.
With the construction of the Great Canal, the city encountered fresh seafood for the first time, and in the centuries since it has rapidly become a defining aspect of Sarnathi cuisine, and today foreigners think of boiled mussels, fried catfish from the Ylarneki lowlands, prawns, and in the case of the well-to-do, raw octopus.
Sarnath is a city of coffee drinkers, a habit brought in from Sarnath’s old rival, Punath. The Punathi prefer light roasts with honey, but the Sarnathi favor a much darker roast, usually strong, almost sludge-y, and often thickened even further with sugar, and often flavored with concentrations of fruit juice to please the Sarnathi sweet tooth. The people of Kadateron, by contrast, have spent centuries cultivating tea, and so in Kadater neighborhoods, one is more likely to find tea shops than cafes.
The same sweet tooth that reigns in cafes comes to Sarnathi alcohol; they prefer spirits, usually 20-30% in strength, mixed generously with juices and sugar-water. Absinthe has become a hit in recent decades, and wine from Theraa is in vogue.
The Sarnathi love spicy food almost as much as sweet food, and often combine them. The most common Sarnathi meal is a boiled stew of shellfish and chunks of freshwater fish from the Ai River, with root vegetables and usually sweetened with tamarind or pineapple, and with so much chili it will make a foreigner’s eyes water to just be near the pot.
Narielese cuisine has had a major impact on Sarnath in recent decades, bringing an abundance of spices to the Sarnathi palate, including cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and coriander.