Do all Staré have bad taste?

It seems so to Rigi and her human associates, at least when Staré food is involved. The natives of Shikhari will eat things that make humans think twice, or just back away slowly before fleeing. Rigi does her best to pretend that she does not see tam being served under her roof, or notice when boxes from a tam-patty take-out place appear beside the waste-disposal combustion unit behind the house. If she does not see them, they are not there.

In Called to the Council, Rigi meets the wild ancestor of tam. The Staré do not care for it as much, and comment on how terribly bland it is. Rigi finds it quite edible as compared to the domestic version. It lacks the slimy texture and deep bitter sub-flavor of tame tam. She’s still not fond of the plant, but decides that the wild form is preferable.

Rigi has inadvertently discovered one of the quirks of Staré biology. Although their sense of smell is far, far better than that of 99% of humans, that does not mean that their sense of taste is equally sensitive. In fact, if someone were to do a serious double-blind experiment, they would discover that once again, Shikhari has produced a biological impossibility – the Staré have “duller” tastebuds than do humans.

Humans have observed that the Staré tend to overcook, over-season, and over-do their food. This is in part out of necessity, since they will eat meat that is “high” past what humans think is safe. They didn’t know why it needed to be cooked longer, just that well-cooked meat didn’t cause illness, and so they prefer their meat well-done or even charred. They bred native plants to their tastes, literally, resulting in flavors that are overwhelming to the unwary human. Ginter is one of the exceptions, and n’card’mon, and in those cases, the Staré use easily three times as much per serving as do humans. Shona and other Staré who cook for humans have to make major adjustments to the seasonings.

Why don’t Staré taste foods the way they smell them? If anyone realized this, they’d probably get at least a PhD in xenophysiology out of the topic. It has to do with a few things, including the fact that most toxic plants on Shikhari taste salty-sweet. So Staré are exceedingly sensitive to that combination. Salted caramels would never, ever sell on Shikhari, nor would some other similar combinations. Bitter plants tend to be either only mildly toxic, or harmless. Bitter also registers better as a scent than does salty-sweet, providing more than sufficient warning.

If Rigi or one of the few humans who specialize in Staré diseases were to sit down and interview Staré about food and dining, they’d discover that the locals have bred plants to favor heavy, bitter, or very spicy flavors. The Staré also have a secondary digestive process that humans lack and that is very odd for omnivores. As a result, not all Staré-edible plants are also human-edible, as Micah De Groet and a few others (Uncle Eb, Tomás) have discovered to their great gastric distress. Sweet-stalk is one of the cross overs, and small humans have the same problem that small Staré do. Too much of the very sweet, very high fiber treat leads to, ahem, rapid passage of the contents of the GI tract. Not quite as fast as green-stalk, but close.

So Rigi pretends not to see tam under her roof, and her assistants and associates gossip about how humans are so confusing, and don’t really understand how one properly prepares and serves food. It’s a bit of a joke among Staré that humans can’t cook. Add in the “army food horror stories” of Lexissol and other military Staré, and most Staré shake their heads at the strangeness of these ear-less outlanders.

10 thoughts on “Do all Staré have bad taste?

  1. Now I’m imagining the fun-and-games of having Staré food and Human food on the same dining table or in having a diner with both Staré and Humans sitting at the same table. 😀

  2. I don’t know, I’ve never tried Staré before. What’s the best way to prepare them?

    • She’s a little over 41.

      Correction. She’s just over 35. Sorry. I was distracted and was adding too many years between books 3 and 4. Juggling too many things at once. Mea culpa.

      • Ah. Something I ought to discuss with you in regard to *snerk collar activates*. Expect an email shortly.

  3. For Terran mammals, smell is also a component of taste. The nerve bundles blend and feed the same part of the brain. This is why a good aroma will trigger salivation and a feeling that you can taste it. Think of smelling cherries, rare roast beast, caramelized onions, or bubble gum.

    Shikhari sounds like an much older biosphere, if the plants evolved poisons set to animal priority tastes, and the animals separated taste and smell to avoid being killed easily. Going for sweet and salty is dirty pool, for a hot world. The usual sort of Terran alkaloid poisons may not be very prevalent.

    Related thought is the Stare and other animals may obtain, process, and retain or eliminate key minerals differently. How do they dump heat, for instance, and is there an insect or symbiote that scavenges salts from their fur?

    The book is not titled “To Serve Stamm”, fortunately. Uh, Peter started it!

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