Online:A Culinary Adventure, Volume 3
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Mach-Makka has been hard at work the last few days. He's been preparing a meal that I didn't even know existed. How marvelous! His assistant told me that the locals call it a "nagahssee" which translates to something like "snake roll," I think. "Snake stocking" would probably be more appropriate. More on that in a moment.
The process begins by catching a wasso hedge snake. Apparently Mach-Makka only trusts one local snake dealer—a sharp-faced hunter named Paxit. In talking to Paxit, I found out that picking a reputable snake dealer is of paramount importance when preparing nagahssee. You see, the wasso hedge snake looks almost exactly like the red hooped tree-viper. Eating the former will give you a full belly. Eating the latter will kill you before you leave the table. I was delighted to hear this story. Dangerous food is something of an obsession for me!
Once the chef has acquired a snake, he or she goes to work disemboweling it. The snake's interior is used in a number of other dishes, but nagahssee only requires the skin. The empty skin is packed with a mix of wild marsh rice, dried parsnips, sliced bark-ear mushrooms, and a live mouse! Paxit explained to me that nagahssee is a unique dish that always changes. Those who choose to eat the dish when it is first prepared are treated to the fresh vegetable medley and the lean, wriggling meat of the mouse. But those who choose to let the dish rest for a few hours (or even days) are richly rewarded for their patience. The longer the dish rests, the fatter the mouse becomes. It can spend a great deal of time feasting on the rice and parsnips before finally expiring. An average nagahssee takes about five days to "ripen."
Hearing all this, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. I selected a roll that had been resting for the better part of two days. I still heard a faint squeaking from beneath the skin. I think I'll wait a bit longer before I take my first bite!