“Turkey legs, get your turkey legs here!” a man calls from just inside the festivals main entrance. “Piping hot turkey legs!” he bellows again from behind his booth, which holds a pile of turkey legs cooked to various degrees of unappetizing. The smoke from the fire pit behind him wafts in and out of the covered booth, soaking him, and everybody within 5 feet in the stench of overcooked meat.
Across the road, another booth (a much cleaner booth) is also selling turkey legs. This vendor, however, has clean booth, and is wearing a formal chef’s outfit from the local academy of the arts. Raw turkey legs hang from the covered booth, waiting to be purchased. “Can I interest you in the best turkey you have ever tasted?” asks the chef. “You pick the leg, you describe the flavor, I make it happen. It is that simple!” he exclaims with excited optimism.
The greasy, smoke covered man steps out from behind his booth and approaches. “No, no, no. You don’t want that. He’s selling PMC turkey. You don’t want your future kids to be born with tails, do you?” He holds out two massive turkey legs, one bloody and the other almost charcoal. “See these legs here are non-PMC. You can tell because they are bigger, and they were cooked, by hand, individually, by me, a 3rd generation turkey man.” he spits towards the chef’s booth. “This imposter is a disgrace.”
Hello there, and welcome back for more Groundbreaking with me, Randal! We were celebrating my twins’ 4th birthday today, with their meal of choice … chicken nuggets and cake. While my wife made the cakes and frosting by hand, the nuggets were the frozen variety. At some point, for reasons that escape me, I had a chuckle at all the things with silly ingredient lists as well as things marked non-GMO. Later, I was rereading Prestidigitation for unknown reasons (don’t give me that look, you know what i mean) when this idea occurred to me. Let’s dive in!
Founded 10 years ago, the Marathis Academy of Arts for Everyone was designed to provide lessons to all that had an interest in the arts, not just those that were rich or sponsored in some way. As such, their curriculum was geared towards day to day arts, such as cooking, music, or weaving instead of the high arts of wizardry. They expected to draw a crowd for music, and so had a few bards on staff, but to their surprise, it was their cooking courses that ended up becoming popular. Recent popularity in alchemy began to bleed over, and soon the school was known for innovating the culinary landscape of Marathis’ Cradle’s elite. With some free time due to a lack of music students, and never the type to stay away from the popular people, the staff bards began to take lessons to augment their use of prestidigitation to cook food.
It was then, that the school made its mark. Combining simple alchemy, simple magic, and proper culinary skills, they were able to mould some of the most talented chefs in decades. The academy’s popularity was instant. This was the turning point in their attempt at educating the common folk. They received funding to open satellite campuses around the basin. They chose their locations carefully according to two pieces of criteria. First, was access to ingredients unique to the region, creating training opportunities that weren’t found elsewhere. Second was financial sponsorship, ensuring that money was available to build and staff as quickly as possible, as well as provide families interested in sending servants to learn.
The original academy in Lakeside Proper has been internally nicknamed Academy Prime, and is known mostly for the unique fresh-water fare that comes from the fish unique to the lake. Academy West is located in Glintwood Clearing and is known for their mushrooming menu (see what I did there?). Academy North is located on the river near Bloomeweave, specializes in big game meats, and has been pushing their luck with the Hunstmen. Academy South is located outside of Walnut Grove where they hope to make friends with the gnoblin inventors to take their creations to the next level; their food showcases grains and nuts. Academy East is currently a bit of a bust. They began to setup shop in Bazarton, but a rumor went around that they their use of alchemy in making drinks was riling up the dwarves of Tar’Urzeft. This intrigued them, and so they are currently trying to negotiate a deal where they can setup campus in the dwarven keep/city instead, and then hopefully get access to their secrets as well.
While the initial wave of popularity was fun for their original alumni, but it quickly became clear that they were being snubbed. This caused the common chefs, cooks, and other food mongers to begin a war against the academics that were trying to hone in on their business. The battle against Prestidigitation Modified Cuisine is only the beginning. What started as a cleverly worded quip, was quickly shortened to the acronym PMC for shouting in loud and crowded markets, and has since seen usage spread further than expected. There are rumors that the dwarven contempt for the academy is all part of some meat monger conspiracy, or that both sides are being played by the meat monger mafia (it could exist!).
As a counter offensive in this stirring food war (sorry, I can’t help myself), the academy has begun to setup booths, demonstrations, and even contests at many markets and almost every festival in the region. Booths show off the flavor, demonstrations show how safe and accessible their craft is, and contests “prove” that their food is better and that you can’t tell which is which. When they can, they hire a simple meat monger to compete against one of their students to see who can cook the most consistent fare over the course of an hour. Often, they simply provide samples that aren’t labeled for guests to taste test and guess if they can tell if it was an academy recipe or not. Other times, they will hold competitions for festival patrons that consider themselves competent in the kitchen. These competitions usually split the patrons into two teams, led by academy chef instructors, to see which team can master a technique the best in a short amount of time. These usually include the use of wands to allow non-casters to soup-up (oops, I did it again!) the meal while proving how safe the use of magic is, even in the hands of “normal people”.
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