Norĵek is a Human populated world in the heart of the Klaithesh spiral arm of Galfarra.
The world itself is quite small, more like a moon than a planet. It’s quite low gravity, only around seven units, and very cold.
The world orbits a dwarf star in the thin band of warmth sufficient for the surface of the planet to support oxygen, water, and other things to keep the planet’s Human populace alive. Humanity, however, has to cling to the equatorial (approximately) one-third of the surface as the more polar regions can reach incredibly low temperatures – during some years, low enough to precipitate some of the vital gasses out of the atmosphere at the poles themselves.
Despite this, the planet has a remarkably robust biosphere, even more amazingly it possesses such a biosphere from pole to pole.
Near the equator the biology of the world is largely a mix of tundras, cold-swamps, and ice-jungle, with typical temperate zones hugging the few degrees above and below the actual equator. Approaching the poles you find a shift toward silicate life, and other ice-world biologies as well as unusual forms extremophilic carbon/water life. Plants on Norĵek are more closely related to ferns, and some do not metabolise carbon dioxide, but various ammonia-based gases instead. Most life on the planet is found under its considerable ocean, which is exceedingly deep for a world so small and filled with geothermal vents than keep the lower reaches liquid. Underwater all forms of life from bacteria to fungus to reptiles to mammals can be found. On the surface it is primarily insects, saurians, and a few mammals as well as the fern-like planets.
Geologically there are two major continents and one minor one which have only separated from a single continent in the last 500,000 standard years so are fairly close together. There are also numerous archipelagos of volcanic islands scattered around the ocean. Geysers abound on the landmasses, and the hot springs tend to be the population centres for the Norĵeké whether you mean Human or animal.
Economically the world is part of the Galfarran Union and while on the poorer end of the spectrum is still considered “average wealth” by the Galfarran Trade Council. Their major exports are in a few exotic alloys that are produced in the planet’s mantle and collected at lava flows (for example, Norĵek is the best source for blethĵŝ); their woodcrafts have long been a powerful artisan market as the profoundly long and isolating winters leave plenty of time to perfect handcrafts which couples well with the extreme beauty of the wood of Norĵek’s few species of tree; they also produce many raw goods needed by various cosmetics industries in the form of oils, volcanic rocks, etc.
No worlds in the Norĵek system have moons, but the first four planets, Norĵek being the third, are all so close to each other and their star that they can be seen quite clearly in one another’s skies.
Norĵek’s orbit, being so small, does give it a very short year, being only slightly longer than a standard korva, and it has a rotation of approximately 29 nulaire 7⅔ saenead.
While biologically and historically omnivorous, Xentorns are a philosophically vegetarian race, as such they have no surviving recipes for any sort of flesh.
The Xentorn race, spread through Galfarra, and even somewhat into the Milky Way and Vorton galaxies rely on a wide array or foods as do many such races, but there is a common theme among their foods.
Traditionally this race grazes throughout the day on various foods in light meals and snacks. In this respect various pies, especially custard, fruit, or egg are quite popular; as are fruits and berries in raw or simple cooked form (e.g. boiled and spiced).
The single, traditional, Xentoran daily meal is a time for family and friends to gather and have a mini celebration and as such mimics, in small scale, the feasts of a temple gathering.
The family and guests gather in the household common room on cushions with low tables set close to hand. Or, for those associating heavily with other races often, they may gather in more local means such as in a dining room around a table. Regardless of setting, the meal is served in specific courses.
First comes a small, warm tayæ, a dish in small hand bowls eaten with a spoon and consisting of one or more stewed berries mixed with a sauce made of mild spices (typically described by Terrans as reminiscent of mulling spices) in a mix of a rich cream and/or butter (traditionally made from a plokëo, one of many Xentoran fruits similar to the coconut of Earth but just as often from an animal milk), and a syrup made from nectar or honey. This is served with a very small glass of a simple, weak wine or with water with a bit of fruit juice squeezed into it.
Next will come the raìsu, a cold soup made from pureed melons and nuts, and often features olkaeri, a fruit many have said is what one would get if a fig and date were crossed. This is eaten scooped by a soft pita or naan like bread. No drink is typically served with this course.
Next is the main dish, or yaero. Xentoran cuisine flourishes on the experimental and adopts new preparation methods and ingredients readily. The most consistent thing about a yaero is that it will be an experience, whether for good or ill.
Favourite themes in the dishes, though, do crop up out of long racial habit. On Xentor, and as a result, often elsewhere, the main course will rely heavily on foods similar to the dozens of species of tyheari, a family of fruits very similar, and potentially related to the plantain or banana of Earth and known to be related to the Ilzwik hathbok fruits. Other popular foods are various sweet tubers, and various things best described, in English, as figs, dates, and coconuts. These along with nuts, legumes, various rhubarb like plants, and vegetables will be cooked together. There are various family recipes, successful yaeroa of the past that were recorded for making again, but no really widespread recipes.
Xentoran cookbooks do contain a number of tayæ, raìsu and faeriea recipes, but for yaero it will merely give suggestions and advice such as one in a currently popular book Xentoriae Laeysô Junillash Qaelù [A Xentoran Take/View of/at Junillian Foods/Cooking], “a reasthê’s flavour and aroma is brought out and enhanced if you sauté it cut into small cubes then marinate it overnight with a mix of equal parts threasedi oil and a hearty Plotreadi beer”.
Many different kinds of drink might be served with a yaero, but most often it will be a refreshing, cool, mellow flavoured ale, any complimentary variety of wine, or coffee.
Finally is dessert, or faeriea. Xentorns do not, traditionally, eat sweet faerieaï. They prefer a final course that is spiced. Rarely to the degree of a strong pepper, though it is not unheard of; instead it will be more along the lines of nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, grishokna and the like. Popular faerieaï include seasoned custards, squash or tuber pies (Xentorns who’ve visited Earth often feel quite at home with a slice of pumpkin or sweet potato pie, for example), and similar preparations. This course is most often enjoyed with some kind of tea or naewi, a drink made of unsweetened cocoa mixed with milk from certain fruit nuts and juices from chilies.
A drink rarely found off of Xentor, but highly prized when it can be gotten is daesriu, a popular drink to enjoy with faeriea that consists of fermented milk (plant or animal is equally likely) sweetened with honey and flavoured with various herbs from mint and ginger families then served ice cold. It is, deservedly, noted for its ability to aid in digestion or to soothe digestive issues.
A Xentorn living alone, who cannot enjoy a meal with any friends or family will, normally, not have one – instead lightly snacking for all her food in a day. Some will prepare a lone five courses and enjoy them in private celebration of the day, usually as a self congratulation for a personal achievement, but many Xentorns find any solitary meal, regardless of reason, depressing so will find other means of self-congratulation.
Be forewarned: invitation to a Xentoran meal can be a truly fantastic experience, it being equally likely to be utterly horrible as profoundly enjoyable. As with all people, there’re varying degrees of competency, skill, talent, and instinct for cooking among Xentorns. And as in most beings, there is a varying degree of awareness of this. Unlucky individuals have reported waking years later to nightmare remembrances of a disastrous yaero. Others have likened various yaeroa to sexual and/or spiritual bliss. As with any race of humans, the average Xentorn knows her limits and will stick to what she is good at, and saves extremes of experimentation for herself or for certain of the less pleasant Xentoran celebrations.
Please note, too, that no part of a Xentoran meal will, normally, include any drink stronger than 10%ABV, as anything stronger is usually deemed to overpower the flavours of the food or to numb the palate. Exceptions exist in the form of adopted customs on various worlds, and individual tastes.
Some final notes regarding traditional diets of the Xentorn people: a common item for midday snacks is a readseuo, a deepfried starchy vegetable on a stick eaten with various condiments.
Also no commentary on Xentoran food is complete without mention of the widespread stereotype that Xentorns neither enjoy nor are competent in creating distilled beverages. Which, after extensive study is partially deserved.
Xentorns do not seem to have any racial aversion to distilled drinks, though they are slightly more wont to avoid high proof liquors, being 15% more likely to find drinks over 25% ABV to be unpleasant, or to enjoy them only sparingly. Not a significant margin, really, and this stereotype is more deserved by the Glokirthe people who seem to be quite loathe to drink anything much over 5% ABV — despite this they are popularly depicted as boozers and drunks, proving many things about popular perceptions and entertainment, one is sure, but will leave to the xenopsychologists and sociologists to work out.
The stereotype of being poor distillers is rather accurate, however. While it would be ridiculous to say that they never developed the technology of distillation, they never seem to have applied it to beverage making – only to purification methods and medicine production. The only distilled beverage made on Xentor that might pre-date their exposure to other races (though evidence for this is thin at best) is kearuiea. This liquor is generally 20-35% ABV and is made from the kaerophi nut, a plant so similar to the Earth hazelnut that xenobotonists have spent centuries trying to determine if the two plants in fact, share a common ancestry. It is also the only distilled beverage from Xentor that is often considered to be any good, all others being deemed rotgut or little better. Some Galfarran bartenders have been known to give a different, more expensive drink, on the house, to someone so down on their luck as to order a Xentoran liquor that isn’t kearuiea. The drinking of these distillations is also a popular dare at many parties among Junillian youths.
Galfarra uses a form of the ancient Junillian measures with regards to names, but the pattern of the units is a simplification of the Guyathri system and was adopted by the Galfarran Federation some twenty-five thousand years ago (Galfarran standard).
The units are based on the structure of a nujarak crystal, which sets the definition for an ilurĵa, the smallest basic unit, though for scientific purposes and for percision various sub-ilurĵa are used or alien measures of smaller increment are adopted (for example, for measuring atomic distances a common convention in Galfarran is to use the Ruvellian jañoursar).
Every 16 ilurĵa is one varĵé. 16 varĵé is a korĵed, and 1600 korĵed makes a maldri (which is, coincidently exactly equal to 2km in the Terran Standard Units system).
The extreme jump from korĵed to maldri is due to the decline and eventual disuse of other increments which would have maintained the 16 count pattern and history does not give strong evidence to suggest that any but these four units were ever often used for anything except speciality purposes in the first place, though some farmers on worlds in the Glardredi sub-galaxy do still use the huydri is still defined as a square haydri (80 korĵed).
Above this distance there is no official standard of distance beyond the parsec (in Galfarran an utraĵedri) which, as one would expect, is used for interstellar distances.
Ilurĵa, varĵé, korĵed, maldri, and utraĵedri are both the plural and singular form of these units. This is based on the Galfarran habit of maintaining grammatical constructions for words that are adopted rather than incorporated, and in old-Junillian all units of measure were considered klindra (old-Junillian actually had a sufficient number of words that were their own plural that they had a term for it, this has been known to drive some linguists and historians to distraction when context does not make it clear which is meant).