Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Food

Yet another post in Worldbuilding Wednesday, a blog hop sponsored by Rebekah Loper.  This week our topic is food.

Food supply is an essential for many worlds, yet authors don’t often think about all the difficulties involved. Our culture discourages involvement in food production. I read about a promising farmer’s son who was told in high school he would be ‘wasting his life’ if he studied agriculture in preparation to take over the family farm.

In my WIP Tiberius Base, the setting is a space city— like a space station but much larger — which is called, not surprisingly, Tiberius Base. The city is still under construction, but it needs to support the needs of a crew of builders and of some administrators supervising the project.

Tiberius Base is very large. It is built around a hollowed-out asteroid which was given to the human base-builders by the Diggers, a true alien race (not humanoid). The humans don’t understand the Diggers and cannot directly communicate with them.

Given the large size of the base they can do a lot of food production on their own. Since the population of the base are meat eaters there is no question of imposing vegetarianism. There are large facilities which grow hydroponic grasses which are fed to cattle of various sorts, as well as artificial pastures, which are rotated almost daily. A small number of pigs are kept in order to recycle food waste. Chickens are kept along with the cattle and they clean up spilled feed and provide eggs. Some ducks are raised also.

The base was started by Asians, mostly Chinese, from Earth. So rice is grown on the base on a large scale. The straw from the rice plants is used as cattle bedding. When a large group of Catholic workers are imported, a small amount of wheat must be grown so they can make their own communion wafers.

Sprouting is a vital food source. Sprouting seeds are imported from various worlds and sold nearly at cost by the station administration. Most households on the base do their own sprouting both of salad sprouts and of bean sprouts or lentil sprouts. There are also commercial operations which supply sprouts to restaurants and cafeterias.  The sprouting habit is the major source of vitamins and minerals to the average station inhabitant.

Hydroponic facilities grow a variety of vegetables, including oriental veggies that most Americans would consider exotic. A few orchards on the base provide fruit.

Every space city has at least one transplanted forest at the heart of it. Tiberius Base has an exceptionally large one, as well as three smaller parks. The forests/parks are traditionally seeded with mushroom spores so there are many inhabitants of the base who go mushrooming regularly to supplement their diet. A mushroom growing center will likely be added to the base at some point to supply those who had bad luck mushrooming.

Lower income people on the station have a rather boring diet of beef or pork, rice, and locally grown veggies. Higher income people can pay for imported canned food or frozen meat grown on a relatively local planet. The richest can buy exotic meals from many different cultures specially preserved for the high-income consumer.

The hydroponic growers and the meat producers are sensitive to the desires of the consumers, even low income ones. If they import a group of workers who want more cauliflower or more chevon (goat meat) they are likely to look into ways to produce it. The employers of the low-wage workers, who do such things as move cargo from docked spaceships or do menial tasks around the station, think it very important to provide their workers with decent food to keep their morale up.

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